Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Startup Weekend Iowa City is a success

Startup Weekend Iowa City took place this weekend and was a huge hit. Over 20 people showed up excited to participate in the 54-hour event Friday night.

The weekend kicked off with dinner and introductions at 5:00 Friday. Following the introduction, everyone was invited to come up and give 60-second pitches. Nearly everyone presented ideas they had. 18 ideas were shared in front of the audience. Of those, five ideas were chosen to be worked on by teams during the weekend.

The final five teams were:

  • BetterHires – connects high school talent with businesses
  • HippoCamp – using augmented reality to train spatial skills for kids with dyspraxia and other neuro-diverse disorders
  • Magic Compass – a random trip generator for adventurers
  • Practical Engineering – builds specialty tooling for larger companies
  • Sandwich Hero – an app that allows you to swipe left or right to choose local restaurants

On Saturday, teams spent the bulk of the day discovering customer relationships and channels, developing value propositions and cost structures and beginning to prepare for final pitches on Sunday evening.

From 12-3, several local mentors were provided to the teams helping them develop their product or service, giving expert advice and guiding them in the right direction.

Sunday morning, teams frantically wrapped up their presentations and finalized their pitches. Final pitches began on Sunday at 4:00. Each pitch was five minutes followed by a three minute Q&A following with a panel of judges.

Following the pitches, the judges decided on the top three teams. First place was given to BetterHires. Second Place was given to Magic Compass. And third place was given to Hippocamp. In addition, a Crowd Choice Award was awarded to BetterHires.

“I had so much fun working on this thing. This was amazing,” said Jay Cooper, lead organizer of the event. “I personally hope you walk away from this having learned something, having made new connections and taking away something bigger than just the project you worked.”

Joining Cooper in organizing Startup Weekend Iowa City this year were Ian Castillo, Mark Hadley and David Miessler-Kubanek.

After startup weekend was over, participants got together at the Mill to celebrate completing the weekend.


Startup Weekend Iowa City is a success | 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