Zack Smith

TRAINING AND SUPPORTING IOWANS

As a hub for entrepreneurship in the Hawkeye State, Iowa JPEC has continued to provide essential community training and support to ventures throughout the pandemic. Through startup grants and the Innovation Challenge, we have awarded more than $385,000 in seed funding to support startups across Iowa and beyond. Additionally, we have provided business consulting services, entrepreneurial training programs, and access to student interns, many who worked in remote environments. In total, Iowa JPEC employees provided more than 2,100 hours in mentoring to community ventures in the past year.

View FY 21 Annual Report Online

2021 Impact

233

NEW STARTUPS RECEIVED COMPREHENSIVE TRAINING AND SUPPORT

12K

HOURS DEDICATED TO BUSINESS CONSULTING BY ENTREPRENEURSHIP STUDENTS. THAT IS MORE THAN 260 HOURS EACH WEEK!

Startup Training

Our community outreach initiatives help startups and businesses of different levels of experience and are available across all 99 Iowa counties.

  • Venture School - Innovative statewide training program focuses on real-world experimentation, customer discovery and lean methodologies, enabling startups to vet their ideas and develop a business plan.
  • UI Innovators Workshop - This National Science Foundation I-Corps program was designed to help University of Iowa faculty, staff, and students raise funding to take their innovations to the next level.

Business Support Programs

  • Wellmark Venture Capital - Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield has committed up to $5 million to the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers in Iowa to help fund the startup of Iowa businesses.
  • Business Consulting - Enlists student teams that are led by experienced faculty and mentors to provide innovative solutions for a variety of business projects at no cost to the client.
  • Student Internships - Provides a low-cost solution to businesses across the state who need assistance on special projects while providing UI students with real-world learning opportunities.
  • International Support - Research, educational, and consulting resources to help organizations pursue global important and exporting opportunities.

 

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Mitchell Hora

WASHINGTON, IOWA | PRESIDENT, CEO MITCHELL HORA

The mission of Continuum Ag is straightforward, says CEO and president Mitchell Hora, a seventh generation Iowa farmer.

“We want to help a million farmers profit from soil health.”

Hora founded Continuum Ag in 2015 while studying agronomy and ag systems technology at Iowa State University. Four years later, he attended Iowa JPEC’s Venture School at North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC). A soil health data company, Continuum Ag helps farmers by factoring biology and carbon into their management system. 

“As farmers look to adopt more sustainable ag practices, they need to understand the biology,” Hora said.

At the 2021 Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge, Continuum Ag won a fourth runner-up award (out of more than 1,700 applications). The long-term goal for Continuum Ag is to partner with a company that will take it to a global scale and be able to reach that million-farmer target.

Tyler Brockel

LE CLAIRE, IOWA | CEO TYLER BROCKEL

Annoyed by high prices of military-grade shooting targets used for professional training, Tyler Brockel formed Trigger Interactive, a consumer electronics manufacturing company geared toward steel firearm target users.

A user attaches an electronic smart device to any off-the-shelf steel target, allowing the shooter to wirelessly interact with the target through a phone or tablet. The product benefits a variety of customers, including the military, law enforcement, and commercial shooting ranges.

At the advice of his SCORE mentor, Brockel attended the Quad Cities Venture School in 2018.

“Not only did I ask a lot of business questions, but I asked a lot of technical questions that helped from a development standpoint,” Brockel said. “I had a lot of development specification and user preference questions answered.”

Trigger Interactive won $15,000 in the alumni competitions at Innovation Challenge in 2020 and 2021.

Zack Smith

BUFFALO CENTER, IOWA | CO-CREATOR, ZACK SMITH

With smaller land-owning farmers in mind, Zack Smith created The Stock Cropper, a mobile barn system where animals fertilize crops and crops feed animals.

The Stock Cropper barn and fencing functions within a model where crops and livestock are alternated throughout a field. Animals consume pasture and leave behind a rich mixture of soil where crops will be planted the following year.

Smith attended Venture School at NIACC in fall 2020. He took first place at the statewide Venture School Launch Day in June.

“I learned it is healthy to pivot, feel good about going in a different direction, and constantly doing discovery work,” Smith said. “Those were things I didn’t think about before I attended Venture School.”