Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, NIIC

Date Joining NIIC:

October 16, 2000


Franklin Pierce University (B.S.)
American University (M.S.)


55-Acre Campus adjacent to Purdue University Fort Wayne and Ivy Tech North Community College

NIIC Annual Revenue:

$2.5 Million


Indiana’s 5th Certified Tech Park
ISO9001:2015 Registered
US SBA Women’s Business Center
US Treasury Designated Qualified Opportunity Zone

Speaker Topics:

Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Customer Experience, Leadership, Strategic Planning, Business Growth

LinkedIN Email 


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Karl LaPan's Interview on The Entrepreneurial Podcast with Wendy Kennedy

Karl R. LaPan is the first President & CEO of the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center. He has served in this capacity since the formation of the organization October 16, 2000.

Karl received his undergraduate degree in 1986 from Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, New Hampshire, where he was graduated with a B.S. degree in Business Management with High Honors, Summa Cum Laude. He was also Class Salutatorian. Upon completing his academic degree, he joined General Electric Company, and in 1988, graduated from its prestigious Financial Management Program. Subsequently, in 1993, Karl received his M.S. degree in Human Resources Development from The American University in Washington, D.C. and is a member of the Pi Alpha Alpha Honorary Society. Karl graduated from the Mahler Program for Executives in December 1998.

What are you most proud of at The NIIC?

I am passionate about the range of projects, clients, and programs we offer. I’m proud of the difference we are making in creating sustainable, growth-oriented companies. We have a global reputation and are a recognized entrepreneurial thought leader. We have achieved this status because we see a wide range of ideas, inspiring business builders and cool companies. I am proud of the clients who entrust their dreams and ideas to us and our team for delivering exceptional value and services every day.

Why do you enjoy working at The NIIC?

I enjoy my job because of the endless variety of things to do. All of our companies are different–which is the nature of innovation–with unique sets of entrepreneurial challenges and opportunities. For someone like me who loves entrepreneurship and believes in its benefits, helping them find new and creative ways to succeed is a very enjoyable way to spend my time. Simply put, I have never had two days that have ever been the same!

The NIIC is a unique entity in Northeast Indiana. Tell us what sets it apart.

The NIIC is very special. We are driven by helping entrepreneurs and innovative companies be successful. Our metrics prove that. We help business builders across the spectrum of type and stage of business. We also do significant community outreach into underserved communities to grow the hometown team. We are inclusive, evidence-based and entrepreneurial. This is what sets us apart. We bet on the business builder – we play different roles depending on their needs – advocate, trusted advisor, accountability coach, and/or a component of their support system.

What advice would you offer to those looking to start their own business?

Find people who make you better. Question everything. Focus your energy. Stay in your lane. Lean in. Be authentic and self-aware. Pause occasionally and just get started!

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

My spare time is often spent with my family. Golf and tennis with my sons, family vacations in the surf and sun, visiting new places, sampling other cultures. Those are all my ideas of a good time. I’ve also made a lot of new friends in other non-profits and enjoy serving on other boards of directors. And, of course, my research and training travels on behalf of the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) is enormously satisfying.

What is your favorite Fort Wayne feature or place to spend time?

My wife and I enjoy The Embassy Theatre and the Broadway series. It is both an incredible entertainment venue, and an exceptional and historical building to see and experience great national traveling shows.

What do you like to do in the community?

Everything! I’m constantly amazed at how our city has grown and all of it located less than 20 minutes from my home. We have some significant community assets, too. I love the quality of the Embassy performances, and Science Central reminds me of my internal curious kid. With opportunities like these for our kids to be exposed to, the wonders of nature, science and technology, it’s no wonder we have such a talented pool of aspiring, young entrepreneurs. Kids today are starting their own businesses while they’re still in school! How great is that?



  • Innovation Potential & Pathways


  • Karl LaPan: Allen County Commissioners Annual Report

  • Karl Lapan: Providing the Best Customer Experience in Your ESO

  • Karl Lapan: Connected Communities

  • Karl Lapan: April 16, 2019 -- Ideas@ Work: The 4 Pillars of a Vibrant Entrepreneurial Community

  • Karl Lapan: January 29, 2019 -- Identifying the Hidden Obstacles that Suffocate Meaningful Innovation, American Corner, Novi Sad, Serbia


  • Karl Lapan: 2018 Report to the Allen County Commissioners


  • Karl Lapan: Great Lakes International Innovation Summit Presentation, September 25, 2017

  • Karl Lapan: Update to the Allen County, Indiana Commissioners, July 28, 2017

  • Indiana Chamber Connect and Collaborate, June 22, 2017

  • Student Entrepreneurship: Creating a Pipeline of Future Entrepreneurs, March 28, 2017

  • Critical Success Factors in Building a Best-in-Class Rural Entrepreneurship Ecosystem, March 8, 2017

  • Access to Small Business Capital, January 13, 2017

Strategic Direction:

Learn more about The NIIC’s strategic vision, including our core focus, prioritized goals, partnerships and initiatives, and much more.

Download Strategic Plan 2019-2022 (PDF)

Books I'm Reading:


  • The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company

    A memoir of leadership and success: The CEO of Disney, Time's 2019 businessperson of the year, shares the ideas and values he embraced to reinvent one of the most beloved companies in the world and inspire the people who bring the magic to life.

    Purchase on Amazon Smile
  • The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months

    This book redefines your "year" to be 12 weeks long. In 12 weeks, there just isn't enough time to get complacent, and urgency increases and intensifies. The 12 Week Year creates focus and clarity on what matters most and a sense of urgency to do it now. In the end more of the important stuff gets done and the impact on results is profound.

    Purchase on Amazon Smile
  • Entrepreneurial Leap: Do You Have What it Takes to Become an Entrepreneur?

