Iowa’s thriving startup scene

Iowa’s startup companies are thriving and receiving accolades like never before.

Photo Credit: Silicon Prairie News
Photo Credit: Silicon Prairie News

Several Iowa companies and individuals recently were nominated for the 2014 Silicon Prairie Awards, which honor members of the startup community in Iowa, Nebraska and the Kansas City area for their outstanding products and achievements. Out of hundreds of nominations, 13 winners and 56 finalists were selected for the prestigious recognition, including several of Iowa’s own.

Bawte, a Des Moines startup with an app that allows users to tag purchased items and receive product manuals, was a finalist in the Best Creation category. Wade Arnold of Banno, a software company for financial institutions, was a finalist for Executive of the Year while Geoff Wood, founder of Gravitate, secured a finalist spot in the Silicon Prairie Champion category. David Tominsky, a spokesman for Iowa Startup Accelerator, received one of the three Silicon Prairie Champion awards. Other award winners include Built by Iowa, winner of Investor of the Year along with the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, which received Service Provider of the Year and Pear Deck, which was honored as the winner of New Startup of the Year.

These startups and entrepreneurs within the state are at great advantage thanks to their decision to make Iowa home. Through the years, Iowa has become the startup hub of the Midwest, as the state offers a multitude of benefits that support the startup community. Iowa not only boasts a talented workforce but also is a leader when it comes to capital funds invested, with an average investment deal more than 20 percent larger than the national average. Iowa’s business incubators and co-working centers offer resources and infrastructure to assist entrepreneurs in growing their ideas into reality. Some of these centers include the Iowa State University Research Park, University of Iowa Research Park, John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, StartupCity Des Moines, Built by Iowa, Iowa Startup Accelerator and the latest addition, Gravitate, opening today.

It isn’t just startups finding success in Iowa. With one of the lowest costs of doing business in the nation and the state’s high quality of life, companies both big and small are deciding to locate or expand here. Iowa has established an ideal balance of infrastructure and investment to assist companies in establishing the momentum they need to succeed.

Iowa’s Best and Brightest

As summer winds down, teachers and students across the state are packing their school bags and preparing for the academic year ahead.

Students in the state are excited for the new chapter in their life, but have much more to be looking forward to; as Iowa is home to a nationally recognized K-12 public education system and has world-class colleges and universities at their fingertips. In fact, Iowa boasts three state universities (all of which are on The 50 Best College Towns In America list), 15 community colleges and more than 70 private colleges. These education opportunities afford students a world of career choices right in their own backyard – from manufacturing and finance to bioscience and technology.

Iowa City – Number Nine on The 50 Best College Towns In America list!
Iowa City – Number Nine on The 50 Best College Towns In America list!

All of this would not be possible without the commitment of Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to the state’s education system. The Governor and Lt. Governor recently hosted the second statewide Teacher and Principal Leadership Symposium to discuss the direct effect a quality teaching profession has on strengthening the education structure. More than 450 teachers, parents and business leaders from across the state gathered to discuss the programs Iowa is using to ensure the success of our educational system. “Iowa’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation System will make a significant difference by placing effective teachers in leadership roles, by attracting more talented new teachers with better pay and by fostering greater collaboration so teachers can learn from each other,” Governor Branstad said.

There is truly something special happening here in Iowa. Our economy was built on the ever-important and fundamental industries of agriculture and manufacturing, but we will continue to grow and thrive as a result of the state’s hardworking reputation in both academia and business – not to mention our focus on STEM.

As a new school year begins, we can all be excited about Iowa’s future. The programs we have in place align students and Iowans with the resources and foundation necessary to further innovation and advancement in Iowa and throughout the world.

Brooke M. - IEDA Marketing Team

Iowa biofuels industry making great strides

POET-DSM shared this photo on Facebook July 2014 – Project LIBERTY fly-over, in Emmetsburg, Iowa.
POET-DSM shared this photo on Facebook July 2014 – Project LIBERTY fly-over, in Emmetsburg, Iowa.

While Iowa may be well-known as a leader in the production of commodities like corn and soybeans, it is also a leader in the renewable fuels industry. Over the years, Iowa has used its abundant resources to create, not only new products, but also entirely new industries. Iowa’s biofuels industry in particular has grown rapidly, adding $11.5 billion to the state’s economy, $4.1 billion in household income and creating 62,000 job opportunities across the state. Recently, an Iowa company hit a new milestone, producing it’s first-ever gallon of cellulosic ethanol in Iowa.

Founded in 2000, Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP) has built its success around the company’s 35-million gallon corn-based ethanol plant located in Galva, Iowa. Recently, QCCP expanded by building a $9 million facility dedicated to the production of cellulosic ethanol. With the first gallon under its belt, and now running at full speed, QCCP is expected to produce 2 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol each year.

While QCCP was the first, other companies such as DuPont and Poet-DSM are making similar strides forward. DuPont is currently in the process of constructing a $225 million cellulosic ethanol plant in central Iowa while Poet-DSM is constructing a $250 million plant in Emmetsburg. Each is planned to produce anywhere from 20 to 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually and both companies are committed to working with farmers in Iowa communities to source their raw materials.

Iowa’s blossoming biorenewable fuels industry is just one example of the state lending itself well as a home for companies to grow and prosper. Companies within the state are able to flourish as Iowa offers a friendly business environment, coupled with one of the lowest costs of doing business in the nation. The state’s rich natural resources, deep agricultural roots, world-renowned research institutions and talented workforce will undoubtedly continue propelling Iowa and its companies to the forefront of industries making an impact across the nation and the world.