Innovation Index: toddlers using tech, company updates, and more startup community news for July 12

Innovation Index: toddlers using tech, company updates, and more startup community news for July 12

Welcome to the Innovation Index. This is our weekly(ish) spot to round up links and news items from around the web relating to startups, innovation and entrepreneurship in Iowa’s Creative Corridor and beyond, so you never miss a thing. You can help! Email me news and notes.  News and notes: Not sure which says more about our modern times: that toddlers are prolific users of tablets and smartphones, or that research on how said toddlers use tablets and smartphones was completed “through an analysis of relevant YouTube videos.” Either way, the University of Iowa is on it. (IowaNow, full research paper) You can now charge your Tesla in the Corridor. You know, assuming you have a Tesla. (CBS2, The Gazette) Some very nice press coverage: Telepharm, which now operates 122 pharmacies in nine states, in The Gazette, Fanstreamm, almost a year out of Lincoln’s NMotion Accelerator, in Silicon Prairie News, and Built By Local, the new media-for-equity venture (ok, it’s more complicated than that), in Capital New York, and anchors of local Main Street Iowa districts in The Gazette. Kudos to Venture School, the University of Iowa’s customer discovery and business model canvas bootcamp, on a $300,000 federal grant to expand its impact. Since launching in 2013, Venture School has worked with 81 startups and fledgling businesses in Iowa. (The Daily Iowan) Check out several updates on Western Wise, a UI student startup that provides one-on-one virtual English language tutoring to Chinese youth. The team has participated in several competitions and was named Student Startup of the Year by the college of Engineering. (eVenturing, College of Engineering) Blake Rupe, founder of Sift, will take her passion for environmentalism and social entrepreneurship to…
After returning to Delaware, LendEDU focused on attracting users

After returning to Delaware, LendEDU focused on attracting users

After pivoting several times during the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s 2014 program, the co-founders of LendEDU are happy to have worked on the same idea for the past seven months. “I think at this point we’re experts – it’s definitely helped when talking to customers,” said Nate Matherson, co-founder of LendEDU. “We came into the student loan market not really knowing anything, other than that we had student loans.” LendEDU is building a web platform for users to compare student loan and refinancing rates from multiple lenders. The Delaware-based company is now working with seven lenders and is in the process of adding a few more. To date, LendEDU has provided quotes for more than $60 million in loans*, Matherson said. The refinancing comparison tool was released just before the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s launch day last fall, with the new student loan tool following it. The co-founders are marketing their service to high schools around the country, and expect demand for the new student loan comparison tool to go up during the summer when students are preparing for college. Their biggest challenge is “making the numbers line up,” and the co-founders are closely tracking their customer acquisition costs, the value of each customer and their conversion rates. The co-founders have also focused on content marketing since graduating from the Iowa Startup Accelerator, and have produced educational resources for new borrowers, including a 20-minute video guide to student loans. They hope these factors can help fill up their sales funnel before they have to seek investment again. Matherson and co-founder Matt Lenhard received a $50,000 investment from Built By Iowa at the...
Newly launched Iowa Venture Capital Association promotes collaboration over competition

Newly launched Iowa Venture Capital Association promotes collaboration over competition

