Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Dad’s business evolves with daughter, son-in-law behind the keyboard

Frustrated by the lack of forward thinking at a major financial company in Des Moines Dennis Hedlund started his own company – iEmergent – in 2000 as a consulting firm.

He then hired his daughter Laird and two of her college friends as the first employees.

Using data the company began forecasting mortgage analytics to show banks where to best spend their resources. But as the Microsoft Excel spreadsheets grew larger the company tried to figure out a way to communicate the data more easily to their clients.

Fast forward to 2013 and iEmergent partnered with Far Reach, a development and marketing company from Cedar Falls to develop Mortgage Market Smart.

iEmergent Chief Operating Officer Bernard Nossuli describes Mortgage Market Smart as, “Google Maps with a layer of forecasting over the top so you can instantly see a hot or cold zone of places to deploy resources.”

And as the company has evolved, Nossuli says its going back to its startup roots as it updates its product.

“We’re trying to make sure we have an asset that can be sold down the line” he says.

The Evolution

Bernard and Laird Nossuli showcase Mortgage Market Smart from the Urbandale office.

Bernard was one of the original hires who went on to eventually marry Hedlunds daughter, Laird Hedlund-Nossuli. Their product, Mortgage Market Smart, was developing until 2014 when Dennis had a lung transplant; They subsequently took 2015 and 2016 off from development to focus on the family.

Dennis Hedlund passed away last March.

“He was a mathematician, artist type,” Laird says. “A very strategic person.”

It’s been two years since any changes have been made to Mortgage Market Smart and Laird said it will be switched over to Java to make it mobile friendly.

“Complex isn’t always better. We thought people wanted to learn how to fish, but they wanted to learn while you are giving them fish. For them to use this data it has to fit into their process now, which is what we’re trying to do.”

The update to Mortgage Market Smart will allow users to quickly print or share a report as opposed to being asked to work in the program on desktop only. And instead of working solely with large companies, they hope to appeal to single users who can access the app on a tablet for a one-time fee.

Dads impact

Dennis Hedlund with his now son-in-law Bernard Nossuli at his daughters wedding on July 10, 2004.

Laird says the company got off to a slow start with her fathers first three hires.

“He paid us well but it was just a bad business decision,” she explains laughing. “He was such an idea man, that people would buy it. And we learned that didn’t work. You also need a business plan.”

But Laird is quick to say a good idea trumps a business plan.

“My dad wasn’t greedy, he was focused and intellectually curious,” Laird says. “That’s how we are. We don’t want to take as much as possible from our clients, we want them to see value because we know we can sell that value somewhere else. Because when you have a client that has that, “Ah-ha” moment it’s so much fun.”


Dad's business evolves with daughter, son-in-law behind the keyboard | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives
Purchase Now