Iowa is a great place to startup

Thomas Hornbeck graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.S. in Computer Science in 2007. After graduating, he pursued a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in the same field, while also earning an Entrepreneurial Management Certificate from the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC). During his Ph.D., he began teaching and tutoring students in Computer Science and Software Engineering. Hornbeck and another tutor, Hung Tran, started a business called GotIt! (formerly Tutor Universe) that allowed students with academic questions to match up online with experts in that field for a quick teaching session.

Hornbeck and Tran joined Iowa JPEC’s Founders Club, a student business incubator housed in the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory (BELL). The BELL became their home for the next few years as they grew the business, providing an exhilarating environment where they worked long hours alongside other innovative student entrepreneurs.

Hornbeck’s entrepreneurial journey took off after the creation of GotIt!. The company entered an esteemed entrepreneurial residence program in California, where Hornbeck got involved with several other educational startups. GotIt! quickly became one of the most promising companies in the program, securing a Series A round of $9 million from investors in Silicon Valley. After the program in California ended, Hornbeck came back to Iowa to reunite with family and expanded on his entrepreneurial foundation in education.

Launch Deck, established in 2015, helps innovative founders build and grow early stage technology companies. Co-founded by Hornbeck, Isaac Ingersoll, and Brian Severson, the company got its start when the three tech experts began moonlighting together to help local companies build innovative technology products. Today, the company provides a variety of services to support businesses from early concept development through long-term product maintenance, including software development, corporate innovation, startup consulting, and prototyping.

Iowa is the perfect place to startup, Hornbeck believes, due to increased activity within the startup ecosystem over the past few years. He says, “I’m optimistic that there will be just as many opportunities here as there would have been if I had stayed in Silicon Valley.” Hornbeck’s faith in Iowa has proved true, as Launch Deck is now made up of worldwide experts who serve clients throughout the United States.

Empowering others

As someone who believes strongly in the power of education, Hornbeck has made it a priority to advise young UI students who aspire to be entrepreneurs, as well as numerous startups throughout the country. He is a mentor for Startup Weekend and continues to teach in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Iowa as an Adjunct Professor.

Hornbeck says, “Working with one of the greatest startup mentors in the world, Guy Kawasaki, really sparked my interest in mentoring. Guy lives by the mantra: Empower people, help people who cannot help you, help without the expectation of return.” Hornbeck believes everyone should mentor others “because the sharing of knowledge inevitably creates more prosperity for all.”