IU Ventures has achieved growth and success over the last two decades through the proof of its model. Back when the organization was known as IU Advanced Research and Technology Institute, or ARTI, it made its first equity investment in a revolutionary enterprise learning-management system called ANGEL, a successor to first product OnCourse which was then used widely at IUPUI. The technology, developed at IUPUI, would eventually grow into a national business and lay the foundation for more entrepreneurial advancement in Indiana.
OnCourse attracts attention
In the late 1990s, IUPUI professor of computer and information technology Ali Jafari was working in Bloomington. As part of his negotiation to move to IUPUI, he founded the WebLab, later changed to CyberLab, with the mission to “research, innovate and develop the IT that all of academia needs.”
“When research is published, many professors stop,” Jafari said. “But that is the beginning of my interest in how the findings of the research can be used in daily life. From the beginning, I think about the business, how and if this could be rolled out as a product or service, and how it would go into use.”
OnCourse was the first product developed at the CyberLab, powered by Jafari and his student David Mills. This was the first complete learning-management software ever created, and by 1997-98, IUPUI was the first university in the world to have implemented an enterprise learning-management system. By 1999, the tool was also being used across Indiana University’s other campuses. At this point, University Information Technology Services (UITS) got involved to provide a help desk and other services for the tool, plus help facilitate whatever future was decided for the intellectual property.
“At this point, UITS wanted to open source the code for OnCourse with grant money from Carnegie and other places,” Jafari said. “I welcomed the open sourcing because I was ready to move on to another project. When you build something from scratch, as you perfect it there is a lot of revision and patching of issues. I saw an opportunity to make an even more successful learning-management system, one we could commercialize.”