The Iowa Startup Accelerator wrapped up its 2016 cohort Thursday night at the Paramount Theater in Cedar Rapids. A crowd of around 700, including Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, turned up for presentations by six startups.
“One way we’ve kept the unemployment rate in Iowa low is to build up the startup community in the state,” Branstad told the crowd. “Entrepreneurs build the wealth and economic security in this country. We know that the states of our nation that encourage innovation will be better able to compete in the global marketplace.”
Over 2,000 viewers tuned in to the live stream of the annual event.
Each of the six teams got six minutes to present their company to the audience, discussing what they do and how the Iowa Startup Accelerator experience affected them over the 94-day program.
For the first time, all participating teams were based in Iowa.
The startups were:
Girls With Ideas: An Iowa City-based education startup aimed at creating an interactive curriculum for girls ages 9-13.
There were fun surprises throughout the night, like Soteria CEO Kyle Gatzmeyer riding out on a bike to start his presentation, or Written’s Emily Carlson bringing out six models to show off her pencil skirts. Girls With Ideas founder Allison Poss gave out a link where anyone could take the leadership quiz she gives to students. Hang’s Dalton Viggers announced that the app was now live for Apple and Android devices.
There was also an unfortunate surprise for Streamweaver. The video game streaming site Twitch announced a new advertising model this week that will make it easier for gamers to monetize their videos. During his presentation, co-founder Keevin O’Rourke announced that Streamweaver would not be moving forward with the model it had developed.
“We had built a feature for someone else’s product, and that’s a risky thing to do,” O’Rourke said. “This time it just didn’t pan out, so we pivoted. The startup game isn’t about how many times you fail, because you just need to get it right once.”
O’Rourke said the exact details of the pivot will be announced later, but that the plan is to help social media influencers grow and retain their audiences.
Iowa Startup Accelerator Program Manager David Tominsky said that he’s never seen a team go through something like what happened to Streamweaver on demo day, but stressed that it was the strength of O’Rourke and Streamweaver Wes Merrill as a team that got them into the accelerator.
NewBoCo, which powers the Iowa Startup Accelerator, made several announcements at Launch Day. In 2017, the pre-accelerator program will be six weeks instead of one month, and the program dates will shift from August-November to September-December.
Tominsky said the change will make it easier for college teams to participate, as well as open up opportunities for interns.
NewBoCo also announced a partnership with the Seattle trade school Code Fellows to launch the first adult code school in Iowa, DeltaV.
NewBoCo is also starting a prototyping lab with 3D printers and scanners, for startups to use, as well as a virtual reality lab with a dedicated engineer to develop virtual reality applications.
“It’s focused on helping startups that need to build products,” Tominsky said. “When we look at a company like [Soteria] that needs to build out and prototype a product, or Written, those are two of the better examples of why we decided to build out the space. Those kind of resources are essential for businesses like that. When we look at Iowa in general and Cedar Rapids specifically, people are building physical things and need an environment where they can do that.”
Joe Lawler is a freelance reporter based in Des Moines.