Six years ago, the news and communications team I led at the time was eager to show off its storytelling skills on behalf of Indiana University and, more importantly, to spotlight the work being done at IU to advance the top priority of the university’s newly adopted Bicentennial Strategic Plan: ensuring student success.
Our creative discussions led to what remains one of my all-time favorite IU Newsroom projects—an in-depth multimedia feature story on the efforts of IU students, faculty and staff to address devastating threats to the nation’s population of honey bees, which has been in decline for more than three decades in the U.S. Members of the sick species pollinate a third of the nation’s food supply, and they are responsible for adding more than $15 billion a year to the value of U.S. agricultural projects.
A large part of the story centered around an enterprising IU O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs grad student named Ellie Symes, who, along with several of her peers, had taken up the cause of the honey bee by forming a Beekeeping Club at IU Bloomington and engaging members of the campus community in addressing this important public health and food security challenge.
Here’s a video of Symes that was included in our feature story:
So you can imagine how excited, pleased and proud many of us involved in that story were to learn this week that Symes and fellow IU alumnus Wyatt Wells, a graduate of the IU School of Public Health and former Beekeeping Club member, were named to Forbes’ prestigious 30 Under 30 list for 2022.
Symes and Wells, who were honored by Forbes for their work in the field of enterprise technology, are founders of The Bee Corp, an Indianapolis-based agtech startup developing solutions for growers and beekeepers who rely on commercial pollination. They developed the company after winning the IU Business Entrepreneurs in Software and Technology Competition in 2016. Since that time, the company has raised more than $3 million in funding, and its technology has been used to grade over 100,000 hives by beekeepers and crop growers in several U.S. states as well as Australia, New Zealand and Colombia.
Notably, The Bee Corp is a “portfolio company” of IU Ventures, which leads IU’s investment in early-stage companies with strong university affiliations. Last year, IU Ventures invested $250,000 in the company through the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund, which is used to support companies that are based on IU intellectual property.
My colleagues at IU Ventures are doubly excited today having learned that the founder of another of its portfolio companies, Luke Jacobs, of Indianapolis-based tech company Encamp, also made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. Jacobs, a graduate of IU Bloomington’s College of Arts and Sciences, co-founded Encamp, an environmental compliance software company, in 2017 with fellow College alum Daniel Smedema. IU Ventures was a founding investor in Encamp, which recently announced the completion of a $12 million Series B fundraising round, one of the biggest rounds raised in Indiana this year. As reported just yesterday on this blog, Encamp also is featured on a new list of “Top Indianapolis Startups to Watch in 2022.”
This fall, Jacobs and Smedema are also being featured on the College of Arts and Sciences’ fourth-annual “20 Under 40” list of accomplished young alumni. Read their story in the most recent issue of The College magazine.
Personally speaking, I keep thinking back to the IU feature story on Symes and her mission to bring greater awareness to pressing threats facing the honey bee. Back then, our team was captivated by her passion and determination to make a major difference in attacking such an important national issue. More broadly, her tale reflected the work so many entrepreneurial IU students are engaged in across our campuses on trying to solve real-world problems affecting our nation’s health and economy.
As it turns out, her story was just getting started. I can’t wait for what comes next and who will follow in her footsteps.