Encouragement from Iowa Startup Accelerator Prompts Re-APP to go Full-Time
It was a classic dilemma for entrepreneurs—stay in the comfortable job with security and benefits, or take the plunge to full-time startup life?
The only difference for Blake Rupe was the speed at which it happened. She was just two weeks in to a new job at the University of Iowa when she got the call to be a part of the Iowa Startup Accelerator and take Re-APP, her mobile recycling tracker, full-time.
"It was incredibly difficult for about a day," Rupe said. "I thought, ‘If I stick with this job, I can continue to do [Re-APP] part-time, save up money, do incremental changes.' But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, this is an untapped market, but it won't be untapped forever."
Rupe started building the company in her final semester of a master's degree in international studies, after a trip to Mexico left her appalled at the amount of plastic, cardboard, and glass washing up on the beach.
Re-APP launched in the Apple App store early in June, and has progressed quickly since then: Rupe was featured in USA Today after Marco Santana of the Des Moines Register included her in a story on "accidental entrepreneurship," was invited to speak at a national forum for women working in sustainability, was nominated for a student entrepreneur of the year award by readers of Silicon Prairie News, and worked with Dev/Iowa students to build a web interface for Re-APP.
Still, she didn't seriously consider applying for the ISA until she got a call from Program Manager David Tominsky.
"It validates my idea, and it also kind of validates myself, as a new entrepreneur in the community," Rupe said.
In the accelerator, Rupe hopes to focus on customer discovery—both among users, who can download the app for free, and potential partners, enterprise clients, and investors. For example, Rupe hopes to connect with municipal recycling and waste management programs to see how they might use Re-APP.
With the $20,000 in seed funding provided by the Accelerator, Rupe is looking to hire a development team to create version two of the app. Version one was built by Bellwether Creation Company while both groups were incubated at the University of Iowa's Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory.
Rupe is one of the only solo founders in the ISA, but she hopes to move quickly with the help of contracted developers, mentors, and a financial advisor, if not with additional staff.