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University of Iowa hosts multiple competitions for student entrepreneurs

Over the last month, the University of Iowa (UI) held two different pitch competions—the Spring 2019 IdeaStorm and the Iowa Startup Games.

Spring 2019 IdeaStorm

The competition was open to all UI students and hosted over 250 students from across all areas of study on campus. Students pitched their business ideas in under two minutes with the event taking place across the span of four days each at different campus locations.

A total of 118 students pitched their ideas in February at four different competitions, each with a different theme—health initiatives, creative concepts, common good and consumer solutions.

The winners of each category received $500 and are listed below:

Health Initiatives
Scott Tribbey for Spine Buddy, which provides a way for adolescents to feel comfortable in a scoliosis brace while improving their spine.

Creative Concepts
Lance Junck for Open Mic, an online platform that directly connects theater teachers with emerging playwrights looking to get their work produced. 

Common Good
Andrea Ford for her idea of a mental health and addiction center that acquires warehouse space as housing and skill training for homeless people.

Consumer Solutions
Bryce Prokof for Amateur Caddie, a golf accessory holder/organizer that clips to the outside of a golf bag to allow easier access to the essentials golfers need during their round.

Iowa Startup Games

Iowa Startup Games is a three-day event where students, from all areas of study, pitch their ideas to have an impact. The event started with 74 participants pitching 30 ideas. From those pitches, 10 ideas were selected by the students to move forward and form into teams

Students started planning Friday night for their business ideas and spent all day Saturday assigning roles, doing research, customer discovery and meeting with business coaches.

The top three teams were awarded cash prizes, as well as a Judge’s Choice and audience selected People’s Choice.

1st Place ($1,000.00) | Clean Slate – Service analyzing online presence of new hires to find the right fit for employers

  • Lance Junck, English & Creative Writing
  • Rakshud Daver, Neuroscience
  • Daniel Lopez, Marketing
  • Tara Bendre, Marketing
  • Madi Hayes, Enterprise Leadership

2nd Place ($750.00) | Urbaniste – Public engagement app focusing on spread of local governmental issues and information

  • Anshuman Sahu, Mechanical Engineering
  • Vern Ancelet, Art
  • Emily Legel, Urban and Regional Planning
  • Chukwuebuka Ogwo, Oral Science PhD

3rd Place ($500.00) |  Slingshot – Soft skill development for today’s job market

  • Hector Trejo Peno, Economics
  • Nicholas Dusold, Enterprise Leadership
  • Jesse Davis, Enterprise Leadership
  • Hyunki Min, Economics, PhD
  • Alex Borchers, Enterprise Leadership

Judges Choice ($500.00) | bee’s Honey – Infused honey for healthier lifestyles          

  • Nathan Davidson, Management
  • Paul Flanders, Chemical Engineering
  • Justin Morrison, Pre-Business

People’s Choice ($250.00) | Aesop – Learning language through immersive storytelling program

  •  Many Archer, Journalism
  • Isabelle TeDuits, Marketing
  • Joshua Nichols, Enterprise Leadership
  • Nate Le Sage, Computer Science
  • Austin Johnson, Business

Apply now for the Iowa JPEC Business Model Competition

The Iowa JPEC Business Model Competition is set to take place March 26 – 27, 2019. The Business Model Competition will allow students from the University of Iowa to present their business to judges for the opportunity to win prize money.

A total of $50,000 in cash prizes will be awarded throughout the two-day competition.

Applications are due by March 20.

University of Iowa hosts multiple competitions for student entrepreneurs | 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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