Seven startups with Iowa State ties advance to the finals round, vie for top prizes

Twelve startups have been selected to present their business plan concepts to a panel of judges during the 13th Annual John Pappajohn Iowa Entrepreneurial Venture Competition being held August 30, 2018 at the Iowa State University Economic Development Core Facility in the ISU Research Park.

As a whole, Iowa State University fared well in advancing companies to the final round of competition. Of the 12 finalists, five companies including: NanoSpy, Inc., Nebullam, SAFI-Tech, Inc., Smart Ag and Tractor Zoom, are alumni of the ISU Startup Factory program. Two other companies to compete, Impakt Athletics and VetMeasure, LLC, also have Iowa State ties. Insulights, PowerPollen, Stover Ventures, LLC, SynderBio Inc., and VerdiLife, LLC round out the other five Iowa companies selected to compete.

The competition is co-hosted by the five John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers in Iowa. The contest is intended to encourage and promote entrepreneurial activity and create greater awareness of the resources available to entrepreneurs in Iowa. Participants must meet certain eligibility requirements in order to compete.

For the semi-finals round which took place in July, 24 of the original 52 participants were judged based on their written submissions. Those selected to advance to the August 30 finals round will give a 15 minute formal pitch presentation to a panel of judges consisting of representatives from the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers, the Small Business Development Centers, the Entrepreneurial Development Center, and Venture Net Iowa. Each presentation will be followed by a five minute Q&A with the judging panel.

The top three finalists will be announced at a special recognition awards luncheon with John Pappajohn and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds on September 13, 2018 at Drake University in Des Moines. First place will be awarded $40,000, second place $25,000, and third place $15,000. Awards for other categories will total $20,000.

“The total prize dollars being awarded this year represent double the amount awarded in previous years,” Judi Eyles, Director of the ISU John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center said. “That’s thanks to a very generous total prize match offered by the Iowa Economic Development Authority under Director Debi Durham’s direction. That means $100,000 in total awards will be given, which is an unprecedented amount in the competition’s history. This truly shows the level of support the state of Iowa is bestowing upon its budding entrepreneurs.

John Pappajohn also continues his unwavering commitment to foster entrepreneurship in Iowa and has again sponsored this entrepreneurial venture competition and has provided extensive support for entrepreneurship in Iowa.”

Last year’s competition also saw Iowa State-based companies competing for the top prize. In the end, Gross-Wen Technologies (GWT), a graduate of the ISU Startup Factory program’s inaugural cohort and one of the Ag Startup Engine’s portfolio companies, received first place and was awarded the $25,000 top prize. Smart Ag, also from the Startup Factory’s inaugural cohort, was one of three companies awarded a $2,000 honorable mention prize.


Julie Lelonek
Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations