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IU assumes leadership role in supporting startups through venture capital deals


INDIANAPOLIS — The importance that Indiana University places on supporting Hoosier startup businesses was reflected in a recent report that revealed IU’s ties to the state’s largest venture capital deal in 2014 — and two of Indiana’s 10 largest deals.

The Innovate Indiana Fund, managed by the Indiana University Research and Technology Corp., played a key role in the largest investment — a $10 million, secondary funding round for PrecisionHawk in September. New York-based Millennium Technology Value Partners led the round, with RedHat CEO Bob Young and Intel Capital also taking part.

With operations in Noblesville, Ind., Raleigh, N.C., and Toronto, Canada, PrecisionHawk deploys unmanned aerial vehicles to collect and process data for commercial uses such as farming, energy, forestry and disaster response. The Series B proceeds went toward doubling the company’s 50-person workforce and expanding its U.S. operations.

An initial, Series A funding round led by the Innovate Indiana Fund in 2013 helped get PrecisionHawk’s operations off the ground.

“PrecisionHawk is shaping a new industry, bringing breakthrough technology to areas such as agriculture and clean tech with their UAV systems,” said Ken Green, a PrecisionHawk board member and managing director of the Innovate Indiana Fund. “The team has consistently shown that they are thought leaders in this field, and the Innovate Indiana Fund is excited to watch them grow and change the way the world utilizes aerial data.”

IURTC President and CEO Tony Armstrong echoed those sentiments.

“We’re proud to have helped lead the biggest venture capital deal of its kind in the state of Indiana,” Armstrong said. “We’re very excited about PrecisionHawk’s progress and look forward to watching its many endeavors as they continue to break new ground in the UAV industry.”

PrecisionHawk officials readily acknowledge IU’s support — financially and otherwise — in the company’s recent success. Earlier this month, PrecisionHawk announced its development of an automated air traffic control system to help safely integrate UAVs into the nation’s airspace.

“PrecisionHawk’s ties with Indiana University played an invaluable role in the company’s expansion and the road to addressing the growing demand for unmanned aerial systems and enterprise-grade aerial data management services in the U.S. as well as abroad,” company spokeswoman Lia Reich said.

According to a Jan. 23 article published in the Indianapolis Business Journal, $47.3 million was raised in 2014 on behalf of early- and growth-stage companies in Indiana through 20 venture capital deals.

Of that amount, about $12 million — more than one-fourth of the total — involved IU-based investments. The information in the article came from the MoneyTree Report published by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.

In addition to the Innovate Indiana Fund activity, the Indiana University Foundation — in concert with Chicago-based First Analysis Corp. and an undisclosed firm — invested $2 million in Scale Computing Inc.., an Indianapolis-based data storage company. According to the report, that deal ranked as Indiana’s 10th-largest in 2014.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to invest in these exciting technologies,” said IU Foundation Vice President and Chief Investment Officer Gary A. Stratten. “What puts this investment over the top is that we are also supporting Indiana-based innovations.”

The Innovate Indiana Fund provides early-stage capital to companies with an Indiana University connection. The fund also assists in such areas as technology assessment, market analysis and planning, management recruitment, product development, sales strategy, customer acquisition and next stage capital.

IURTC is a not-for-profit agency that helps IU faculty and researchers realize the commercial potential of their discoveries. Since 1997, its university clients have accounted for more than 2,800 inventions, nearly 1,900 patent applications and 77 startup companies. IURTC is part of the Innovate Indiana initiative, which engages strategic partners to leverage and advance IU’s intellectual resources and expertise, enhance Indiana’s economic growth and contribute to the overall quality of life for Hoosiers.

Founded in 1936, the Indiana University Foundation maximizes private support for Indiana University by fostering lifelong relationships with key stakeholders and providing advancement leadership and fundraising services for campuses and units across the university. Today, the IU Foundation oversees one of the largest public university endowments in the country, with a market value in excess of $1.9 billion. In fiscal year 2014, IU received $341.3 million in support from the private sector. IU is consistently ranked among the top four of Big Ten universities in annual voluntary support.

Indiana University is designated as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. This recognizes IU’s commitment across all its campuses to being a leading institution in fostering regional economic development.