Welcome to our Member Spotlight series where we give a profile overview of our many diverse members. For this deep dive, we spoke to Teri Willey, Executive Director of IU Ventures, and Samantha Ginther, Senior Associate & Head of Platform for IU Ventures.
Tell us about your firm. What makes it different?
IU Ventures is a 501(c)(3) non-profit affiliate of Indiana University (IU). Our mission is to provide a compelling way for alumni, faculty, students and friends of IU to help write the next chapter of the IU success story via their investment in and involvement with IU-affiliated ventures. The IU Philanthropic Venture Fund was established in 2018 with an initial $11M pool of donated capital to invest as a traditional venture fund into IU companies led or founded by IU alumni or faculty members or companies licensing technology from IU. Any equity realizations are returned to the fund, with the ultimate goal of growing the fund to $50M and creating a perpetual resource for IU entrepreneurs. The IU Angel Network was then established in 2019 as a result of potential donors’ desires to also invest their personal capital directly into the companies for a potential return. We also manage the portfolio of an earlier fund, the Innovate Indiana Fund, established in 2010. We operate as a traditional venture firm and angel network by sourcing and investing in early-stage, high-potential companies. We’re different in that everything we do is connected to IU with the intent to further innovation and entrepreneurship within and beyond the walls of the university, increasing IU’s impact on the country and world at large.
Where did your firm’s name come from?
We recently rebranded from IU Research & Technology Corporation to IU Ventures as a result of establishing the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund and the IU Angel Network over the past two years. These two new initiatives changed the scope of work we do, and IU Ventures more accurately and succinctly represents our mission.
What defines your portfolio?
Our portfolio across funds and the angel network is industry agnostic, but the majority of our investments have been in B2B SaaS companies. About one third of our portfolio is comprised of life science companies as a result of IU campuses attracting world-renowned faculty and having one of the largest medical schools in the country. Nearly all our investments have been early stage seed or series A rounds with plans to follow our initial investments in our most promising portfolio companies as they continue to grow.
How is the firm different today than when you first started?
Up until a few years ago, our organization also managed tech transfer for Indiana University. When that department moved back to the university under its research arm, we were managing the Innovate Indiana Fund (established in 2010) and actively investing from that fund. Near the end of that fund’s lifecycle, we laid the groundwork for the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund and the IU Angel Network.
Why is your firm a part of NVCA?
As a small team, we are eager to take advantage of resources available to us and NVCA offers a wide range of educational and networking resources that we reference and engage with often. Networking is particularly important to us because syndication is vital to the success of our programs and portfolio. Without industry experts and high-quality syndicate partners, we wouldn’t be able to invest in a wide variety of industries with much success. We also manage a growing portfolio, and NVCA helps us manage appropriately by sharing best practices from other firms.
Tell us about the current VC landscape in your geography/region.
We have made investments coast to coast, but proximity has kept the majority of our investments here in Indiana. IU has the second largest living alumni base, so our network has expanded considerably as we’ve reengaged alumni who are spread out across the country. Our team is based in Bloomington, which has a rich and growing entrepreneur community. Bloomington’s proximity to Indianapolis and IU’s nine campuses make it easy for us to connect with startups, venture firms, and industry experts all over the state. Indianapolis has been recognized as a tech hub with a growing VC landscape, a sort of hidden gem within the Midwest which has also seen substantial growth in the startup and venture ecosystem over the last decade.
What’s ahead for your firm in 2020?
2020 has certainly brought some unexpected changes, many of which have actually turned out to bring positive results. Our angel network started viewing live pitches in February, and since then four companies have received funding from members of the network, totaling almost $400,000. When we were laying the ground for the network in 2019, we never would have predicted that we’d complete four deals during a pandemic in 2020. As for the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund, our strategic plan was already to focus our efforts on managing our current portfolio and begin sourcing donors, so the pandemic only strengthened the need for those two areas of focus. Several of our portfolio companies have also been able to leverage new and expanded opportunities within their businesses to help combat effects of the pandemic in their respective industries. Looking ahead to the rest of the year, we hope to continue growing membership for the IU Angel Network, sourcing high quality companies that we believe will lead to successful deals for members of the network, and further develop promising relationships with minority-focused philanthropy circles to support minority-led companies through investments from the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund.
Describe your firm’s culture in 5 words or less.
Enthusiastic, helpful, optimistic, and proud Hoosiers!
Cassie Ann Hodges serves as Director of Communications at NVCA where she leads NVCA’s strategic communications, branding and content development, and media efforts to better support and empower the venture community, startups, and entrepreneurs. She also oversees the NVCA StratComm Peer Group network and programming.