Monday, January 23, 2017

Think UI students do all of their learning in classrooms? Think again! Geret Smith, an Enterprise Leadership major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, proves that entrepreneurial learning at the University of Iowa can happen anywhere – and especially at Iowa Startup Games.

Iowa Startup Games is a weekend-long competition where UI students from all majors are invited to come together, build a business, and grow their entrepreneurship skills. Smith paired up with Patrick O’Connell (Finance and Entrepreneurship) and Steven Jacobsen (Health and Human Physiology) to create AyAbroad, a consulting company easing the transition for study abroad students. While the team appeared calm and collected during final pitches on Sunday, they underwent a drastic pivot less than 24 hours before taking the stage.

Smith says this was a standout during their Iowa Startup Games experience because the team had to come together and rethink the way they approached their key problem. They had some help from Iowa Startup Games coaches, who showed them “how to look at the situation in a positive light and not get frustrated and quit. Being an entrepreneur with a startup is all about pivoting and overcoming adversity with persistence.” This real-world entrepreneurship scenario made Smith feel like Iowa Startup Games was a worthwhile investment of his time and that it would only add to his passion for entrepreneurship.

The entirety of Iowa Startup Games was driven by an endless energy and a “can-do” attitude that, Smith says, made the event one he’ll never forget. He explains, “I was fortunate to be with fifty other students who shared the same interests as me. It’s not too often you have that many bright minds working in one place.” While he acknowledges that the weekend also included plenty of hard work, he says the hours poured into the business didn’t feel like work because they were tinged with passion and excitement.

Smith also speaks to the most unexpected aspect of Iowa Startup Games, one that surprised many other students as well. “I was shocked to see that someone else pitched an idea very similar to mine. It just goes to show that other people out there have the same ideas as you, but it comes down to execution.” This realization made Smith want to pursue entrepreneurship even more vigorously. “My entrepreneurial approach to life is just trying to make use of my time in the best way possible and surround myself with people who are doing great things. Every night before bed, I want to be able to say to myself that I’ve moved one step further in the right direction.”