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Design GUIs: A traditional startup with offices in the basement

Design GUIs

As the founder of graphic design and engineering company—The Design GUIs—Anthony House has all the motivation he needs to be a successful entrepreneur.

His story starts with McDonald’s and an empty stomach.

“My family was never really a well-off family, we have lived close to the poverty line for most of our lives,” House explains. “One of the guys my mom was dating when I was younger came home and started eating McDonald’s in front of us when there was no food in the house.

“So that drive to make sure that doesn’t happen to my family when I get older has really pushed me to make sure I’m financially stable so my future family and future children don’t have to go through that. I see working on my own business and doing that type of thing as a way to accomplish that.”

House has spent the last three years at Iowa State University studying software engineering with minors in general business and entrepreneurial studies.

He’s hopeful The Design GUIs can become sustainable and grow over his next two years so when he graduates, he has his own full-time job.

“I have a roommate now who works at Iowa State and he bought a house, so I live with him and we are working out of our basement,” House says. “That classic garage startup.”

Video game designers

House started designing and engineering games when he was 16 after falling in love with the original “Halo” game.

“I started playing that and turned into a super fan,” House says. “I loved space and wanted to be an astronaut when I was younger. So I just love space and Halo inspired me to get into the game industry.”

House said he’s working to create relationships with independent game developers and the larger game studios to create game graphical user interfaces.

“Most of the time it’s through private forums, like game engine forums where anyone can really post and look for people,” House says. “Most of the contacts we gain are peer to peer.”

The Design GUIs also builds websites.

The Design GUIs
The user interface from the Civil War-themed video game, “War Rights” that was designed by The Design GUI’s.

What they’ve designed

House said the first project he worked on at 16 years old was, “Project Contingency” which was similar to Halo.

“It was making Halo assets and recreating the Halo game to be played on PC with kind of our own little twist and spin on it as well,” House says. I worked on that team for about four years. Then I started working on a game called ‘War Rights’ which was a first-person shooter civil war game.”

He’s been developing War Rights for just over two years.

“It’s my passion,” House says. “We can do a wide variety of game design elements that really fit a lot of peoples needs in the game area.”

Design GUIs: A traditional startup with offices in the basement | 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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