Iowa Technology Startups Rise and Shine in National Competition

Iowa startup Bawte presented $100,000 at Rise of the Rest competition. (Photo credit: Rise of the Rest Flickr)
Iowa startup Bawte presented $100,000 at Rise of the Rest competition. (Photo credit: Rise of the Rest Flickr)

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.

Iowa Gov. Branstad and Steve Case at Rise of the Rest startup event. (Rise of the Rest Flickr)
Iowa Gov. Branstad and Steve Case at Rise of the Rest startup event. (Rise of the Rest Flickr)

 

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

A New Generation Called to Feed the World

With 9 billion people to feed by 2050, filling professional agriculture jobs will be critical to achieving food and nutrition security in the 21st century.

A report released on October 16 at the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue found that demand for new talent in the food and agriculture industries is outpacing the available candidates entering the workforce from academic programs.

“The food and agriculture industries are projected to have a substantial need for new business and science professionals in the coming years,” said Kim Reynolds, Lt. Governor of Iowa and chair of the STEM Food & Ag Council. “It is critical that our students be prepared for the jobs of the twenty-first century.”

According to the figures in the report, the agriculture industry is expected to grow by almost five percent over the next five years.  Additionally, the need to transfer knowledge from the retiring generation to their successors will create additional demand for the next generation of industry professionals.

“Meeting the increasing global demand for food will require the next generation of scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs,” said Paul Schickler, DuPont Pioneer president and vice-chair of the STEM Food & Ag Council. “Our industry faces the stigma that we exist only in fields and processing factories, but we are also accountants, economists, scientists, investors, communicators, and everything else needed to run an international industry.”

The research in the report identifies growing opportunities for college graduates in six advanced agriculture fields. Despite an increase of 30 percent over the past eight years in enrollment in academic programs that feed into these professions, there still aren’t enough graduates to keep up with the demand for qualified candidates.

Iowa’s growing ag science industry reaches into all six advanced ag fields outlined in the report, but also stretches into exciting industries like renewable energy, pharmaceuticals and consumer products. It’s one pillar of Iowa’s Agronomic Ecosystem that supports a diverse, thriving economy.

Check out the initial presentation of the report findings by Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds below.

Home Base Iowa Update

This year as we celebrate Veteran’s Day it is important to reflect back on honor and support our nation’s heroes. Since the program was first announced in November 2013, Home Base Iowa has been working to support our nation’s veterans and has taken steps to prove Iowa’s commitment to service members is stronger than ever.

Home Base Iowa is non-profit, public-private partnership that works to attract and retain servicemen and women, veterans and military spouses to Iowa. By pairing our nation’s veterans with targeted resources used to help them find jobs, communities and stay connected with the military, Iowa has in turn helped to recruit some of the country’s finest talent to the state. Since the program’s enactment in July 2014, 495 veterans have been hired and Iowa employers have pledged more than 5,000 jobs to military men and women. Iowa companies and communities have also worked to further their commitment to veterans by becoming designated Home Base Iowa Businesses and Communities. There are currently over 200 designated businesses and four counties throughout the state who have received this designation and more than 60 additional counties are hoping to do the same.

A more recent addition to the program was announced in late October and will help Iowa colleges and universities better serve and educate veterans. The Home Base Iowa Certified Higher Academic Military Partner (CHAMP) program will provide an opportunity for Iowa’s colleges and universities to become CHAMP certified and will offer established guidelines for schools as they strive to meet the needs of veterans on campus. For certification, schools must meet certain criteria and provide on-campus veteran resources, show additional support for the service member’s transition and provide additional financial resources. Upper Iowa University, Mount Mercy University and Des Moines Area Community College have all received designation for the program, with many more schools across the state vying for the same. This component to the state’s veteran initiative is one more way Iowa is working to attract veterans and ensuring service members a smooth quest in receiving higher education, finding a career and calling Iowa home.

Iowa is well on its way to become one of the nation’s top military friendly states. Efforts seen from businesses, schools and communities across the state are guaranteeing veterans experience a seamless transition from combat into civilian life. For more information on Home Base Iowa, please visit the website at: http://www.homebaseiowa.org.

~ Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds