IU and its early-stage venture investment arm, IU Ventures, are helping to advance Indiana’s strategy to provide local startups with resources they need to accelerate their development
This week saw the release of the annual Midwest Cities Rankings, which gauge the performance of communities across the Midwest region of the U.S. in terms of their startup activity, their positive business climates, and their access to talent, investment, accelerator initiatives and other resources that enable the growth of high-potential ventures.
This year’s rankings, presented by M25, an early-stage venture firm based in Chicago, reflect the continued growth of the Midwest’s startup communities—large and small—and their preparedness to survive and thrive in moments of market downturns. Even though markets have slowed down from a “blistering” 2020-21, the last 12 months still saw record venture capital investment in Midwestern-based startups, according to a summary of the rankings, suggesting the positive impact of regional strategies to build high-growth yet sustainable new ventures.
The 2022 rankings also brought good news for Indiana University and IU Ventures, as the university and its early-stage venture investment arm engage in efforts to strengthen the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and culture of innovation. For the first time since the rankings began in 2017, there was a shakeup in the top three Midwestern cities in the rankings, with Indianapolis jumping up one spot to third place, displacing the traditional order of Chicago, Minneapolis and Pittsburgh.
As noted in the rankings’ report, the biggest single factor to Indianapolis’ rise among startup cities is Indiana’s aggressiveness in launching and maintaining resources—including direct startup investing and a competitive angel tax credit—to support the growth and development of new business ventures.
The report references one of those new ventures, Encamp, co-founded in 2017 by IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences graduates Luke Jacobs and Daniel Smedema, which has seen steady investment at every stage of its venture capital financing. Encamp recently announced it had received $30 million in Series C funding to help further develop its pioneering environmental compliance platform that is being used by enterprises across the U.S.
Also mentioned in the report in connection with Encamp’s fundraising success is IU Ventures, which earlier this year was again recognized as one of Indiana’s most active professional investors. IU Ventures is the first “institutional” investor in Encamp, providing more than $775,000 in financial support for the company since 2019. Encamp has used these early investments—as well as financial support from other Indianapolis-based investors, including Allos and High Alpha—to dramatically expand its business operations and workforce and continue to improve its software platform, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 200 businesses (double the number from 2019) now use Encamp in more than 8,000 regulated facilities throughout the U.S., including a growing number of businesses listed in the Fortune 1000 and Fortune 100.
The rankings also illustrated strong startup growth in several Midwestern college towns, including Bloomington, Ind., which, for the first time ever, edged out its northern rival, Lafayette, in the rankings. Bloomington placed 15th, its highest-ever spot in the rankings, just behind Milwaukee, and one spot ahead of Lafayette, home to Purdue University.
As noted previously in this blog, IU and IU Ventures have been deeply engaged in energizing Bloomington’s innovation and startup culture, as well as its broader economic development goals. They continue to provide financial capital—as well as access to talent, expertise, mentorship, industry connections and other resources—to new ventures and partners across the greater Bloomington region. These investments have helped catalyze the growth of several fast-emerging IU-affiliated ventures that are growing their operations in Bloomington.
These ventures include:
- Folia – founded by Ravi Bhatt, who earned his degree in cognitive science from IU Bloomington’s College of Arts and Sciences. Bhatt recently moved Folia, which serves the annotation needs of more than 1 million people daily, from Chicago to Bloomington. IU Ventures recently delivered a “milestone” investment in Folia by contributing just over $1 million to the company’s latest seed funding round through two of its major investment programs: the IU Angel Network and IU Philanthropic Venture Fund. This was the first time these funds co-invested in the same round.
- Periodic – founded by former IU Bloomington student and Bloomington tech entrepreneur Brad Wisler. With the support of three separate financial investments in the past four years from IU Ventures’ Innovate Indiana Fund, Periodic, a software developer specializing in helping businesses with their calendaring and appointment scheduling needs, has joined forces with the Exclaimer Group, one of the world’s market leaders in email signature management solutions. The merger will enable Periodic to continue to expand locally and move into the new Trades District portion of the Bloomington Certified Technology Park.
- Summaforte – founded by IU alumni and father-son team Jeff and Murtagh Thinnes. Last summer, IU Ventures invested $460,000 through the IU Angel Network, which at that point was the network’s largest investment, in the health and wellness company focused on performance and recovery of professional gamers.
- Stagetime – founded by Jennie Moser, IU Jacobs School of Music alumna. IU Ventures recently announced its third investment in three years in this online talent-showcase platform that helps performers market themselves and find audition opportunities. Stagetime completed a $1.5M fundraising round last fall, and has been described as the “LinkedIn for the performing arts.”
IU is also one of three cornerstone sponsors of The Mill, which has become the largest coworking space in central Indiana for startups and entrepreneurs and one of the Midwest’s leading centers for new technology and other innovation. Additionally, this past spring, IU Ventures hosted the inaugural IU Founders & Funders Network Venture Summit at IU Bloomington, which brought together the best of IU’s venture community and innovation leaders from around the state and nation.
Read the summary of the 2022 rankings.
Learn more about IU Ventures.