Startups represented among TAI Women of Innovation finalists

The Technology Association of Iowa has announced the finalists of its fifth annual Women of Innovation Awards, which honor women leaders in science, technology …

The Technology Association of Iowa has announced the finalists of its fifth annual Women of Innovation Awards, which honor women leaders in science, technology, engineering and math.

Among the 58 finalists are a handful that may be familiar to Silicon Prairie News readers. Tikly founder Emma Peterson (above, far left), Entrepreneurial Technologies founder Erin Rollenhagen (above, second from left) and Far Reach partner Kate Wasnut (above, second from right) are finalists in the Entrepreneurial Innovation and Leadership category. Banno account manager Abby Goltz (above, far right) is a finalist in the Rising Star category, a new category this year.

The number of finalists in the Entrepreneurial Innovation and Leadership category more than doubled over last year. Leann Jacobsen, president of the Technology Association, said the category also saw more nominations in part because of her organization’s effort to encourage entrepreneurial activity.

“Since the inception of the awards, we’ve recognized the importance of entrepreneurship,” Jacobsen said in a phone interview Wednesday. “These women are taking a risk to start a business.”

A panel of five judges selected the finalists based on their professional experience, history of innovation, demonstration of leadership and ability to think creatively and solve problems.

The Collegian Innovation and Leadership category recognizes three university students, each selected for their inventiveness and accomplishments in science and technology, and academic achievement. Two of the students are earning tech-related degrees. The Technology Association provided the following details about each.

  • Dilan Üstek, Grinnell College junior, computer science major – Üstek was a co-organizer of an on-campus, student group that explored FOSS, Free and Open source Software, for student projects and activities. Last fall, she was the web editor for Grinnell’s student newspaper. This past summer, she interned as a summer technology analyst with Goldman Sachs in New York.
  • Brittany Oswald, Iowa State University senior, computer engineering – Oswald spent last summer at Boeing developing software for its training simulator. With an enthusiasm for gaming, she’s the co-founder of the univeristy’s Game Development Club, a club that aims to introduce students to the tools and processes most commonly used in game development.

Overall, Jacobsen said this year’s nominations were “very, very strong,” playing a factor in the increase in the total number of finalists from 55 to 58.

The winners of the 10 awards will be announced Nov. 17 at an awards dinner at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown. Tickets cost $100 and can be purchased at For a full list of finalists, visit


Credits: Photo of Peterson by Danny Schreiber. Photo of Rollenhagen courtesy of Rollenhagen. Photo of Wasnut from Photo of Goltz courtesy of Goltz.


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