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IU students build startups from own intellectual property, receive early support from university

  • Feb. 25, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

INDIANAPOLIS -- High-tech entrepreneurs who create intellectual property as graduate or undergraduate students in the Indiana University campus system are impacting the state's economic development by launching businesses, creating jobs and providing solutions to clients across several sectors.

Tony Armstrong, president and CEO of the Indiana University Research and Technology Corp., said the trend of IU students commercializing their own IP has grown even stronger in recent years.

"These students and, later, alumni are brainstorming solutions in classrooms, laboratories, libraries, dining halls and dormitories to address a variety of problems," Armstrong said. "They are taking ownership of their intellectual property in greater numbers to develop businesses that impact people's lives around the nation."

Gagan Dhillon, a graduate of the Kelley School of Business, is co-founder of Cause.it Inc. The company helps university alumni organizations reach young and lapsed donor groups to build fundraising capacity.

"We use affinity data to help understand what an alumnus is interested in," he said. "We then apply their interests to marketing and general fundraising appeals on behalf of the university foundation."

Dhillon said leaders at IU and the Innovate Indiana initiative have been instrumental in Cause.it's success.

"They have shared expertise in several areas including funding, customer acquisition, and case study and product development," he said. "Advisors from the Innovate Indiana Fund helped me navigate numerous challenges and growth opportunities."

Dhillon said the Indiana University Foundation was an early adopter and has been a customer of Cause.it for more than three years.

"Officials have helped us reach new customers through their relationships with other universities and partners," he said. "We now have more than 40 state universities as clients."

Matthew Callison and Tiffany Roman, doctoral candidates in the School of Education in Bloomington, are co-founders of Critique LLC. The cloud-based peer-feedback platform facilitates feedback in online, face-to-face or blended settings.

"Peer feedback is a well-known teaching approach that boosts learning outcomes and improves student work," Callison said. "Unfortunately, it is difficult to implement in modern, digital classrooms. Critique allows teachers to set up and monitor the digital work and peer feedback of student groups. This can be done with limited time and technical expertise."

"Critique enables peer feedback without time and space constraints and facilitates higher-quality peer feedback and work than traditional approaches," Callison continued. "It provides educators with learning analytics and creates a digital record of student reflection."

The Kelley School of Business is an early adopter, using Critique in the Compass 3 course this semester. Almost 30 K-12 schools and two- and four-year colleges and universities have agreed to use the platform in 2016, including seven pilot programs in the spring. Roman said personnel at IURTC assisted in the development of Critique.

"Tony Armstrong and Marie Kerbeshian, the vice president of technology commercialization, reviewed the university's intellectual property policy with us," Roman said. "They addressed our concerns regarding IP, reassuring us that we could develop our idea further. IURTC was instrumental in the development of our Small Business Innovation Research application, and it continues to serve us in an advisory role."

Alumni Ilya Rekhter, Eric Jiang and Peter SerVaas are co-founders of DoubleMap, which provides rider- and administrative-focused transit software for universities, municipalities, corporations, airports and events worldwide.

"Our solutions, such as mobile apps for catching a bus and automated enunciation for aiding visually impaired riders, have proven to be key differentiators in the transit space," said Rekhter, the company's CEO. "These have allowed DoubleMap to grow more than 100 percent every year since it was founded."

When SerVaas served as president of the Indiana University Student Association, he and Rekhter set a goal to improve transportation without expanding the fleet. When he realized all existing options were cost-prohibitive, Rekhter suggested building their own tracking system.

"Students in the School of Informatics and Computing helped build the proof-of-concept model, and Eric built the working prototype that was released to IU students," Rekhter said. "We later had to rebuild the entire system from scratch for the enterprise-level model that turned into DoubleMap. None of the code from the original prototype was reused."

The co-founders won the inaugural IDEA Competition in 2010, which provided office space in Bloomington and $5,000 in funding. IU Campus Bus became the company's first client in 2012, and the university is now a client for TapRide, an Uber-like product that the company acquired in 2014.

"We've since grown to 40 employees and expanded to more than 100 customers, including Walt Disney Studios; the City of Orlando; NBC Universal; Capital One; and several universities, including Northwestern, Michigan, Georgetown and Purdue," Rekhter said. "As a result, DoubleMap received the Tech Startup of the Year and Mobile Tech Award at the TechPoint Mira Awards in 2014 and was selected to Inc. magazine's '30 Under 30' list of top entrepreneurs in 2015."

Armstrong said IU students who cultivate solutions to worldwide problems create an impact beyond economic development.

"Innovative ideas are born throughout all academic disciplines on all campuses throughout the state," he said. "Students and alumni who take ownership of their intellectual property, establish and fund a business, and provide marketplace solutions are also strengthening Indiana University's reputation as a world-class research institution."

About IURTC

IURTC is a not-for-profit organization that helps IU faculty and researchers realize the commercial potential of their discoveries. Since 1997, IURTC's university clients have accounted for more than 2,000 inventions, nearly 1,900 U.S. patent applications and more than 75 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. 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.