26 Mar IU Philanthropic Venture Fund invests $100,000 toward solving water challenges
Ziptility, a Bloomington-founded startup, helps municipalities manage, maintain water
Leaders of the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund have announced a second investment in Ziptility, a utility management software collaboration company. The new $100,000 in funding follows the initial $250,000 investment made in July 2019.
Teri Willey, executive director of IU Ventures and the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund manager, said Ziptility persevered and advanced its business despite challenges created in the 2020 calendar year.
“Ziptility’s customers are outspoken supporters of this business and its earnest, constant efforts to understand their needs and provide products and services that matter,” Willey said.
Bloomington, Indiana, native Tyler Henke founded Ziptility. While working for a geographic information system mapping company, he visited a small municipality’s utility department. What he saw influenced his decision to help it and other departments.
“The office desperately needed up-to-date maps,” Henke said. “But the effort its teams were willing to put into recording better information was astounding.”
Henke said founding the company in Bloomington has provided an advantage.
“Bloomington is just big enough to support a technology company like ours, without being so big that our experiences aren’t relatable to our small-town customers,” Henke said.
Today, Ziptility helps dozens of utility management teams manage hundreds tens of thousands of utility assets. The company’s app helps these teams prioritize water utility maintenance and repairs through real-time updates sent directly to mobile devices. Teams can carry out work for a full day without needing to go to the office or wait around for updates from supervisorsto work orders.
“Early on, our product focused exclusively on simplifying data collection for utility field crews,” Henke said. “Over the last 18 months, we spent our time building features that help utility managers create and assign work.
“With this second round of funding, we’ll pull it all together: operationalizing the data collection process by integrating it into productivity-boosting workflows.”
In addition to building an highly accurate map of underground utility assetsties, manholes, meters, valves and more, Ziptility users can use its the app to can set reminders, delegate work, and document results through photos and surveysother records.
In 2020, Ziptility was one of 13 startups named to the Imagine H2O Global Water Accelerator Program. With 215 applications from 33 countries, this startup accelerator is part of the Imagine H2O nonprofit’s mission to develop and deploy innovation that solves global water challenges.
In growing Ziptility on its current path to success, Henke and company co-founder Dante Cook have benefited from the support of several IU alumni and faculty, including advisors Reuben Vandeventer and Doug Dayhoff and the company’s director of finance, Jeff Buszkiewicz.
“Although they aren’t all local to Bloomington, I met all of our investors and formal advisors through connections I made in the city,” Henke said. “Most of my growth as an entrepreneur has happened in Bloomington, and I don’t think I would have known how — or had the confidence to — dive into Ziptility the way I did without the support of this startup community.”
Henke said this support also extends to the company’s partnership with IU Ventures, which oversees the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund.
“Our partners at IU Ventures have been hands-on and helped connect us to a number of potential hires, partners and investors,” Henke said.
“Our shared university connection has helped legitimize us to prospective customers across the country who otherwise may have been skeptical of working with a startup company.”
Willey said professional venture investors follow the winners in their portfolio companies by making additional investments.
“Well done, Team Ziptility,” Willey said. “We are pleased to be in good company among smart thoughtful co-investors as we continue to support the team at Ziptility.”