IU Ventures, an Indiana University affiliate venture firm for students, faculty and alumni, ranked 11th in venture capital firm activity in the Hoosier state. IU Ventures has $22 million in total assets under management. This ranking is based on the 2021 Indiana Venture Report from Elevate Ventures.
The mission of IU Ventures is to support and develop the IU innovation ecosystem on and off campus, Jason Whitney, the executive director of the Angel Network at IU Ventures, said.
He said that in the past two years, IU Ventures ranked in the state of Indiana, according to the Elevate Ventures’s ranking, but this is the first time it’s been ranked among the Great Lakes region.
“These reports are really driven by activity — how many investments are you making, what volume of cash are you supplying to these companies,” Whitney said.
Whitney said he’s probably worked with more than 600 IU-affiliated entrepreneurs since March 2018.
The IU Angel Network is a community of IU alumni, staff, faculty and students who collaborate on early-stage investment opportunities and mentorships.
Whitney said everyone adopted a servant leadership mindset which helped establish a connection between investors, entrepreneurs and other team members.
“It’s not a taking environment. It’s a giving environment,” Whitney said. “We’re there to help people and people are willing to help us.”
He said IU Ventures saw an increase in businesses catering to virtual productivity and connectivity during the pandemic. The need to be virtual also helped more people pitch to different circles in different capacities, he said.
However, Whitney said the pandemic caused problems for some companies. He said that Mystery — a new date planning service — had to adapt to social distancing and made the executive decision to deliver kits and appeal to companies for team-building experiences.
“It’s fun to see the resiliency in these entrepreneurs,” Whitney said.
He said that IU Venture’s rankings are based on its entrepreneurs and team.
“Rankings give visibility to the work we’re doing here,” Whitney said. “I’m hopeful that we continue to grow and find new people every day.”
Jonathan Barada, the vice president of engagement at IU Ventures, said the ranking validated their work to support new startups.
“We have founders who want to leverage the IU network to help them grow and scale their businesses, whether that’s access to capital, technical expertise, talent, student recruitment, deal flow,” Barada said.
Barada said IU Ventures is also helping alumni. As stakeholders in the university, alumni can stay engaged in the community and learn about Hoosier-based businesses.
He said IU Ventures recently hosted a roundtable discussion with 25 entrepreneurs, with each sharing their personal startup stories. It helped alumni learn about new investment opportunities but also gave new entrepreneurs a chance to get advice and learn.
“My biggest hope is that IU Ventures can be a driving factor in creating an entrepreneurial spirit that permeates the entire Indiana University,” Barada said.
Gerry Hays, a professor at Kelley School of Business and a member of the IU Angel Network, said he’s had great experiences working with IU Ventures.
Hays said IU Ventures is relatively new, so to see them ranking so highly speaks well for the number of Indiana entrepreneurs and opportunities in the area.
“I’ve been both an investor, and I've been an entrepreneur,” Hays said. “The energy around entrepreneurs is amazing, as you can imagine when they're really passionate about something that they feel is important to them and to the world.”
He said that all venture spaces can struggle with getting initial traction, but mentorships and knowing when to enter the market can go a long way in being successful. IU Ventures provides a great infrastructure addressing this, he said.
“This is a milestone,” Hays said. “It’s a testimonial to what’s possible when the IU community comes together, and it’s exciting to see because this is our foundation.”