EntreFEST arrives on Wednesday: 5 things to know before it begins

(Guest post by Amanda Styron, co-founder and CEO of Seed Here Studio and one of the organizers behind EntreFEST.) EntreFEST is a celebration of those who make Iowa awesome: the entrepreneurs creating the future prosperity, vibrancy, companies and communities of our state. Part summit, part festival and part resource hub, there’s a lot happening at

EntreFEST, Iowa’s entrepreneur conference, is an annual summit, celebration and resource hub for startup founders, business owners, corporate innovators and startup community builders.  

Register at EntreFEST.com with the code SPNSENTME to get $10 off, and we’ll see you there!

(Guest post by Amanda Styron, co-founder and CEO of Seed Here Studio and one of the organizers behind EntreFEST.) 

EntreFEST is a celebration of those who make Iowa awesome: the entrepreneurs creating the future prosperity, vibrancy, companies and communities of our state.

Part summit, part festival and part resource hub, there’s a lot happening at EntreFEST 2014 in three short days. If you haven’t yet, register online.

Here are the five things you need to know before you go:

1. This is a meeting of Iowa’s most innovative minds.

Iowa’s brightest entrepreneurs from across the state will take over downtown Iowa City this Wednesday through Friday to exchange ideas and sharpen their companies. Learn from them and be one of them.

Headquarters for the conference will be the EntreFEST Lounge in the ballroom on the second floor of hotelVetro. Here you will find free one-on-one mentor sessions, business consultations, drinks, snacks, cool interactive exhibits, and all the info you’d ever want for the conference. Post your promotional materials, declare a meetup, put yourself on the Iowa ecosystem map and grab coffee with a new or long-lost friend. The Lounge is your one-stop-shop for all things EntreFEST.

2. There will be specialized tracks, including a Startup Track. 

The High-Growth Startup Track sponsored by the University of Iowa JPEC, is one of five curated tracks at EntreFEST this year. 

The Startup Track is designed specifically for Iowa’s startup founders with sessions on Lean Startup Methodology, the Business Model Canvas, Selling to Fortune 500 Companies, Customer Empathy Maps, Raising Capital, the Investor Pitch and Getting In and Getting the Most from Accelerators. 

In this track you’ll learn from some of Iowa’s top early-stage founders including John Schnipkoweit of Nextstep.io (Making Global Connections), Derian Baugh of Men’s Style Lab (MVP & Customer Discovery), Kaylee Williams of VolunteerLocal (Building Your Sales Funnel) and Alec Whitters of Higher Learning Technologies (Raising Money in Iowa). 

The other curated tracks suited to important ecosystem conversations and the different stages of the business lifecycle are the Small Business Track sponsored by IASourceLink, the Corporate Innovation Track featuring Microsoft’s Ben Gilbert, the Community Building & Economic Development Track sponsored by AdvanceIowa and the Women Entrepreneurs Track sponsored by Ascent. 

In total, there will be 70 sessions and 100 speakers this year. Attendees are invited to pick a track or jump around to the sessions that interest them most. See the full schedule here.

3. The keynotes will re-charge and inspire you. 

There are four keynote talks this year: 

Ben Gilbert, outgoing head of The Garage at Microsoft

A developer, corporate innovator and startup junkie, Ben Gilbert is the outgoing head of The Garage, Microsoft’s grassroots innovation hub, designed to bring employee-side projects to market. Ben was the UX program manager for Microsoft Office for iPad, is a global facilitator for Startup Weekend and recently co-founded a new endeavor to launch startups with the Madrona Group.

Scott Bush, president of Templeton Rye

Scott Bush is a former venture capital banker turned whiskey maker. Inspired by stories of his family’s adventures producing and selling the “Good Stuff” during prohibition, Scott resurrected Templeton Rye as a legal brand and has turned it into one of the country’s most sought-after small-batch whiskies.

Nate Kaeding, San Diego Charger’s kicker turned serial entrepreneur 

Nate Kaeding is the former NFL kicker for the San Diego Chargers, a legendary Iowa Hawkeye football star and a serial entrepreneur. He’ll share his business building insights and talk about a new endeavor he’s launching with noted fashion designer (and Iowa native) Todd Snyder.

Lydia Brown, founder of Ascent and Skywalk Group

Serial entrepreneur and advocate for Iowa’s women entrepreneurs, Lydia Brown is a founding partner of Skywalk Group, one of Iowa’s top recruitment firms. Lydia founded Ascent, a nonprofit dedicated to improving on Iowa’s last-in-the-nation status as a good place for women entrepreneurs.

4. The schedule’s packed.

Here’s an overview of the schedule: 


5:30–9:30 p.m. Radiology Protocols Open House at IC CoLab (the unofficial kickoff to EntreFEST 2014)


1–5 p.m. Optional Pre-Conference Workshops

8–10 p.m. The Opening Party (with robots)


8:30 a.m. Opening Session with Lydia Brown

10:45 a.m. Breakout Session #1 

12 p.m. Lunch with Ben Gilbert at the Englert

1:35 p.m. Breakout Session #2

2:40 p.m. Breakout Session #3

3:30 p.m. Afternoon Break

4 p.m. The EntreFEST Street Festival on the Ped Mall

4:30 p.m. The 1 Million Cups Mini Pitch Stage on the Ped Mall

5 p.m. A Special EntreFEST TechBrew Iowa City at Share

6 p.m. Dream Big, Grow Here Finals at the Englert

9 p.m. FEST Late Night including the FullStack Launch Party, Office Space rooftop screening and a liquid nitrogen ice cream bar


8 a.m. Morning Keynote with Scott Bush

9:45 a.m. Breakout Session #4

10:50 a.m. Breakout Session #5

11:45 a.m. Let’s Do Lunch Meet-Ups

1:15 p.m. Breakout Session #6

2:20 p.m. Closing Session with Nate Kaeding

4:00 p.m. Conference End  

5. There’s a huge “Coalition of the Awesome” behind all of this.

A coalition of more than 60 entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial support organizations have come together to make EntreFEST 2014 awesome. Please see and mentally thank all of the sponsors here.

