Thursday, May 12, 2016

The University of Iowa Venture School, a nationally recognized program for entrepreneurs developed by the University of Iowa’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, recently concluded its local eastern Iowa cohort. Established in 2013, the intensive six-week Venture School program is built from a streamlined curriculum developed by the National Science Foundation at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Since its inception, Venture School has helped guide over 170 teams, and has awarded over $120,000 in cash prizes. Many of the participating teams have used these funds to continue their business ventures across the state of Iowa.

This past April, Ten local startups competed in the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids cohort of the Venture School program. Their program concluded with a final pitch competition where five of these teams were awarded $4,500 in cash prizes to support their business ventures. The five awarded teams are noted below.

Venture School Award Winning Teams

  • Best Business Opportunity
    •  Real-Time Decision Pro, awarded $1,000
  • Best Final Pitch
    • Sexy Life, awarded $1,000
  • Best Customer Discovery
    • Integrative Health Innovations, awarded $1,000
  • Most Improved
    • RealActs, awarded $1,000
  • Best Pivot
    • FinnPrep, awarded $500

Freeland Shaw and Roberto Pino, the co-founders of RealActs, seek to connect time, expertise, ability, and money to build stronger communities. Roberto says, “Venture School played a significant role in the development of RealActs.  We learned that focusing on the main problem was essential to being able to communicate our value proposition effectively.  We wanted to help everyone in the world at first, but honing in on our main customer and showing the value we can provide them is what made it clear for others to understand what RealActs’ mission is. Now having a solid understanding of the problem and validating it through customer discovery, RealActs will be able to clearly state our value proposition moving forward.”

“Venture School was an amazing opportunity. I gained a profound amount of knowledge pertaining to startup businesses in such a short amount of time. It significantly enhanced my presentation skills,” said Jeanine Abrons of Integrative Health Innovations. Abron’s team was impressed by the immediate impact of the Venture School Program. “The faculty and mentors are a tremendous resource and continue to be available for advice and support. I can’t recommend this program enough.”

Additional Venture School programs are planned to be held in Des Moines, Sioux City, and Iowa City this coming fall. Venture School also runs the University of Iowa’s Faculty Innovators Program, a shortened version of Venture School designed to provide University faculty members with the opportunity to develop marketable ideas and accelerate the startup process. University of Iowa students are eligible to participate in Venture School’s Student Accelerator Program, which lasts nine weeks and takes place over the summer.

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