Last night I attended the first Launch Day for the Iowa Startup Accelerator in a SOLD OUT show with 900 of my favorite people around. We were all there to celebrate the tremendous amount of work that literally hundreds of people contributed to the 10 amazing teams launching into orbit that night. I expected to walk in, hear each team time give a short laid back talk on what they have done the past 93 days and their hopes to launch their business in the future. Believe me, I was way off!

sold out show

The program manager, David Tominsky, mentioned that 131 startups applied to get into the Iowa Startup Accelerator but only 10 get the chance to get in and make it happen. The lucky 10 this year were:

  • ClikHome -- Home Rental Matching Engine

    • Founders: Nikola Nljaic and Junjie Shi
    • Origin: New York, NY
    • Lead mentors: Todd Smith and John Osako
  • HowFactory -- Collect and save your business know-how. Access and update your work instructions and processes anytime, anywhere.

    • Founders: Trace Steffen and Kenny Stevenson
    • Origin: Cedar Falls, IA
    • Lead mentors: Brad Miller and Peter Awad
  • Kids Calendar -- Find the fun. All in one place. Personalized just for you!

    • Founders: Beth McKeon
    • Origin: Lawrence, Kansas
    • Lead mentors: Jim Haddad and Lindsay Crittendon
  • Lendedu -- A marketplace for private student loans and student load refinancing.

    • Founders: Nathaniel Matherson and Matthew Lenhard
    • Origin: Newark, Delaware
    • Lead mentors: Adam Ingersoll and Dan Smith
  • Produce Run -- An online marketplace for everything from the farm allowing farmers to sell directly to their customers.

    • Founders: William Pattison and Khristine McIntosh
    • Origin: Melbourne, Australia
    • Lead mentors: Dennis Henderson, Steve Shriver, and Mike Ott
  • Punctil -- Eliminates patient wait times and no-shows.

    • Founders: Benjamin Picard and Denis Abrams
    • Origin: Fairfield, Iowa
    • Lead mentors: Chris Klitgaard and Curt Nelson
  • Re-App -- The first mobile app that connects people with the recycling industry to socialize and incentivize recycling.

    • Founders: Blake Rupe
    • Origin: Iowa City, Iowa
    • Lead mentors: Christian Fong and John Meyer
  • Swarm Build -- An online marketplace for digital fabrication and engineering.

    • Founders: Boris Kogan, Zvika Veig, and Dana Fridman
    • Origin: Tel Aviv, Israel
    • Lead mentors: Tim Barcz and Russ Tawney
  • Venuefox -- An online marketplace to discover, compare and easily book vendors for your events.

    • Founders: Andrew Hansen and Jerod Mollenhauer
    • Origin: Des Moines, Iowa
    • Lead mentors: Devin Miller and Heather Friedman
  • Vinveli -- Aerial data capture for diverse environments.

    • Founders: Eshan Halekote, Gokul Anandayuvaraj, and Yuan Qu
    • Origin: Austin, Texas
    • Lead mentors: Mike Ott, Lindsay Crittendon, and Dennis Henderson

Eric Engelmann, the founder of the accelerator, shared with everyone what it is like to be in the accelerator for the 93 days of continuous work up until launch day. It was here that I learned a couple big tips myself. Each team was required to meet with 100 potential customers of their business and practice their company pitch 1000 times. While practicing your pitch, you would also experience many different techniques to try and keep you on your toes such as moving you to a different location, bringing in new poeple to listen, or have David shoot you in the nose with a foam ball gun. It was so great to hear about this because after watching the teams present yesterday, I am completely sold that both of these items are essential to business development. I have always thought the pitch was important, but not something you needed to practice more than 50 times alone. I also never actually thought about asking 100 potential customers questions before starting a business idea, I never even thought about doing it with 10 potential customers. But now I am committed that these two techniques are a must for all startups.

When they say each team worked for 93 days from start up until Launch Day, they really meant it. Each team worked on their business 93 days straight sometimes working 12 to 18 hour days. The Iowa Startup Accelerator is no joke. It is called the Iowa Business Accelerator for a reason.

Until the next Launch Day event, go out and do what you can to support these newly launched companies. As Andy Stoll, the chief connector of the accelerator, mentioned you don't have to go out and spend money on these companies (although they would probably appreciate that as well). You can help them out by giving them feedback, introducing them to someone you know, share the news about their newly launched business to others, give them a congrats, anything!

After watching each team, hearing all the pitches and found out more information about the accelerator, I left completely inspired. Why can't I do what each of these teams did?...wait...I can! Let's go BUILD!!!