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South Bend Startup Lands Additional Investment from Elevate

September 23, 2020

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Digital Leader Academy today announced a $20,000 investment from Elevate Ventures through Elevate’s Community Ideation Fund. The South Bend-based startup provides curricula on emerging technology, innovation, and leadership in order to prepare the current high school students for the digital world.

Four founders, including CEO Ellen Joyce, were connected through the IDEA Center at the University of Notre Dame. In collaboration with the IDEA Center and other regional entities such as enFocus and Notre Dame’s Center for Research Computing, Joyce, Alex Topalovic, John Henry, and Jaroslaw Nabrzyski started Digital Leader Academy in September 2019.

Joyce received her undergrad at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland with majors in computer science, business, and statistics. She completed the Notre Dame ESTEEM master’s of science graduate program in May 2020.

“We’ve relied heavily on the Elevate team, including Nicholas Kuhn and Landon Young, when it comes to everything from feedback on ideas to help with pitch decks,” said Joyce. “We’re excited to move forward and develop new courses that will modernize how our students learn in high schools across the country.”

Digital Leader Academy won a $20,000 pre-seed investment from the Elevate Nexus Regional Pitch Competition in October 2019. The funding enabled the company to create a minimum viable product and begin creating test lessons to send to teachers.

Currently, Digital Leader Academy is beta testing a course at Riley High School in South Bend. The course, Data Science in Manufacturing, combines math, computer science, and business entrepreneurship. With the new funding, Digital Leader Academy will refine the course based on teacher and student feedback as well as grow the course offering.

“Ellen has exhibited a tenacity that founders need and has taken advantage of the community’s resources to further their business and reach,” said Nicholas Kuhn, Elevate Ventures entrepreneur-in-residence serving Startup South Bend-Elkhart, a partnership focused on startups in north-central Indiana. “The company has participated with HustleSBE, enFocus and other programs designed to give early-stage startups the support they need. We’re excited to walk alongside this company as they flourish.”

Elevate’s Community Ideation Fund is made possible through its partnership with Startup South Bend-Elkhart. The Community Ideation Fund is available 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.