Get to know the five finalists for Student Entrepreneur of the Year

This student or student-led company—undergrad or younger—is getting noticed and makes everyone question what they did at that age, either by building a company or leading entrepreneurial activity. And the finalists are…

The ClusterFlunk team, AJ Nelson (above) and Joe Dallago, nabbed Student Entrepreneur of the Year at the second annual Silicon Prairie Awards in Des Moines. 

It won’t be long until we’re all looking elegant and dapper August 21 at Midland Theatre in Kansas City, celebrating another year of growth and success across the region at the Silicon Prairie Awards.

We’ve seen unique storylines unfold in our three core regions—an influx of code schools in Nebraska, Iowa’s foundational growth of accelerators and spaces for collaboration, and Kansas City’s attraction as a hub for testing out new technologies.

Everyone plays a part, which brings us here. Before we can celebrate, we need all of you to help us determine which individuals and companies we’ll be crowning. It’s a two-week voting period that ends at 11:59 p.m. on August 11. That means you have loads of time to spread the word.
Cast your vote for the Silicon Prairie Awards!

Join us for the Silicon Prairie Awards: We have an exciting evening of community celebration planned for Aug. 21 at the Midland Theatre in Kansas City. Tickets are still available for the event, which includes an opening reception, keynote talk by N3TWORK co-founder Erik Lammerding, awards ceremony and closing party. Purchase your tickets today.

Meet the five Student Entrepreneur of the Year finalists

This student or student-led company—undergrad or younger—is getting noticed and makes everyone question what they did at that age, either by building a company or leading entrepreneurial activity.

Blake Rupe

  • Founder of Re-APP
  • Worked with the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory at the University of Iowa to build her company
  • Nomination: “Started in February by University of Iowa student Blake Rupe during her final semester, Re-APP has gone from an idea to alpha, beta, and live App Store version in 5 months. With a wide variety of users and an average 83 percent user return rate from the minimum viable product, Re-APP is on track to become a one-stop recycling app. With the release of version 2.0 later this year, Blake has a lot of potential and deserves to be recognized for her efforts in 2014.”
  • Read more: Twitter, LinkedInWe Create Here, Des Moines Register

Brent Comstock

  • Full-time student at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
  • Runs a business in Auburn, Neb., a creative marketing and IT services company called BCom Solutions, which he started at age 12
  • Accepted to the Robertson Scholars, a leadership development program
  • Creating a rural innovation program that will bring coworking spaces and incubators to rural communities throughout Nebraska
  • Spent his summer in New Orleans working for a social entrepreneurship nonprofit program. 
  • Nomination: “It takes such drive and focus for someone so young to be a full-time student, manage a business, travel to speak at conferences, and work to re-innovate a community.”
  • Read more: TwitterLincoln Journal Star


Coral is a student-led digital agency that provides a nontraditional learning experience in which a team of students from across campus builds solutions for local businesses, startups and organizations. (Lawrence, Kan.)

  • Founded by Stephanie Spicer and Foster Casterline. 
  • A few projects include: a KC startup called U-Hoops, Say Cheez Lawrence (a photo booth company), Greater Kansas City Spinal Cord Injury Association, Information Systems Association at KU (ISAK) and the blog for KU’s business school.
  • Nomination: “They’re providing an opportunity for all students to apply themselves in a startup-like environment and get experience working with real clients and learn things outside of normal school work. Students don’t traditionally have an environment to work on projects with students from different backgrounds and learn so many different things. It’s great for the community, university and the students.”
  • Read more: Twitter, LinkedInSPN

Ryan Martinez

  • President of Morningside College’s Entrepreneurship Group and Student Body Treasurer
  • Co-founder of Clockwork, timecard management mobile application
  • Marketing and Event Coordinator for Base 3 in Sioux City, Iowa
  • Member of the Start Up Sioux City Board
  • Nomination: “While other notable student leaders continue to nurture and refine established entrepreneurship hubs across the Silicon Prairie, I feel this award is best used to distinguish a student who has catalyzed growth in undeveloped and underdeveloped regions of the Silicon Prairie. It is much more difficult to spawn a new ecosystem than to sustain an existing movement. Ryan Martinez has laid a foundation which will extend the silicon prairie further north to include Sioux City. I nominate Ryan for the pioneering work he has done to found and nurture an upcoming hub in our region. He especially deserves this award for his work in unifying public, private, regional, and corporate members through his Base3 conference series.”
  • Read more: Twitter, LinkedInSPN 


Spectator is a platform centralizing high school sports information, allowing schools to regain a sense of connection with their community. (Iowa City)

  • Part of the University of Iowa JPEC’s summer Venture School program 
  • Plan to launch statewide in August
  • Nomination: “With their full team of developers, marketers, and designers, they are creating a product that is capitalizing on the gigantic high school sports market, and excelling at a rapid pace. Be on the lookout for them!”
  • Read more: TwitterWe Create Here

Silicon Prairie Awards content is brought to you by CenturyLink. 

This story is part of the AIM Archive

This story is part of the AIM Institute Archive on Silicon Prairie News. AIM gifted SPN to the Nebraska Journalism Trust in January 2023. Learn more about SPN’s origin »

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