23 Aug Introducing The Quarry: A New Avenue for IU Faculty Entrepreneurs
The Indiana University network of campuses includes nearly 10,000 faculty and staff working every day to advance the university’s culture of innovation and inquiry. Many of these researchers have a vision for the real-world applications and significance of their findings. Part of IU Ventures’ mission is to support these faculty entrepreneurs through The Quarry project.
The Quarry History and Development
The Indiana University Research and Technology Corporation (IURTC) was the predecessor to IU Ventures, and The Quarry started as part of that organization. This was a “spin-out” project intended to help faculty leverage the university’s intellectual property into new business ventures.
“Before, we would manage the businesses for the entrepreneurs,” shared IU Ventures Associate Vice President Jason Whitney, who runs The Quarry. “Some were seeing success, but we wanted to pivot to a more scalable model for the long term. We knew we could do more to engage with the greater alumni network ecosystem and the Indiana entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
Part of IU Ventures’ transition to a venture-style investment and entrepreneurial support model is serving as a connector, accelerator, and sounding board for faculty entrepreneurs at each of IU’s campuses. “Now, we look at each idea individually and decide what we should do, whether it’s making a connection, sharing a resource, or something else,” Whitney said.
How Does The Quarry Work?
Faculty at Indiana University campuses across the state conduct cutting edge research that leads to exciting findings in pharmaceuticals, devices, software, medicine, and other patented and protected intellectual areas. The Quarry is set up to help these faculty visionaries transition these innovations from the lab to the market alongside Indiana University’s Innovation and Commercialization Office. Interested faculty can make contact with The Quarry to discuss their vision, and ventures with true market potential are provided with a variety of consulting services.
“We want technologies and ideas coming out of the school to have the best possible odds of success from a commercialization standpoint,” said Tedd Green, the Executive in Residence at IU Ventures. “We want to enable those individuals….with the help and support of people who have expertise or knowledge.” That includes sharing insight with faculty entrepreneurs into sources of funding, the pitch process, making a business plan, hiring the right talent, market research, and more.
The faculty support offered by The Quarry isn’t simply the work of IU Ventures’ employees, though. Whitney and Green both emphasize the importance of alumni in the success of the project. “Our huge network connects faculty with a lot of business insight and lessons,” Whitney said. “That gives the opportunity to get an outside opinion on the business idea, among many other elements. It also connects faculty with the due diligence tools they need to protect their findings and start a business wisely and securely. Working with the right alumni can put each entrepreneurial business in a better position. We just have to find the right fit between the person and the venture.”
Examples of The Quarry Success
As an evolution of the IURTC’s spin-out program, The Quarry is building on a promising track record of empowering IU faculty to build viable businesses. Whitney shared two stories of projects The Quarry has supported to success.
The first was a unique situation where a faculty researcher already had years of funding for a research project. She knew the findings could be commercialized, but didn’t know where to begin. In addition to IU Ventures making an investment in her work, the IU Ventures team helped to secure funding for key milestones from the University and provided support for the company’s first two client projects.
A second example of success serves as a sign of things to come for The Quarry project. A group of medical researchers working in Indianapolis accumulated a robust patent portfolio over 12 years. The team was interested in commercialization and had even gone so far as to form a business entity, but didn’t know what to do next. “We stepped in and revised their pitch deck, then helped them gather a syndicate round of investors to get to their next value inflection point,” Whitney described. “Then, we helped them recruit a CEO. Twelve months after starting to engage with The Quarry, they could be in a position to get acquired soon.”
The Future of The Quarry Project
The IU Ventures team has strong momentum in The Quarry, and Whitney is hard at work with colleagues to connect IU faculty to local and global partners to help them grow their businesses. In Indiana, events and gatherings boost the signal for what The Quarry has to offer IU faculty. “We do lunch and learns at staff meetings for the faculty. On the alumni side, we do outreach to potential management talent and showcase some of the startups,’ Whitney said. “We explain the gaps in talent that the faculty businesses have, so people can self-identify as talent.”
Whitney says The Quarry is working to more quickly identify, at an early stage, which university research projects have commercial potential and are associated with entrepreneurial-minded faculty. “Our focus is on quality over quantity. We want to support businesses that are going to make a real difference and that have the potential to grow and create jobs.”
The Quarry is also starting to appeal to current IU students looking to engage in entrepreneurship. “We have been hosting events at The Mill to engage entrepreneurial students and the Bloomington entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Whitney shared. They’ve also helped some IU faculty enter pitch competitions, giving them a chance to get on stage and talk about their concept.
IU Ventures President and CEO Tony Armstrong agreed, saying, “IU Ventures’ mission is to help our faculty, students, staff, and alums to be able to take their innovative ideas and create a real impact on people around the world. We’re focused on helping people bring innovative solutions that are truly needed to the people who need them.”