by CRAIG COLEY
An app that helps nonprofits track volunteers, a social networking platform for people in show business, and an app that reminds college students to do their assignments. These Bloomington startups have all received funding from the Flywheel Fund, a new venture capital initiative of The Mill.
The Mill, founded in 2017, is a nonprofit organization that operates 19,000 square feet of space for coworking and entrepreneurship at 642 N. Madison St.
Executive Director Pat East says the Flywheel Fund, launched in 2020, has a dual purpose. One is to provide funding for promising startups. The other is to create more local “angel investors,” a name for people who finance startup companies. Most of the fund’s members are new to this kind of investing, and the fund’s mission includes teaching them its fundamentals.
The Mill identified the investment candidates, which had to be technology- based Indiana companies, and put together a packet of information about each. Investors then voted on which companies to fund. Flywheel’s first tranche raised $120,000 from 11 investors and funded five startups—three based in Bloomington and headquartered at The Mill.
Flywheel’s deep goal, says East, is shaping Bloomington’s future. A lot of investment capital in Bloomington flows to real estate, and East hopes that the Flywheel Fund can redirect capital to companies that create good- paying jobs with low carbon footprints. “We don’t want to look up in a couple decades and only see student housing here,” East says. “We want to be able to inform the future in a way that we think is going to be really responsible for the city.”
These are the three Bloomington companies funded by Flywheel.
“LinkedIn for the performing arts,” is how CEO Jennie Moser describes Stagetime. Performers looking for work network with people looking for talent. The idea came to Moser, 27, when she was a student at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, earning money building websites where performers could post photos and videos. Rather than having separate websites, Stagetime “takes all those disparate portfolio pieces and allows people to showcase their work just as well, but then actually connect them to their intended audience,” Moser says. Learn more at stagetimearts.com.
When CEO Geng Wang started Civic Champs in 2019, the idea was an app to streamline the process of tracking volunteer hours. It began with a feature that uses geofencing technology to prompt users to register on their mobile devices when they arrive at the nonprofit. “One tap, super simple, no more data entry,” Wang says. The app has expanded to assist other aspects of volunteer management, including mentoring, feedback, and donations. Learn more at civicchamps.com.
Boost is an app that notifies students about unsubmitted assignments, and sends encouragement and to-do lists. It blends with Canvas, the online course platform used by Indiana University, other universities, and many K–12 schools. CEO Josh Owens, 35, says Boost has improved student performance at IU and is looking to expand to other schools. “I think we’ve got a solution that is lightweight but