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UI Tech Entrepreneurs Part of Startup Fair in DSM

A first-time fair in Des Moines on Wednesday highlighted a half-dozen businesses, many technology-based, run by current or former University of Iowa students.

The University of Iowa Student Startup Fair, which brought about a dozen student entrepreneurs, included companies that offer an online tutor marketplace, an online place for student feedback, and a cloud-based document storage community aimed at small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Micah Kulish, operations director with Iowa City-based social media agency Sculpt, said having space at UI’s Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory, a 10,000-square-foot converted fraternity house, gives the startup some credibility.

“It’s highly valuable,” he said. “You struggle for legitimacy with no office space or client meeting rooms.”

The event, held downtown at John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, duplicates a similar fair held in Iowa City during the spring. Every week, mentors from the area offer advice to the budding entrepreneurs, many of which are running their first business.

But, while they may be new to running a business, they face the same challenges most seasoned entrepreneurs do. And, accordingly, the benefits they reap from an incubator like Bedell echo those of more established companies that populate a number of incubators across the state.

“You can bounce ideas off one another,” said Jake Langenfeld, co-founder and co-president of Needle Analytics.

The company provides data visualization services for a number of industries, including media companies and other businesses.

Riley Gardam, also of Needle, said Bedell’s atmosphere lends itself to budding businesses and, more specifically, budding entrepreneurs.

“Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” said Riley Gardam, also of Needle. “Bedell, it’s the opposite of a vacuum.”

For Tutor Universe, an online marketplace for tutors that went live at the beginning of November, staying at Bedell gives them an opportunity to grow and build. The company has been around 18 months as it has prepared to launch, said Thomas Hornbeck.

“That’s what has kept us alive all these months,” he said. “We pretty much live there.”


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