At IU Ventures, as we invest in and support IU-related startups and new ventures during these challenging times, we have been asking ourselves: Is what we are doing important? Is it important enough, considering the landscape of changes we are facing?
The brief, yet definite, answer is “yes.” Small companies and the entrepreneurs who drive them will be critical to the post-pandemic recovery. Development of healthcare technologies, therapies, devices and diagnostics — COVID-19-specific or not — are and will continue to be critical to public health.
Innovation and entrepreneurship are in constant motion; they never stop. You know this. You probably live this. Unusual circumstances like those we have faced so far in 2020 even encourage activity in both. And innovators and entrepreneurs still need resources in order to succeed. This is why providing investments and other entrepreneurial resources matters, even during a pandemic.
Those fundamentals drive IU Ventures as we strive to achieve our mission: to further innovation and entrepreneurship among IU students, alumni and faculty by providing funding opportunities and startup resources. While the world is facing new health challenges, the fundamentals of creating and sustaining a life sciences startup remain unchanged. Clinical and regulatory milestones must still be met, regardless of whether there is a pandemic. Conducting the research necessary for each phase of a clinical trial and advancing to the next can exhaust a startup’s resources, including money. The Valley of Death will still affect startups with little capital, regardless of when the marketplace opens.
Investment doesn’t occur in a vacuum, either. Syndication, or co-investing to complete one or more rounds of financing, is critical to our success. We search for co-investors who leverage our investment with money, yes, but probably more importantly, we search for expertise, relationships and know-how in specific industry sectors needed for the company to meet its objectives so that we can reach ours. Through syndication, our portfolio companies have raised more than $50 million in funding.
IU benefits startups not only through syndicated investments, but also with timely information and shared expertise. The office of the vice president for research and the office of the vice president for government relations and economic engagement will host the first in a series of IU Quarry webinars at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 22, to help IU faculty, staff and students who have started a company — or are considering it — prepare for venture capital investment. The hourlong webinar is a great opportunity for faculty interested in startups to get firsthand guidance on what to expect and to ask questions that might help guide their journey in taking their innovations from lab to market.
Fred Cate, IU vice president for research, will introduce a panel moderated by Dr. Mike Mirro, chairman of the IU board of trustees and medical director of Parkview Research Center. Joining me on the panel will be Mike Asem, partner at M25; Scott Dorsey, managing partner at High Alpha; Ting Gootee, chief investment officer at Elevate Ventures; and Kent Hawryluk, partner at Twilight Venture Partners.
Although intended for IU-connected entrepreneurs, the webinar is open to entrepreneurs of all backgrounds. Registration can be completed with an online form.
The facts are these: Innovation and entrepreneurship are always active, regardless of outside influences. Those who engage in either or both have a strong need for support, whether it comes through financial investment or an investment in resources. Through those channels, IU Ventures will continue to intently support emerging science and technology entrepreneurs, founders and our portfolio companies, realizing that maybe what we are doing matters more than ever.
Teri Willey is Executive Director of IU Ventures, and Fund Manager, IU Philanthropic Venture Fund LLC and Innovate Indiana Fund LLC.