A special shoutout goes to the many Iowa entrepreneurs contributing time and creativity to level up this year’s conference experience in a big way:

Creative Mellen

Kevin Mellen is the designer who created the new EntreFEST branding. He developed the four-colored conversation bubbles/map pins to represent the four groups and the four corners of Iowa coming together for the conference. The logo looks a little like Olympic rings, which we think is fitting!


Every attendee will receive a BlendCard loaded with goodies (i.e., drink tickets, free cupcakes, discounts at nearby cafes and more). BlendCard is an Iowa City-based local loyalty rewards startup. Swipe your card to access all EntreFEST has to offer. See the EntreFEST BlendCard deals here.


Des Moines-based VolunteerLocal is providing their platform to make it easy for volunteers to sign up to help EntreFEST run smoothly. Sign up for three or more volunteer shifts and your All-Access Pass is on us. Sign-up here.


Monicur, a mobile app built in Iowa City, makes it easy to exchange your contact information with other attendees and keep a cloud-based living rolodex of updated info for all of the people you meet. Download Monicur from your app store and enter the event code FEST14.


StickShift, a user-interface from Des Moines tuned for high-speed data entry, will have a very cool interactive kiosk in the EntreFEST Lounge. Attendees can navigate the timeline of Iowa’s Entrepreneurial History and add to it.


Iowa’s social media agency has been the driving force behind the strategy and conversation going on about EntreFEST on Facebook and Twitter.

The Englert Theatre

The beautiful historic downtown Iowa City theatre will host Ben Gilbert’s keynote lunch and the Dream Big, Grow Here Finals. The production pros on their stage team are radically raising the bar for these events. It will be an awesome experience for the Dream Big finalists to pitch their business ideas on this grand stage. 

Canopy Creative 

Actor/director/filmmaker Sean Christopher Lewis brings his artistic direction and supreme technical theatre know-how to the lighting and staging of the EntreFEST keynotes and Dream Big Finals. 


The Muscatine River Monster has been in retirement for more than a year, but rumor is he’s been spotted making his way to Iowa City! Look for him in the EntreFEST Lounge. You can’t miss him!

We Create Here

The Gazette’s We Create Here team is installing a large map of Iowa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in the EntreFEST Lounge for every attendee to put their mark on.

Pear Deck

The teachers-turned-serial-tech-entrepreneurs behind PearDeck will open and close the conference with some new Iowa entrepreneur traditions. 

Joshua McNary: Marketing Technologist

Joshua has put together a sweet set of stickers for attendees to customize their name badge and make it easier to strike up a conversation with those you haven’t yet. Look for these stickers at Attendee Check-In at the EntreFEST Lounge. 

Intrepid Realtor

Nate Holler, principal of Intrepid Realtor, will help attendees find their people—those they most want to connect with—at the Morning Keynote with Scott Bush on Friday.  

I-Envision and 1 Million Cups

The University of Iowa student entrepreneur club is helping host the EntreFEST Street Festival and 1 Million Cups Mini Pitch Stage on Thursday from 4–6 p.m. 

Jonnie 5 Apparel

Jon Fowles has designed a sweet vintage shirt with the new EntreFEST logo. Get yours in the EntreFEST Lounge. 

David Tominsky

Co-founder of CoderDojo Cedar Rapids, is bringing his robots to play with at the Opening Party fro 8–10 p.m. Wednesday on the Grand Terrace at hotelVetro. 

The Technology Association of Iowa

TAI graciously agreed to host their monthly TechBrew Iowa City in collaboration with EntreFEST. Find them at Share Wine Lounge at 5 p.m. Thursday and toast the growing tech scene in Iowa with a complimentary drink. 

Radiology Protocols and FullStack

Two of the Creative Corridor’s most successful young companies, Radiology Protocols and FullStack, volunteered to host their expansion/rebrand/launch parties this week to take the festival part of EntreFEST to a whole new level.  


The new downtown independent cinema will give EntreFEST attendees exclusive access to their rooftop for a special screening of Office Space.


The network of startup community builders in Iowa is getting together on Friday for a martini lunch as part of the Let’s Do Lunch portion of EntreFEST. 


The Sioux City startup is launching their app at EntreFEST! The young founders of RXA Technology, Blake Anderson and Sean Richardson, will unveil their new mobile app for gas stations to push coupon promotions to their customers while they fill up.

Suffice it to say, Iowa City is the place to be this week! Be part of Iowa’s entrepreneur conference and strengthen your company. It will be the best investment you make all year. We’ll see you there!

Find even more details at EntreFEST.com.

Silicon Prairie News is a media partner of EnteFEST


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