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Diverse group of startups close out the 2017 CYstarters program

CYstarters Iowa State University

As the CYstarters program came to an end Friday the twelve student-led startups graduating hoped their companies will do anything but come to an end.

The 2017 cohort finished the ten-week CYstarters program with a demo day on Friday with presentations to an audience of nearly 50 people. The CYstarters program provides students opportunities to start a company and spend a summer acting essentially as an intern for that company.

It is competitive to get into the ten week program. For the 2017 cohort, 40 applications were submitted and 12 companies were selected.

Inside the Iowa State University Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, each company presented about a problem they identified, their business idea, product, financial projections, marketing strategy and ability to scale. Each presentation lasted between three to seven minutes.

Companies were led by a variety of students at all grade levels from sophomores at Iowa State to, Ph.D students and recent graduates.

The companies in the 2017 CYstarters cohort were:

  • Bulletmatcher – Software that matches bullets
  • Duracinct – Software company
  • Fast Farm – An app that provides farmers a source to find new farm equipment in a hurry
  • Hurd Health Group – A medical technology company developing a product to reduce heart failure
  • Ivory Lane Events – Event planning made easier
  • Lamb Tactical – Custom, safer holsters for weapons
  • Our Anthology – Publishing/production company
  • Propelled Solutions – Drone technology helping first responders
  • QC Pool Cleaners – A chemical engineer who keeps pools clean
  • RenterGate – Software for property management
  • True 360 – Combining aquariums and the zoo with virtual reality to enhance visitors experiences
  • U-Conceal-It – A gun storage product

    CYstarters Iowa State University
    Nearly 50 people attended the 2017 CYstarters Demo Day at Iowa State University on Friday. Photo courtesy of Diana Wright.

Crowd pleasers

Megan Brandt, program manager for the Global Insurance Accelerator, works with companies on presentations exactly like what the CYstarters companies did Friday.

She said she was impressed after the two-hour event.

“You could tell they were trained pretty well,” Brandt says. “I was impressed with their level of maturity and ability to tell a story clearly.”

Devin Sloan graduated from Iowa State University in 2012 and went on to start his own business—Convergence Media Lab— and thought the variety of products on display was great.

“They are businesses that aren’t necessarily trying to do something completely brand new but trying to make their way into a market,” Sloan explained. “And then there were some really cool products.”

But being a designer, he would have liked to see the companies put more thought into the design of their presentations.

“The graphics for some of the presentations and some companies could use some help on their logos but that’s such minor stuff,” Sloan said. “We all got a good sense of what each company was about.”

Julie Wright is a graduate of Iowa State and traveled from Clear Lake, Iowa to the demo day.

“There was nothing like this when I was in school,” Wright said. “It’s fascinating to hear all the different problems they are solving. And this place (ISU Pappajohn Center) is a safety net, so why not start a business where you could come out potentially debt free.

“There is no failure in entrepreneurship, you just keep tweaking it. Well, what better place to tweak an idea then here with all these supports.”

The safety net Wright is talking about is the new economic development facility for Iowa State University. It houses the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, Student Consulting Firm, Small Business Development Center and Office of Intellectual Property and Tech Transfer, amongst other things.

“This is where entrepreneurship happens,” Judi Eyles, Assistant Director of the Pappajohn Center, said.


Diverse group of startups close out the 2017 CYstarters program | 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
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