IUPUI and IU Ventures continue innovation
It was immediately apparent to the stakeholders at IUPUI and IU Research and Technology Corp., formerly known as IU ARTI, that this deal represented a huge opportunity for all of Indiana if leveraged correctly. One of the first strategic uses of the return was to establish the Innovate Indiana Fund in 2010. This fund is fully invested and exists today as a portfolio of Indiana-related investments managed by IU Ventures.
ANGEL Learning also contributed to the development of the Indiana University Philanthropic Venture Fund, a follow-up to the Innovate Indiana Fund and a self-renewing evergreen fund that helps companies that are based on IU discoveries or led by IU faculty/alumni. And ANGEL Learning’s Christopher Clapp has gone on to lead other IU-affiliated companies, including Doxly, the first exit from the Indiana University Philanthropic Venture Fund. At Doxly, Clapp worked as Executive Chairman alongside founder and CEO Haley Altman, a graduate of the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law at IUPUI. Other funds from the ANGEL Learning exit went to a new science building where Jafari’s CyberLab is housed today.
Innovation at the CyberLab has continued, with two exciting new projects in the works. First is a product called CourseNetworking or CN, which is already being adopted by users on a global scale in more than 160 countries.
“We’ve basically created an academic version of LinkedIn with embedded LMS functionality, one that is intended to capture users starting in middle school or even earlier,” Jafari said. “CourseNetworking’s ePortfolio allows all other academic work — like papers, worksheets and other learning evidence — to be centralized in one place.
“Consider that a transcript or résumé doesn’t provide a lot of info about your competency, and you will see why this is an innovative model. It’s so exciting. It also means that I, the CyberLab team, and the CN team are working even more — and even harder — than before, simply because of more potential.”
A second new project Jafari is excited for is RUMI, a digital assistant powered by artificial intelligence that can “pop in” to ask students if they need help.
“No one is talking about AI in educational technology,” Jafari said. “Universities are often just switching from one 20-year-old LMS technology to another. We want to give them something that puts today’s tech to use.”
RUMI will be released as a beta feature within CourseNetworking to identify how students most want to use the tool.
IU Ventures is also launching programs to find the most exciting potential opportunities in the IU community and accelerate their growth.
“The development of the Luddy School of Informatics and the emerging AI efforts on the Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses are providing us with some expanded efforts in each of those areas,” said IU Ventures Associate Vice President Jason Whitney. “Those extend to both assisting university-based spinouts and providing technical support and technical review for alumni-based entities.”
Whitney is also executive director of the IU Angel Network, a new program that operates alongside the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund.
“A major focus of the Angel Network’s efforts is supporting the commercialization of Indiana University research,” Whitney said. “IU research has the opportunity to improve the lives of individuals across the world. In addition to helping on the business-development side, we can leverage our immense network of investors, especially those with ties to IU, to help capitalize and advance world-changing companies.”
Clapp said that it is unbelievably exciting that the ANGEL Learning transaction continues to fuel entrepreneurship today, in a sense.
“As an entrepreneur, you always hope to be part of the virtuous cycle and have the wealth created by your companies flow back into the ecosystem,” Clapp said. “This choice has continued to support and build a tech community in Indianapolis that didn’t exist 20 years ago.”
Tony Armstrong also reflected on the significance of this transaction. Today he is the president of IU Ventures, but he has been involved with the organization since its days as IU ARTI, then IURTC and now IU Ventures.
“This is one example of a very practical reason why an institution should get involved and promote innovation,” Armstrong said. “If nothing else, you never know what your big winners are going to be. You can’t guarantee a big winner will come at all. But you should always be prepared to manage it in consistent alignment with your principles.”
“Along every step of our partnership with OnCourse, and later, ANGEL Learning, our values guided the decision-making. I truly believe that is part of why this continues to support initiatives important to the university and entrepreneurship today.”
The strong foundation for the IU entrepreneurial community has been set in place by stories like this. Today’s innovators creating powerful intellectual property at IU have more resources than ever before to translate those abstract ideas into a product or service that has real-world impact. And it’s the mission of groups like IU Ventures to ensure those opportunities continue to expand tomorrow.
Interested in joining the cause or learning what resources might exist for you? Connect with IU Ventures and take the next step.