When it comes to venture capital, Iowa will never be Silicon Valley – and maybe that’s a good thing. “Here, all of the investors understand that in order to create the entrepreneurial community we want, and to see a return on our investment, we need to be active players,” said Ravi Patel, one of the founders of Iowa City-based Built By Iowa, which invests in early-stage technology startups. “It’s very friendly, we all know one another.” To that end, Built By Iowa and Des Moines-based Next Level Ventures are teaming up to launch the Iowa Venture Capital Association. Modeled after the National Venture Capital Association and similar groups in neighboring states, the IAVCA hopes to give local investors and investor groups a chance to work together on deals, share knowledge and learn together. “There are certainly proprietary opportunities,” said Craig Ibsen, the managing principal of Next Level Ventures. “But I would say nine of 10 opportunities that walk through any investor’s door aren’t going to be a perfect fit, and those are the ones we want to refer on to another investor.” A first attempt at collaboration, called the Midwest Investors Summit, was held in November before the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s launch day. Investors from Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota and beyond attended that session to network and share ideas. Built By Iowa invested $150,000 in Iowa Startup Accelerator graduates later that night, and Patel, who is also seeking election to the U.S. House of Representatives in Iowa’s first district and is president of Hawkeye Hotels, said he has seen far-ranging “ripples” of collaboration from that initial meeting. The IAVCA...
Innovation Index: Startup Weekend Cedar Falls, new funding and awards galore

Innovation Index: Startup Weekend Cedar Falls, new funding and awards galore

Welcome to the Innovation Index! Each week, we’ll round up links and stories from around the web relating to startups, innovation and entrepreneurship in Iowa’s Creative Corridor and around the state. You can help! Email me news and notes. Plus, a new way to read this curated feature – check out wecreatehere.net/innovation-index. Better? Worse? Indifferent? Let me know. News and Notes: Kudos to organizers for drawing more than 70 attendees to the first Startup Weekend Cedar Falls! 12 teams emerged Friday night, and 11 are busy prepping for final pitches tonight. Find full coverage via CVStartups (and give them a follow for all the latest in the Cedar Valley. Follow along tonight with #SWCF14, and follow Startup Weekends happening right now around the world with #GSB2014.  You can also check out a nice piece (and incredible poster) about the Iowa Startup Bus voyage to Cedar Falls. Geoff Wood also blogged about his recent visit to Cedar Falls, and efforts underway to build that community, here. Thanks to everyone who came out to our first “What’s next?” conversation on Wednesday - find the recap of that here. We’ll continue to work through the Rainforest Canvas in the coming weeks, dreaming up ways to keep our startup community strong for years in the future. Join us in Iowa City this Wednesday to learn more. ICYMI: Exciting news from EntreFEST this week. The conference will return to Iowa City in May 2015, with all three of the state’s regent universities as presenting partners. Read more via WCH, the Press-Citizen, and Silicon Prairie News. The Des Moines Register takes a look at Iowa’s investor network, including the...
Built By Iowa makes a bet on community, collaboration at Iowa Startup Accelerator launch

Built By Iowa makes a bet on community, collaboration at Iowa Startup Accelerator launch

For some investors, putting money behind a startup is purely an exercise in economics. But for Built by Iowa, a fund launched in Iowa City in 2013 by Adam Ingersoll, Ravi Patel and Roby Miller, it’s not the only factor. The entrepreneurs-turned-investors also emphasize the importance of community. “Adam and I are far from the norm of what normal investors look like – we’re slightly cowboys,” said Patel, who is also the president of Hawkeye Hotels. “We’ll look at deals, and if we like the people, if we like the business, and if we see that it can enhance the community and what we’re trying to create here, we’ll dive into that, where someone else might not.” That philosophy has led Built By Iowa to investments in some of the Corridor’s most prominent young startups: TelePharm (Miller’s company), TutorUniverse (now GotIt!), Higher Learning Technologies, ClusterFlunk, Pear Deck, NextStep.io and the Iowa Startup Accelerator itself are listed in the fund’s portfolio, and Ingersoll and Patel also make personal investments. Several of those companies have grown dramatically and found additional investment after being backed by BBI. “Because we have that mindset, it seems like good things are happening,” Patel said. The co-founders took a visible bet on the local startup community when they pledged to invest at least $100,000 in Iowa Startup Accelerator companies at the Launch Day event before a single entrepreneur took the stage. The first $50,000 is going to LendEDU, the startup from Delaware that started as ShopTutors and completely remade itself during the past 90 days. LendEDU made the announcement live on stage Thursday night. Ingersoll built...