Ames: Top 10 happenings from 2017 with a 2018 preview

Ames Startup Community Review Illustration courtesy of Creative Commons.

It was a busy year in the Ames startup community especially with entrepreneurship at Iowa State University.

Ames startup community members Diana Wright and Sam Schill collaborated to put together a top ten list of happenings from 2017 and looked ahead at what’s to come for Ames in 2018.

KNOWLEDGE – Tapping Business, Science & Technology at Iowa State University

There is no denying that the Advantage of Proximity to Iowa State University is a big part of the fabric of the Ames startup community. Access to human talent and research, makerspaces and labs, combined with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation across campus, has led startup enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and global companies to Ames.

#1 Campus-wide entrepreneurship

Within the first week of her new job as Iowa State President, Wendy Wintersteen highlighted the need to build the entrepreneurial culture across the university. “Eventually, entrepreneurship could be a brand for Iowa State. It builds on our great strength of innovation, creativity, and real-world solutions.”

This comes after the ISU College of Business launched the first undergraduate Entrepreneurship major at a Regents institution and a new PhD program in Entrepreneurship last year.

#2 CYstarters’ Community Growing

With the success of 2016’s eight startups and the addition of 12 new startups in 2017, came new ideas, growth & expansion to the ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship’s CYstarters 10-week summer accelerator for ISU students and recent graduates.

#3 ISU Startup Factory

A 52-week immersive program for technology-based startups, with the vision to scale these businesses into multi-million dollar ventures. The program is housed at Iowa State Research Park and will announce its fourth cohort in January. ISU Startup Factory recently received a $200,000 grant from the State of Iowa to expand the program throughout Iowa by partnering with four regional Small Business Development Centers. Iowa State also received a $406,569 i6 Challenge Grant which will be led by the ISU Startup Factory and other partners on campus specifically focusing on commercializing food technology innovations.

#4 Getting a Little Love

Iowa State was named a Talent Award Winner at the Association of Public Land-grant Universities (APLU)’s 2017 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Awards. This prestigious economic engagement award gives a nod to Iowa State’s ecosystem to incubate startups and advise existing firms.

In the past, Ames lacked a central location for businesses and startups to locate and access resources. Entrepreneurs worked at various locations such as Downtown, Somerset, ISU Research Park, or even Iowa State’s dorm rooms. In addition, organizations supporting startups were scattered all over campus. The need to gather entrepreneurs and startup resources was a constant challenge for community connectors. Problem solved: re-organize economic development under one roof where businesses and the community can collaborate more efficiently. How did ISU Economic Development Core Facility come about?

So many different people look to Iowa State for assistance. They may be looking for employees, a business partner, research to expand a revolutionary innovation, funding, space, or one-on-one business assistance to help launch a business of their own. For the last 20 years, there has never been a direct path or process for individuals or individual businesses until now. Our new building, ‘The Core Facility’, helps connect people to opportunities and plug them into the right resources – on or off campus.

#5 Working together at the ISU Economic Development Core Facility

Nicknamed THE CORE facility and located in ISU Research Park, the “one-stop-shop” is a dream home to entrepreneurs for the resources–people, technology, time and money savings–that can be accessed in one place. Forgive the alphabet soup of acronyms of groups that contribute. Just know that all here are supporting entrepreneurship & innovation at Iowa State & beyond:

ISU Office of Economic Development & Industry Relations (EDIR), ISU Research Park, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship (JPEC), Iowa Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Center for Industrial Research & Service (CIRAS), CyBIZ Lab student consulting, ISU Office of Intellectual Property & Technology Transfer (IPTT), ISU Research Foundation (ISURF), and the Cultivation Corridor.

#6 Startup Ames Hosts 16 events

Startup Ames is an initiative led by local entrepreneurs & community supporters that brings together area entrepreneurs to foster a robust community. Organizers behind Startup Ames rolled out two new events to inspire, educate, and celebrate the community: IdeaFlow, a social event for all types of people to connect; First Shot, an opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch what they’re building and gain momentum in growing their business.

