06 Apr Inaugural IU Ventures Fellows aim to make big impact, expand IU’s entrepreneurial ecosystem
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 6, 2022
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The students come from cities as disparate as Bloomington and Bujumbura, pursue academic interests ranging from entrepreneurship to environmental science, and possess professional experience spanning the fields of business, education, computer science, healthcare and more.
Together, they make up the inaugural class of IU Ventures Fellows, who are currently immersing themselves in the language of startups, seed capital, due diligence, angel investors and incubators through a newly launched program managed by IU Ventures, Indiana University’s early-stage venture and angel investment arm.
The program, which will run from January to December each year, is designed to expose IU graduate students to the fundamentals of venture finance and offer them the experiential learning opportunities they need to take the first step toward becoming successful early-stage entrepreneurs and investors.
“These students — who come from around the world — all possess unique personal stories and experiences, but share a common desire to expand their knowledge of and exposure to venture capital finance,” said Neil Powell, executive director of student experiential learning at IU Ventures and director of the
IU Kelley School of Business MBA Strategic Finance Academy. “These are creative and curious thinkers with a determination to become successful early-stage investors and to make an impact in the communities in which they will ultimately live and work.”
The inaugural class of fellows includes 12 graduate students from across the IU Bloomington campus whose interests span a range of eclectic educational interests, including business management, entrepreneurship and finance, as well as microbiology, psychological and brain sciences, intelligent systems engineering, complex networks and systems, environmental science and public affairs.
Through the program, they are learning to identify, evaluate, structure and invest in new ventures through course work, internships, exposure to the processes of deal sourcing and due diligence, and other projects. Several of these opportunities are being made possible by IU Ventures’ main
investment programs, including the IU Angel Network, which facilitates connections between IU-affiliated startup companies and prospective investors from among IU’s community of alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends. Additional support comes from the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund, which introduces donors to IU startups, innovations and initiatives.
The fellows have also embraced their “pioneer” status. Each is hoping to help structure and grow the Fellows program to engage future IU students and expand the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation across IU and the Hoosier communities it serves.
Armel Nibasumba is a first-year MBA student at the IU Kelley School of Business. Originally from Bujumbura, Burundi, he has spent the past five years working an immunology researcher at Harvard University and working in the life sciences industry. He’s passionate about global health and sees the opportunity to serve as a Venture Fellow as central to his dream of helping to reduce global health inequities that afflict so many low- and middle-income countries in Africa and around the world.
“I want to be an equity-minded investor and business professional,” Nibasumba said. “As a black, Burundian immigrant in the U.S., and having lived in multiple African countries, countless innovative startups are never afforded the opportunity to grow due to structural inequalities that plague the world. I want to create a VC fund that primarily invests in Black and other minority founders in the U.S. and innovators in Africa. I have noticed first-hand the changing power that opportunity and capital have in turning dreams and hard work into reality, and I want to use my professional experiences to bridge that gap.”
Daniel Marnatti is a second-year graduate student at the IU Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. The Lexington, Ky., native has always been interested in entrepreneurship, and in recent years has interned with two successful Indiana-based startups — Gen3Bio and The Bee Corp — that are addressing issues concerning the purification of waste water and the pollination of bee hives for farmers, respectively. (The Bee Corp is among IU Ventures’ growing set of portfolio companies.) He’s also worked at a company that services chimneys and fireplaces, on an organic farm, at a VA hospital and online teaching English lessons.
Marnatti is excited about adding to his diverse experiences and skillset, building connections with venture capital industry leaders, and furthering IU’s and Indiana’s community of innovators.
“The sky is the limit for this program,” he said. “I believe there are hundreds, if not thousands of Hoosiers already paving the way in the VC world before this program came to be. With the instatement of this program, it will solidify the network between those already out there and those of us fellows just getting our start, not to mention the many more to come. IU will create a strong ecosystem for venture capital.”
Another first-year MBA student at the Kelley School, Vennetta Mccray, of Chicago, watched her father start a company in the 1990s and continue it until he passed away this past summer. She also has experience starting her own business, and she has also worked as a science instructor and Teach for America participant in Indianapolis. Like many fellows, she wants to be a successful venture capitalist, but also wants to help others get their ideas off the ground, especially those who may not have the financial means to do so.
“I am hoping to gain knowledge about what VC firms look for in startup companies and use that knowledge to help others in my community who are seeking funding,” she said. “I would one day like to be on the other side of the table making these decisions. I want to use my knowledge learned from this experience and my MBA to help people of low socioeconomic status make their dream of becoming an entrepreneur and founding a startup company become a reality.”
More information about the IU Ventures Fellows program, including the 2022 Venture Fellows roster, program requirements, partnering organizations and application process, is available online. Additional information about this year’s class will appear in future IU Ventures’ communications.
About IU Ventures:
IU Ventures invests in and supports IU-affiliated early-stage companies. Its investment programs include the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund, IU Angel Network, Shoebox Fund and Innovate Indiana Fund. It further supports IU founders through the Executive in Residence Program and IU Founders and Funders Network. Student support is provided through a variety of engagements, including the new IU Venture Fellows Program. Each program takes unique approaches to accelerate and support the positive impacts that entrepreneurs affiliated with IU already achieve across the world. IU Ventures is a recognized leader in increasing opportunities for diverse and historically underserved entrepreneurs and investing in Indiana startups with a shared commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.