Bloomington esports, health start-up gets $460K from IU Angel Network

A local startup is trying to forge a new market in esports, with a little help — such as nearly half a million dollars — from Indiana University. 

“‘Healthy gaming’ is not an oxymoron,” Jeff Thinnes, co-founder of SummaForte, told The Herald-Times. 

In July, SummaForte, a company that produces health and wellness products for competitive video game players, received $460,000 from the IU Angel Network. The network connects IU-affiliated investors with startups that have ties to the university.

This is the largest investment from the network to date, according to executive director Jason Whitney. It also marks the second investment from the IU Angel Network into SummaForte. Last year, the network invested $35,000.

The story behind SummaForte

Since founding SummaForte in 2020, Jeff and Murtagh Thinnes have made a series of life changes. Jeff decided to “wind down, shutter and moth-ball” his 20-year consulting company. Murtagh quit his other job to work for the company full-time. The father-son team moved to Bloomington and opened a new office inside the Dimension Mill. 

“We sold our family home of 25 years, picked up stakes and moved back to Indiana because I know Indiana. I grew up here. Murtagh studied here. It’s a unique place,” Jeff said. “The support that we’ve gotten is even beyond our wildest dreams, both from the university and the local businesses.”

Whitney said the substantial increase in investment mirrored SummaForte’s growth over the past year. According to Whitney, the startup was able to reach several milestones — such as physically making and packaging products as well as creating a network of partners in the gaming market. Locally, Jeff said SummaForte has recently co-sponsored a tournament for the IU gaming club and partnered with Beastcoast, an esports organization that is also within the IU Angel Network.

But it was the products that really spoke to investors.

“I think the biggest thing was several members of the network were actually able to use the product and see the efficacy that it had on overall health,” Whitney said.

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