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EMERGE incubator at Simpson College finishes first semester

Simpson College seniors present the work they’ve done in EMERGE during the spring semester.

In January, Simpson College began a collaboration with the city’s economic development organization and its utilities provider to make Indianola an even more desirable location for startups.

At the end of April, the more than 30 students participating in the business incubator, now called EMERGE, presented four months of entrepreneurial work.

“What we’re doing is not revolutionary in the sense that it’s completely new, it’s revolutionary that we’re following what people have actually done that’s worked,” said Chris Draper, the project’s director.

Instead of building teams around interest in a business idea or goal, the facilitators of EMERGE help create teams that include individuals of different strengths and skill sets to ensure a more functional group. 

The partnership with the college, Indianola Development Association and Indianola Municipal Facilities helped facilitate the work the four groups of students did with a number of different startups. While some projects are still in the early stages, other businesses like PlayTagger, a service that helps create an online highlight reel for high school athletes, and Hilo, a cloud-based job recruiting system, are more developed. 

Draper believes that instead of grandiose, revolutionary ideas, successful business ventures come from building solutions to “mundane little problems.” 

“What we’ve been able to do with zero money, basically just outside partnerships, goes to show that if you get those fundamentals you don’t need the other stuff right away,” said Draper (right).

While he notes a building to house EMERGE is in the works, the program still operates remotely. EMERGE currently is open to help students of all majors and disciplines at Simpson College, and students earn college credit for work done through the program.

“Our logic is that if we’re actually looking for true businesses, not just the flashy stuff, we need to build the team to do that first,” said Draper

In fact, a number of the students who participated in EMERGE this semester will be continuing work with the various companies through the summer and into the fall. 


Credits: Student photo from Simpson College blog. Chris Draper photo courtesy of Draper. 

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