Congratulation to the Iowa Innovation Challenge Winners
Monday, May 17, 2021

On April 13 and 14 the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC) held the second phase of the Iowa Innovation Challenge. The Iowa Innovation Challenge awarded more than $150,000 to students, faculty, staff, incubator startups, and alumni who competed in the business model canvas (BMC) pitch competition last month.

Congratulations to all the winners of the second phase of the Iowa Innovation Challenge!

Graduate Student, Staff, Faculty, and Incubator Startup Awards

  • 1st place $25,000 | BABL AI – Shea Brown (Lecturer, Physics and Astronomy). BABL audits artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms for bias, transparency, and effectiveness. This "Algorithm Audit" is a powerful tool for internal risk management and the external growth of trust for companies facing the immense public and regulatory backlash against misused and biased AI.
  • 2nd place $15,000 | Iowa Simulation Solutions – Steven Long (Project Engineer, Orthopedic Biomechanics Laboratories. Iowa Simulation Solutions designs, manufactures, and sells surgical simulators for training orthopedic surgeons. Our simulator uses patented technology to provide surgeons with a safe environment to learn their skills before they enter the operating room. Surgeons are given automatic feedback so they better understand what skills they are proficient on and what skills they need to work on.
  • 3rd place $10,000 | Hawkeye Surgical Lighting – Anthony Piscopo (Student, Carver College of Medicine). LED and UV based lighting system for brain surgery.
  • 4th place $5,000 | FBB:BIOMED – Howard Urnovitz (Incubator Startup). Biotech company developing and licensing a diagnostic test to predict health outcomes for precision medicine.

Honorable Mention ($2,500 each)

  • Steel Therapeutics – Matt Stahl (Student, College of Pharmacy). Steel Therapeutics is an early stage pharmaceutical company focused on increasing access to life-changing therapies that have demonstrated efficacy in compounding pharmacies. Steel's first product utilizes a combination of two generic drugs applied topically in the form of single-use, flushable wipes for the treatment of anal fissures.
  • Centralized Healthcare Solutions – Christopher Parker (Pharmacy Specialist, College of Pharmacy). Centralized Healthcare Solutions is a pharmacist-led telehealth company.
  • Iowa Surgical Technology Team – Jacklyn Engelbart (Resident, UI Hospitals & Clinics). Iowa Surgical Technology Team is an early start-up team with multiple early surgical technologies and innovations in the development and prototyping stages.

Undergraduate Student Awards

Best Technology / High Growth 

  • 1st place $15,000 | Optic Origin – Thuy Nguyen (Biochemistry). Optic Origin's mission is to provide underserved communities access to vision correction. 
  • 2nd place $5,000 | Sprayer Mods (fka Precision Sprayers)  – Holly Bennett (Mathematics and Computer Science). Selling retrofit kits for agricultural sprayers which reduce the amount of herbicide needed.
  • 3rd place $2,500 | Nifty Club – Michael Dankanich (Economics). Nifty Club is a collection of technologies that make it easy for creators to validate who owns their Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and makes it easy for creators to distribute rewards to their NFT holders.

Best Non-Tech

  • 1st place $10,000 | Bruno Brothers – Thomas Bruno (Industrial and Systems Engineering). Developed a mechanical device called the Candle Popper which eliminates all viruses, bacteria, and spread of bodily fluids through traditional blowing techniques on a birthday cake. 
  • 2nd place $5,000 | Underdog Products – Nicole Relias (Marketing). Underdog Products is the creator of Skunk Aid. Skunk Aid is an all-in-one natural de-skunking solution for dogs.
  • 3rd place $2,500| NonProphet Media – Nick Pryor (Political Science). NonProphet Media provides professional video production, social media content, and outreach facilitation for university labs, connecting discovery with K-12 STEM education and project-based learning through free curriculum development and virtual learning.

Best Retail

  • 1st place $5,000 | Bye Frisbie – Zach Frisbie (Entrepreneurial Management). Independent Clothing designer/brand that offers a wide variety of garments and accessories that are made with a focus on functionality, quality and environmental sustainability.
  • 2nd place $2,500 | GBG Apparel – Mitchell Kabenda (Global Studies). GBG Apparel creates conversation starter apparel that allows wearers to tell anyone about their faith. The goal is that a portion of GBG Apparel's sales will go straight back into God's kingdom.
  • 3rd place $1,500 | Boat/RV Storage – Matthew Messer (Business). Provide safe, convenient, and affordable storage for Boats & RV’s in the Des Moines metropolitan area.

Best Social Impact

$5,000 | Complete Home Downsizing – Joe Jensen (Business). CHD provides downsizing services including sorting, removal, storage, and consignment.

Alumni Awards

Top Finalists ($10,000 each)

  • OpenLoop – Jon Lensing (Carver College of Medicine). OpenLoop is a fractional clinician marketplace that will care for the 460K patients that would previously be left unseen. 
  • Dhakai, Inc. – Russel Karim (Venture School Alumni). Dhakai is a premium B2B apparel sourcing marketplace that connects US private label fashion brands and retailers directly to verified and compliant apparel manufacturers.

Runners Up ($5,000 each)

  • Trigger Interactive – Tyler Brockel (Venture School Alumni). Trigger Interactive is finalizing development of a patented system of wireless devices, called Smart Target Attachments, which deliver highly realistic firearms training at a drastically reduced cost.
  • ReEnvision Ag – Jayson Ryner. ReEnvision Ag is developing a new style row crop planter that eliminates detrimental soil compaction and ensures the root zone is optimized for growth, increasing yield and allowing farmers to adopt sustainable soil and environmental friendly farming practices.
  • PheeMedIndustries – Suzanne Herrin. PheeMedIndustries is developing the first ever self-administered pap smear to make cervical cancer screening accessible to women in a wide range of circumstances.

Thank you to our amazing judges!

  • Kerty Levy | Managing Director, Techstars Iowa Accelerator 
  • Adrienne Greenwald | Managing Principal, VentureNet Iowa 
  • Larry Van Steenhuyse | Senior Vice President – Wealth Management, UBS Financial Services, Inc.  
  • Ken “Bucky” Buckman | CEO & Founder, Rainy Investments and Boxinator 
  • Anne Price | Statewide SBIR/STTR Program Coordinator | BioConnect Iowa 
  • Mikayla Sullivan | ISA Venture | Co Founder KinoSol