    Entrepreneurial Leap: Do You Have What it Takes to Become an Entrepreneur? is an easy-to-use guide that will help you decide, once and for all, if entrepreneurship is right for you—because success as an entrepreneur depends on far more than just a great idea and a generous helping of luck.

    Purchase on Amazon Smile
  • Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path

    Chasing Slow models HGTV star Erin Loechner's journey to help you break out of the faster-better-stronger trap and make small changes to refresh your perspective, renew your priorities, and shift your focus to what matters most.

    Purchase on Amazon Smile
  • What Do You Do With an Idea?

    This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As the child's confidence grows, so does the idea itself. And then, one day, something amazing happens. This is a story for anyone, at any age, who's ever had an idea that seemed a little too big, too odd, too difficult.

    Purchase on Amazon Smile


  • Mastering the Market Cycle: Getting the Odds on Your Side

    We all know markets rise and fall, but when should you pull out, and when should you stay in? The answer is never black or white, but is best reached through a keen understanding of the reasons behind the rhythm of cycles. Confidence about where we are in a cycle comes when you learn the patterns of ups and downs that influence not just economics, markets and companies, but also human psychology and the investing behaviors that result.

    Purchase on Amazon Smile
  • Didn't See It Coming: Overcoming the Seven Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences

    An influential pastor, podcaster, and thought leader believes it's not only possible to predict life's hardest moments, but also to alter outcomes, overcome challenges, and defeat your fiercest adversaries.

    Purchase on Amazon Smile
  • American Entrepreneur

    The history of the United States is, to a remarkable degree, the story of its entrepreneurs, those daring movers and shakers who dreamed big and risked everything to build better lives for themselves and their fellow Americans. Drawing on his own family's remarkable journey, Duck Commander CEO and star of the blockbuster Duck Dynasty series Willie Robertson tells the captivating true tale of the visionaries and doers who have embodied the American dream.

    Purchase on Amazon Smile
  • Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies

    LinkedIn cofounder, legendary investor, and host of the award-winning Masters of Scale podcast reveals the secret to starting and scaling massively valuable companies.

    Purchase on Amazon Smile
  • Brave New Work: Are You Ready to Reinvent Your Organization?

    When fast-scaling startups and global organizations get stuck, they call Aaron Dignan. In this book, he reveals his proven approach for eliminating red tape, dissolving bureaucracy, and doing the best work of your life.

    Purchase on Amazon Smile


  • Disrupt by Luke Williams

    In a business world of nonstop change, there's only one way to win the game: Transform it entirely. This requires a revolution in thinking--a steady stream of disruptive strategies and unexpected solutions. In Disrupt, Luke Williams shows exactly how to generate those strategies and deliver those solutions.

    Purchase on Amazon Smile
  • Career Magic by Lee Cockerell

    When Lee Cockerell says "If I can do it, so can you," he truly means it. No matter where you are along your career path, you have an opportunity to climb the ladder of success by paying attention, asking questions and having a passion for your chosen career.

    Purchase on Amazon Smile
  • Grit by Angela Duckworth

    In this instant New York Times bestseller, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”

    Purchase on Amazon Smile
  • Built for Growth by Dr. John Danner

    Built for Growth decodes the interplay between builder personality and new business success. Using a patented analytic methodology, authors Chris Kuenne and John Danner discovered four distinct types of highly successful entrepreneurial personalities―the Driver, the Explorer, the Crusader, and the Captain. Each is motivated, makes decisions, manages, and leads their businesses differently.

    Purchase on Amazon Smile
  • The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney

    The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) is a simple, repeatable, and proven formula for executing on your most important strategic priorities in the midst of the whirlwind. By following the 4 Disciplines—Focusing on the Wildly Important; Acting on Lead Measures; Keeping a Compelling Scoreboard; Creating a Cadence of Accountability—leaders can produce breakthrough results, even when executing the strategy requires a significant change in behavior from their teams.

    Purchase on Amazon Smile

Building a business? Cultivate & invest in these relationships.

The new venture creation process often has business builders focused on the technical and systems aspects of building their organization – getting the product made, hiring staff, finding early customers, locating the business and developing and producing marketing assets. However, in the process, they often overlook important variables (read: people) and adaptive leadership (& emotional […]

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Lean into curiosity

We all could stand to benefit from thinking more like a child. Curiosity doesn’t have to be relegated to youth. It’s an essential ingredient for effective leadership, robust company culture, successful team-building, and mental health. Here’s how you can model this behavior at work and at home: 1. Challenge the status quo. If you’ve ever spent […]

Read More

Inspiring a pipeline of female founders

Think about it – 40% of all businesses today are started by women. Our WEOC program works every day to connect women business builders with the resources and networks needed to start and successfully grow their businesses. Dedicated programs and events like our women business builders, mastermind, vlog series, individualized coaching, and targeted business development services […]


Trade shows done right: Your guide to planning

It’s that time of year when many business builders are gearing up for spring trade shows. Each is a potential opportunity to market and gain customers and partners. But do you know how to approach it to maximize value and ROI from the experience? Trade shows are a big investment of time and money so […]

Read More

Lessons from the campaign trail

Don’t be alarmed- I am not going to talk politics other than to make an analogy between campaigning and business building. As the 2020 presidential election season heats up, we’re seeing how each candidate approaches his or her campaign. Some are veterans and others are relative newbies to the scene. This week’s debate shows it […]

Read More
More Insights from the CEO

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Corporate Profile:

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View the NIIC’s Corporate Profile – Certified Tech Park Recertification Metrics
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Greater Fort Wayne’s Business Weekly – NIIC Outlines New Strategic Plan
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Pierce Magazine – Ingenuity in Indiana Profile of Karl LaPan
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