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Firm that makes plagiarism-detection software gets boost from Indy entrepreneur

November 10, 2017

A local education technology entrepreneur has invested in a startup company that makes plagiarism-detection software and helped move the firm to Fishers.

Ray Henderson, who operates the boutique advisory firm Lessons Learned Ventures LLC, said he has joined the board of VeriCite Inc. as chairman with plans to “build the business in Indiana.”

VeriCite, a spinoff of Cleveland-based education software firm Longsight, already claims 150 university, K-12 and other institutional customers, with its sights set on quick growth.

“The business characteristics of the software are phenomenal,” Henderson told IBJ about the company, which has six employees working at Launch Fishers.

“This is pitch-perfect timing for technology in general and ed tech specifically,” he said. “You could not have created this more than three years ago.”

The software relies on the public cloud—using Amazon Web Services in particular—and complies with open tech standards for education that were developed in 2014 and meant to help software and applications from different creators integrate.

That means VeriCite can plug into existing education platforms, giving professors or teachers the ability to automatically check assignments for plagiarism. Schools can make the software available to students to check their own work.

Henderson—who previously served as president of Blackboard, an education technology firm, and ran the digital products group for locally based Pearson Education—declined to say how much he invested in VeriCite, which was founded by Scott Siddall and Sam Ottenhoff. The pair also founded Longsight, which helps universities customize open-source software and applications.

Last summer, VeriCite hired Valerie Schreiner to be its CEO. Schreiner, who is working for the firm from Chicago, is a former executive at several ed-tech firms, including Schoolzilla, Elluminate, and Blackboard.

One of her key roles will be to help VeriCite grow as it heads into a fundraising round in 2018. She expects to add more jobs in Fishers in the coming year. “We’re at capacity in our current space” at Launch Fishers, she said. “We’re maxed out.”

She said the firm could expand its space at Launch Fishers or find new offices in the area.

Schreiner said she joined VeriCite in part because of “the customer culture the founders created here. I’ve worked for a number of tech companies, but Sam and Scott are really about putting the customer first.”

That’s apparent in the firm’s pricing structure, she said, which—unlike at most education-tech firms—is transparent and lets customers try the product at no charge.

“Most vendors hold back their prices until they see who they’re competing with,” she said. “I think the market responds really well to having a public price and … knowing there’s not gamesmanship.”

The free trial is possible, Henderson said, thanks to the product’s plug-and-play nature. Because it operates from the cloud and integrates with all major software platforms, customers can easily try it without technical assistance.

That’s helped the firm double its customer count and revenue this year, and it expects to double both again next year. “We are on track to meet all of our goals for growth,” she said.

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