Iowa is rapidly gaining a national reputation as a hotbed of ingenious technology startups. The evidence was there for the world to see when Steve Case, former CEO of AOL, brought his Rise of the Rest competition to the Science Center of Iowa on Oct. 8. Des Moines was one of five stops selected for the competition. Other competitions took place in Kansas City, Madison, Minneapolis and St. Louis.
Rise of the Rest is similar to ABC’s Shark Tank series. Iowa startups were pitching for a $100,000 investment from Revolution, LLC, a technology investment firm founded by Case. I had the pleasure of serving as one of the judges with Case, Dwolla founder Ben Milne, Iowa Technology Association’s former president Leanne Jacobsen and Coppola Enterprises President Michael Coppola.
Nine Iowa technology startups competed for the investment, including:
- Bawte, Des Moines, an app platform that identifies the things consumers buy;
- Pear Deck, Iowa City, which helps users plan and build interactive lessons;
- Men’s Style Lab, Des Moines, a concierge clothing service;
- Jobsite Unite, Des Moines, which streamlines jobsite communication for construction workers;
- Re-APP, Iowa City, a mobile application that socializes and incentivizes recycling;
- Punctil, Cedar Rapids, which helps health care professionals eliminates patient wait times and no-shows;
- Offspring, Des Moines, a way to capture and share and print your children’s special moments;
- Igor Inc., Johnston, a power-over-Ethernet LED lighting platform and built-in intelligence; and.
- Venuefox, Des Moines, which focuses on concierge event planning services for businesses.
Bawte earned the $100,000 investment as well as a trip to Austin, Texas, to pitch the company at the 2015 SXSW Startup Village for a chance to win additional investment. The company, founded by John Jackovin in 2011, came to the competition with a unique offering: providing consumers with service for products they already have purchased. For example, a homeowner who purchased a major appliance can use the app to obtain user manuals, check their warranty status, or be informed of product recalls and more.
The competition was only one of several startup events this fall. The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) also was a sponsor of the I/OWA Conference, where founders, teams, supporters, designers, developers and innovators came together to celebrate and invigorate Iowa’s startup community. Passionate individuals shared ideas, solutions and inspiration. Conference-goers also got an engaging look at technology and innovation on a national scale and gained keen awareness for the resources available locally to strengthen Iowa’s startup communities.
In addition to attending and sponsoring startup events like the ones mentioned above, we also administer entrepreneurial assistance programs. Awards are made during IEDA board meetings. This month, six startups received innovation funding to encourage growth and further development. See our complete board report of these awards here.
There is definitely a lot going on in Iowa to encourage and empower entrepreneurs and small business. I’m proud of the hard work of these Iowa innovators and all we do together to improve and enhance the state’s startup ecosystem.
Until next time,
Debi Durham, Director, Iowa Economic Development Authority