A partnership between Illinois State University and the Bloomington-Normal Angel Investor Network (BNAIN) draws together innovation and capital investment to support the development of ideas, emerging technologies, and businesses in the Bloomington-Normal community.
“The goal of this partnership is to broaden Illinois State’s relationship with local investors to encourage and support the entrepreneurship of faculty, students, and other local startups,” said Cory Abernathy, Illinois State’s intellectual property and export control officer. “The agreement allows Illinois State to build upon, and further expand, the resources available to faculty innovators since the finalizing of the partnership with the Office of Technology Management at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Illinois State continues to build infrastructure and relationships to fully support our innovative community.”
Local investors have already contributed a total of $335,000 to internrocket.com, a startup led by former Illinois State student Michael Somers. The venture is a social network that helps people connect with micro-internship opportunities.
Students working through the George R. and Martha Means Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Illinois State have also had the chance to present their ideas to local investors and receive constructive feedback to help them further refine their business concepts. Seven startups have already received a combined $20,000 from the ISU Student Startup Fund, a separate fund administered through the Means Center.
“The relationship between the Means Center and the Bloomington Normal Angel Investor Network has allowed students in the Student Startup Fund to grow and prosper to the point that we now have our very own Means Center Accelerator Program to help students even further,” said Mark Hoelscher, the center’s director. “The partnership gives students a chance to present to real investors in real time. That strengthens their fundraising skills and provides them with a critical review of their business.”
Since its inception in January 2014, BNAIN’s aim has been to build and strengthen entrepreneurship and innovation in the local community through capital investment. In addition to sponsorships from Illinois State’s Means Center and support from the Town of Normal to create the Slingshot CoWork incubator in Uptown Normal, the organization has corporate sponsorships from State Farm, Mirus Research, CIRBN, Mavidea, Bartell Powell attorneys, and Emerging Business Services.
“We view this as a strategic investment for the town,” said Chris Koos, mayor of the Town of Normal. “We’ve seen the space create collaborations between local companies, entrepreneurs, and students which have led to new community initiatives, companies, and jobs being created. We think this culture of collaboration and creation fits well uptown.”
“We are very excited about the new generation of entrepreneurs,” said Arnold Lovin, Bloomington-Normal Angel Investor Network president. “We are committed to helping build the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Bloomington-Normal. With that as a mission, we can think of no greater way to do that than to help Illinois State faculty and students with their entrepreneurial endeavors in our community.”