#StartupsEverywhere: Louisville, Ky.

Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Interapt—led by CEO Ankur Gopal—develops technology tools to solve business problems and training programs to create a new generation of developers.

Following the collapse of the coal industry in parts of Kentucky, Interapt worked with Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and local policymakers to train students in traditionally overlooked rural and urban communities, and their work has been recognized by the White House and the Department of Labor. Looking forward, Interapt is working to navigate regulations around training former members of the military and hopes to see incentives to bring venture capital funding to diverse geographical areas, including through the new Opportunity Zone program.

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What is Interapt?

Interapt is a professional technology services firm that specializes in software development and software training. Our software training programs source diverse talent from traditionally overlooked rural and urban communities and teach individuals foundational programming, coding, and business skills. Interapt’s unique approach prepares its trainees for a technology-oriented career by combining foundational technical skills with soft skills and business acumen.

Recently, Interapt developed a model that combines software training and development and lets us train, hire, and manage the graduating apprentice developers as well as assist in their professional development and transition into the full-time workforce. Interapt secures corporate partners and upon graduation from the program, students work in dedicated “pods” to deliver project work to these companies.

How have you interacted with your federal, state, and local policymakers as Interapt grew?

Our first training program was located in Eastern Kentucky, an area that experienced economic decline following the collapse of the coal industry. Our efforts led to the creation of high-wage tech jobs in the community, and we received support from our Governor Matt Bevin and State Congress members. These individuals regularly attend our events and provide us opportunities for expansion, and our work has been recognized by the White House, specifically Ivanka Trump.

As part of our Interapt Skills Program, we established the national standard for an IT Apprenticeship Certification approved by the Department of Labor.

What’s the most exciting or important development that has happened to Kentucky’s startup ecosystem in the last year?

There have been recent developments in the startup ecosystem that offer new opportunities to emerging startups such as Interapt. The Endeavor organization opened an office in Kentucky, providing the opportunity to network with global business leaders and experts. Additionally, the creation of Opportunity Zones has added an interesting possibility for business growth and expansion.

In one interview, Mr. Gopal mentioned “making an impact” on the community. How has regulation played a part in increasing or decreasing the positive impact made on the community? And what policy challenges remain?

Regulations have made it more challenging to implement our Skills Program for transitioning military members. In order to rollout our Skills Program for transitioning military members on a larger scale, we are trying to gain support through the Military/GI Bill and Workforce Development funds. Currently our program is funded through philanthropic donations, but with federal and state support we could reduce the barriers for people to participate in our program.

Due to the additional regulations of the DoD and other military organizations, there is more work that must be done on the front end to ensure we comply with the federal/military guidelines. However, we have not found that this impacts our ability to expand our model – it just takes a bit longer.

Do federal policies and state policies interfere with your business and your growth, and if they do, how do they hinder your growth?

Federal and state policies present additional challenges for startup companies as they typically do not have the same economic and legal resources as established companies. As a startup is growing, these policies present additional hurdles that require time and resources to navigate, but startups do not always have the adequate support to overcome these challenges. We are fortunate that we have gained support from our state government, but oftentimes startups are hindered by these policies.

From a policy perspective, do you have any items that you wish would be put into place or removed from your startup ecosystem?

75% of venture capital funding is allocated to California, Massachusetts, and New York. In order to promote entrepreneurship in Kentucky, it would be helpful to establish incentives that encourage venture capital funding in communities such as Louisville.

All of the information in this profile was accurate at the date and time of publication.

Engine works to ensure that policymakers look for insight from the startup ecosystem when they are considering programs and legislation that affect entrepreneurs. Together, our voice is louder and more effective. Many of our lawmakers do not have first-hand experience with the country's thriving startup ecosystem, so it’s our job to amplify that perspective. To nominate a person, company, or organization to be featured in our #StartupsEverywhere series, email edward@engine.is.