#7 The Investor Community Expands

Last April, Ames Seed Capital hosted the first Iowa Entrepreneur & Start-Up Showcase held in conjunction with their Annual Meeting. As a result of the event, five companies received multiple deals from the various investor groups attending. In 2017, Ames SEED Capital invested a total of $700,000 in three companies in Central Iowa.

In 2017, money flowed into new businesses while emerging and mature businesses continued to grow, capture interest and gather a few awards along the way. Keep an eye on these companies in 2018 and beyond.

#8 New Business

Structurely is a startup company located in the ISU Research Park, helping real estate agents qualify and follow-up with leads using artificial intelligence. Nate Joens (Iowa State University) & Andrew Dickelman (University of Iowa) started the company while in college. They currently have eight full-time employees, with plans to expand their sales team in 2018. Memorable for 2017: The company officially closed a round of financing at $800,000, with an additional $125,000 total from the State Of Iowa’s Proof of Commercial Relevance (POCR) and Demonstration Funds.

Nate Joens looking ahead, says, “We are looking forward to expanding our sales team next year and really growing rapidly. We’ve been increasing revenue and user growth month-over-month this year.” Key clients include: Hunziker & Associates in Ames, Re/Max Concepts in Des Moines, and Better Homes & Gardens Journey in Fayetteville, AR.

#9 Emerging Business

– GlobalVetLink maintains its headquarters in Ames after taking early roots at ISU Research Park. It leads the nation in providing easy-to-use, web-based animal health solutions for food and companion animal health practitioners. Their services provide online certification solutions to accurately create professional health records in the veterinary industry. GlobalVetLINK was founded in 1999 by Kevin Maher. Cliff Smith currently leads the company as CEO. Memorable for 2017: GlobalVetLINK received two awards from the Technology Association of Iowa’s Prometheus Awards for Tech Company of the Year for Small/Medium and AgTech Company of the Year.

#10 Mature Business

– Workiva is a publicly-traded company located in the ISU Research Park, creating collaborative work management processes. Workiva was founded as Webfilings in 2008, known in its early days for filing SEC reports for more than 65 percent of the Fortune 500 companies.   Today, Workiva is focused on modernizing how people work across thousands of organizations around the globe, using their enterprise cloud platform, Wdesk. Memorable for 2017: Workiva was named ‘One of the Best Places to Work in IT’ by Computerworld. Workiva continuously gives back to the Iowa technology community, sponsoring the Technology Association of Iowa’s (TAI) Women of Innovation Awards & the Prometheus Awards in 2017. Dave Tucker, VP of Product at Workiva is currently the board President for TAI.    

What’s Coming In 2018?

Advancing AgTech Startups in Iowa

AgTech startups continue to emerge with the help of a rich set of resources at Iowa State University. With the extensive support from the ISU Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative, Ag Startup Engine, Startup Factory, and Iowa State University, this sector has played to Iowa’s strengths and leadership in the global agricultural marketplace.

Special Note of Congratulations to AgSolver, a management software company that helps farmers analyze field performance, was acquired by EFC Systems in October 2017.

Other notable companies to watch:

  • Global Vet Link
  • Terva
  • SmartAg
  • Nebullam
  • Gross-Wen Technologies
  • Performance Livestock Analytics
  • TractorZoom
  • KinoSol

Continued Investments into the Ames E-Community

As we look to 2018, it will be exciting to see Ames Seed Capital close on Fund Vll, predicted to be its biggest fund yet. With more early-stage startups in Ames than ever before, this could net more early success.


It is our desire to continue to inspire students, university professors, researchers and other local entrepreneurs by sharing KNOWLEDGE, nurturing CONNECTIONS, and helping Entrepreneurs take ACTION to make our communities and the State of Iowa a thriving, creative and prosperous state for all.

You are invited to join us! To learn more about all things entrepreneurship in Ames, please contact: Diana Wright or Sam Schill