Elevate Ventures invests in Bloomington-based startup

Staff Reports

A Bloomington-based startup with ties to Columbus is the first in the Velocities region for investment by Elevate Ventures and its Community Ideation Fund.

Civic Champs, a social enterprise that streamlines volunteer management, pitched its business platform to an investment committee within Velocities, a partnership between Elevate Ventures, Bloomington-based incubator The Mill and the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce. The partnership, formally announced in December, is designed to develop an entrepreneurship-minded culture and infrastructure in the south central Indiana area.

Under the Community Ideation Fund, each partnership region, including south central Indiana’s Velocities region, has access to up to $200,000 over the next three years through the state’s 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, which is overseen by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and promotes economic growth and innovation-driven public-private partnerships in Indiana.

Garnering a great deal of local support, Civic Champs has raised a total of $312,000, including the funding from Elevate. Of that total, $70,000 came from local investors.

Civic Champs CEO Geng Wang started the company with Michael Jeffery and Ryan Underdahl in February 2019. The company’s initial product is a mobile app that automates volunteer hour tracking with geofencing technology — a virtual geographic boundary defined by GPS. The technology triggers a notification when a volunteer’s mobile device enters or leaves an area. The nonprofit collects the information to keep track of volunteer hours.

“The Community Ideation Fund means a lot to us. At a high level, it reflects the support the region has for startups like Civic Champs,” Wang said. “Knowing that there are local capital sources that believe in us, and our idea, gives us further confidence to continue pursuing our vision.”

With a staff of four full-time employees, Civic Champs supports 23 nonprofits. Wang said he hopes to have as many as 200 nonprofits using its model within 18 months.

He plans to build out a more robust platform to automate each part of the volunteer experience, including tools for scheduling, onboarding and tracking waivers. The team also plans to incorporate leaderboards and competitions to get more volunteers engaged.

“Civic Champs’ pitch to the Velocities investment committee was outstanding,” said Cindy Frey, president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce. “If this is any indication of the type of companies we can launch from the Bloomington/Columbus region, then this partnership is going to be very successful.”

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For more information about Velocities, visit velocitiesin.com.

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Velocities will be operated by a board of directors including:

  • Rick Johnson, president and CEO of Johnson Ventures, Inc.
  • Dave Glass, CEO of LHP Engineering Solutions
  • Cindy Frey, president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Chris LaMothe, CEO of Elevate Ventures
  • Jane Martin, retired venture capitalist
  • Lynn Coyne, president of the Bloomington Economic Development Corp.
  • Pat East, co-founder and CEO of Hanapin Marketing and executive director of Dimension Mill

Institutional and individual founders include: Bloomington Economic Development Corp., City of Columbus, Cook Group, Cornerstone Information Systems, Duke Energy Foundation, Envisage Technologies, First Financial Bank, German American Bank, Hanapin Marketing, Heritage Fund – The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, Indiana University, Ivy Tech Community College – Bloomington, Jane Martin, Johnson Ventures, Old National Bank, Secretly, Tecumseh Capital Partners, Tom and Barbara Schoellkopf, Upland Brewing and Pete and Janelle Yonkman.