Kyoger joins Iowa Startup Accelerator after changing directions

Kyoger joins Iowa Startup Accelerator after changing directions

The company is working in the same industry, with the same processes and (hopefully) the same clients, but for Kyoger, the past year has represented a complete transition. The Cedar Falls-based company joined the Iowa Startup Accelerator to remake itself from providing a service to creating a product. “We’re re-writing the DNA of our company,” said Trace Steffen, founder of Kyoger. Kyoger, formerly Kyoger Media, was launched in 2010 and created websites, videos and guide books to help small- to mid-sized manufacturers manage their processes. Both Steffen and Kenny Stevenson, a partner in Kyoger, had backgrounds in consulting with these types of companies on best practices and processes. Companies would hire highly-paid consultants to help document their workflows and processes – and the resulting reports would end up on a shelf. “We did all that stuff in Excel and Word – and it was a really big pain in the neck,” Stevenson said. Kyoger Media wanted to solve that problem with websites, instructional video and other digital media. The founders often found themselves acting as intermediaries between engineers and factory managers and the workers on the floor. The new product, which will likely be marketed under a different name, is less about the content itself, and more about the software-as-a-service platform that helps managers and workers communicate better. Kyoger is developing a mobile-friendly tool for managers and engineers to document their processes and push out notifications to the factory floor. Unlike the manufacturing jobs of generations past, today’s advanced manufacturing jobs rely on working with complex machinery, advanced technical skills and knowledge of complex processes. Kyoger defines advanced manufacturing as the intersection of…

SwarmBuild working to launch advanced manufacturing marketplace

After growing up in Russia, spending years traveling with the U.S. Army and living in Israel, Boris Kogan ended up back in Iowa to grow his business, SwarmBuild. “We saw that this was a serious organization, with serious people who were very committed to making this happen,” Kogan said of the Iowa Startup Accelerator. “We were very happy to come out here, instead of a more traditional startup hub…there, you’re startup number 58,571 for this month – good luck if you can make it out the other end.” SwarmBuild hopes to create an online marketplace for advanced manufacturing and design. Users could upload their designs and offer them for sale, or connect with machine shops that could turn their vision into reality. Machine shops could use the service to find new clients. Kogan first saw the need for such a service when he was selected to compete in a global design competition. He had to assemble his prototype quickly, but struggled to connect with manufacturers who could fill his order. “Trying to make that prototype was just hellish,” he said. Initially, SwarmBuild intended to focus on 3D printing. When a competitor came out with a 3D printing marketplace focusing on desktop printing, Kogan turned his attention to more industrial manufacturing processes, including laser cutting, CNC and industrial 3D printing Hackerspaces, makerspaces and desktop 3D printing technologies are key ways people learn to think in design terms, he said. SwarmBuild hopes to help these users take their ideas to the next level, when they need more advanced manufacturing capabilities. Currently the website is a work in progress. Kogan hopes to have a design library in place...

UI, M.C. Ginsberg team up to offer prototyping services to aspiring inventors

The journey from idea to marketable invention can be long and winding - but a new program from the University of Iowa hopes to make the first step a bit easier. UI Protolabs, a new service organized by the UI’s Office for the Vice President for Research and Economic Development and JPEC, the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, will connect aspiring inventors with prototyping services. The service is available to the general public, as well as UI students, faculty and staff. “It’s very hard to go to an investor of any kind, unless you have something in hand,” said Richard Hichwa, senior associate vice president for research at the UI. If the invention comes from within the University of Iowa, and a committee made of the Protolabs staff, Hichwa and David Conrad, economic development director for the University of Iowa, decides the idea has economic development potential, JPEC will cover the labor costs for the prototyping service, meaning the inventor only has to pay for materials. Two existing UI machine shops, in engineering and physics and astronomy, work together with M.C. Ginsberg’s Advanced Design and Manufacturing on evaluating and creating prototypes for new devices. Although all of these resources already existed in the community, they hadn’t always worked together in the past, making it hard for researchers from other departments and community members to tap into their expertise. “They were putting things together with string and bailing wire,” Hichwa said. The services available include design work, advanced manufacturing capabilities, including 3D printing and limited software creation for device prototypes. Being part of the UI allows Protolabs to go beyond simply making copies of objects. For example, on...
Innovation and entrepreneurship: a portrait of possibility

Innovation and entrepreneurship: a portrait of possibility

Reflecting on the first six months of We Create Here It’s been almost six months since I joined The Gazette Company at the launch of We Create Here, specifically to cover entrepreneurship and innovation. It’s been a fun ride: digging deeper into big issues, trying to grow a blog following, getting more involved in the community and producing articles for print.As I reflect, here are a few of the ideas that strike me. What would you add?Story continues after the jump. We’re special…but others are too It’s no secret that in these pages we support the ideas and philosophy of Iowa’s Creative Corridor: that within our seven counties, our mix of large and small towns, business opportunities and diverse cultural offerings (all wrapped in a blanket of “Iowa Nice”) make for something truly special. As someone who chose to move here from another city, I have experienced how welcoming this community can be and the joy of discovering the people and places that make this region special. But here’s the catch — our peer cities and states are right there with us. In the Kauffman Foundation’s April 2013 index of entrepreneurial activity, which compares rates of entrepreneurship to a state’s population, the top-performing states were Montana, Vermont, New Mexico, Alaska, Mississippi and Idaho. California (home of Silicon Valley) came in seventh. Iowa? 41st. (Although, that might be changing: In another Kauffman study, Cedar Rapids had the third-fastest rate of change in the number of high-tech firms among similar-sized metros.) We saw this firsthand when the UP America Summit came to Iowa City in October, bringing with it hundreds of...