A team looking to capitalize on the popularity of online streaming in the gaming community won the best startup award Thursday during the culmination of an eight-week-long program at the University of Iowa.
Streamweaver, founded by recent University of Northern Iowa graduates Keevin O’Rourke and Wes Merrill and University of Iowa students Shamus Roeder and Athena Dinh, won $2,000 from the Venture School Student Accelerator Program, part of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa.
O’Rourke and Merrill came up with the idea for Streamweaver after spending time on Twitch, an online streaming platform for video games and esports competitions that receives 100 million views a month.
Streamweaver would allow users to choose who they interact with and connect to sponsors.
“Streamers want endorsement opportunities, they want sponsorships,” O’Rourke said. “But they’re not business people. They’re gamers. Brands want to get into the esports market, but communicating back and forth with streamers takes a lot of time and a lot of effort.”
Streamweaver plans to solve that problem, he said, andding he hopes to expand the business as far as possible.
Streamweaver embodies the values of entrepreneurship, Roeder said.
“Entrepreneurship at it’s core is just finding a problem and going out there and trying to solve it,” he said. “We saw there was this massive gap in inefficiency where you have all these other brands that want the same thing. No one’s going out there and making it happen. Why not us?”
The Streamweaver group was among nine teams that presented their business plans Thursday in a “Shark Tank” style pitch competition at the McCord Press Box at Kinnick Stadium.
More than 200 teams applied for the Venture School program, but only 14 were picked for the program.
The program is designed for Iowa college students, who create a business concept, register their business as an a limited liability corporation, and get feedback from potential customers and other business owners.
Jennifer Banta, training and engagement liaison for the Tippie College of Business, said the program is designed to be an experiential learning process.
“They’re forced out of the building to go out and figure out some of these things and then come back in and report back,” Banta said. “We’re teaching people how to think innovatively so when they are within a big company or with a company here in Iowa, they know the innovation process. Starting their own company is fine, but they’re going to take a lot of these skills and transfer them into whatever they do next.”
Among the other businesses students pitched were an online booking platform for travel, where peers can recommend and give feedback on travel experiences; a GPS-based ear tag for cows that can prevent fencing breaks; a dental app and a cultural mentoring service for new international students.
The program encourages the growth and development of the business ecosystem in the Corridor, Banta said.
“We don’t have beaches and we don’t have mountains, so it’s going to be hard to recruit new companies to move here, so if we can get our young people who love Iowa City and love the Corridor excited about starting a company that is scaleable and creates interstate commerce, that’s an added benefit,” she said.