The UNI team believed that a technology solution could be found to identify and attract entrepreneurs so that EDO’s could engage them over the life of their business and that such an approach could improve business owner access to resources and their peers. Building upon the premise that all entrepreneurs want to secure cash grants if possible, the Dream Big Grow Here contests were developed as an attractive cash competition to engage entrepreneurs online, where they could then be connected with resource providers in their home communities and online. As it was developed over the first two years, it also became a powerful tool to foster collaboration between existing service providers and a marvelous way to celebrate small business in the state.

We established multiple success measurements for DBGH:

  1. to connect small business and entrepreneurs with regional economic development organizations,
  2. to encourage small business owners to use technology and to interact with one another online,
  3. to leverage widespread marketing and positive publicity for small Iowa companies,
  4. to enhance the supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem in the state.

The use of an online contest to attract, learn about and engage large numbers of entrepreneurs is novel. Unlike business plan competitions which attract only small numbers of deeply committed entrepreneurs, Dream Big Grow Here attracts hundreds of entrepreneurs at different stages of business development and across many industries. The online pitches capture critical information about these entrepreneur’s plans for startup and growth which can be used by regional EDO’s to better serve them and others on an ongoing basis.

Recognition & Awards

  • Mid-America Economic Development Council's 2012 Annual Economic Development Award
  • University Economic Development Association Award of Excellence in Innovation & Entrepreneurship 2013

2016 Finalists

Click below to choose a category of this year's finalists and entrants.

Information Technology

Submit your dreams for your IT ideas. New IT solutions should be entered here.


Simplifying Real Estate Investing Just as the Online Discount Broker Did for Stocks

Jeri Frank
Cedar Rapids, IA
At AssetRover, it's about efficiency, automation, and simplicity. We share the same experiences you do with limited time, the desire to get the best returns on our investments, and wanting to learn more every day. Our experiences push us to make the best systems and tools available for investors.
Our Unique Value Proposition
AssetRover's key objective is to simplify and deconstruct real estate investing. Real estate investing does not have to be a daunting task that requires a PhD in Finance to figure out. We provide powerful tools that are accessible at all investor experience levels. Our tool calculates the offer price based on the investor’s desired cash flow or cap rate for residential properties, putting the investor in full control of their investment goals.

Education is important in any endeavor, especially in real estate when you are committing large amounts of capital. To this end, we have a blog that is focused on relevant trends, common investment concerns, and interviews with industry experts. These blogs, interviews, and videos provide compact and concise information that is critical to investing success.

Paired with education and a low barrier to entry, our future goal is to allow investors to track their real estate portfolio as their portfolio grows. The real estate investing sector is underserved in this area. Tools exist that support the day-to-day operation and management of a property, but these tools do not adequately or simply guide the investor through the entire lifecycle of a property. An investor needs to be able to effortlessly see the performance of their property on a real-time basis in order to keep them in line with their financial goals. AssetRover is designed to support the user from anywhere in the world in a mobile-friendly, cloud-based environment.

Finally, as we grow our user base, we will be able to anonymously capture data. This allows us to conduct a further and deeper market analysis, which can be shared in a searchable, user-friendly format. This data gives the investor additional insight into the profitability of their investment as compared to the mean in their geographical area.

Monetization Strategy
AssetRover, currently a free product during our minimum viable product stage, will expand into subscription based services in the future as we learn from our user base and grow our product suite. In the future, investors will be able to select add-on premium features from an ala carte menu, at a 75% discount over the competition. Many other sites charge a great deal more for advanced real estate investing tools and provide no free services for the entry level investor. Additionally, advertising will be another source of revenue as we grow our user base.

Our Industry Space
Last year homeownership hit a nearly 50 year low. The driving forces behind this movement are many and important to understand. On average, people are waiting 6 years longer before purchasing their first home. Some of this is attributed to the inability of individuals to save for the down payment, but there is also substantial evidence that groups such as the millennials would rather rent as they want the flexibility to move between jobs and geographical locations. In many areas of the country, the demand is outpacing supply. This all leads to a very strong rental market, at a time when stock market volatility is a common nightly news story.

Across the US, nearly 30 million people are already real estate investors. To put it in perspective, that is 1 in 8 Americans that invest in residential real estate and enjoy the benefits of the passive income; however, for every existing real estate investor, there are many more that want to invest, but simply lack the knowledge and resources to get started. Admittedly, real estate investing can be quite intimidating when starting. No one wants to risk becoming the center of a tragic real estate investment gone wrong, but there are ways to mitigate this risk.

AssetRover provides investor grade tools at an affordable price, giving you visibility into your holdings so you can adjust accordingly. AssetRover supports wealth building one smart purchase at a time.
We are focused on the future and building out our product suite for real estate investors. The opportunity to participate in the Dream Big Grow Here is an excellent opportunity to showcase our recent launch and travel a little further down our next path! Specifically, this event provides:

The opportunity to share the power of real estate investing.
Additional exposure to the free product we have proudly created.
Should we win, the seed money would be used for expanding our suite of real estate investor grade tools and to move our website into a more expandable platform.

Thank you for your consideration!

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Citispoon | Enhancing the dining experience.

Dapo Kolawole
Citispoon Inc
Davenport, IA
WaitCube by Citispoon is a mobile app that allows restaurants to set clear wait-time expectations for their customers. We help restaurants provide real-time wait-times to their customers, so that customers are not forced to settle for a restaurant that wasn't their first choice.
WaitCubeTM by Citispoon is a mobile application that provides diners wait times for a table at any restaurant that WaitCube operates in. We are creating the way for restaurants to provide real time information about wait times to their customers. We are helping them build long term relationships with diners by setting clear expectations, and not forcing diners to settle for second best.

Executive Summary

WaitCube by Citispoon is a subscription mobile Software as a Service (SaaS) application that allows restaurants to provide real time information about wait times to their customers and helps them build long term relationships with their customers by setting clear expectations, and not forcing diners to settle for second best.
The company is focused on the part of the dining experience that is fundamentally broken (Wait-times). It is focused on resolving the pain of choosing a restaurant and not knowing how long the wait will be until you get there or getting there and being told of a wait that is a bit too long.

Market Size -Restaurants
- Total available market is 270,000 in the US.
- Serviceable available market is 6240 in the state of Iowa.

Market Size -Patrons
- Total available market is 29.2 million in the US.
- Serviceable available market is 993,000 in the state of Iowa.

Our competitors include; Nowait, Buzztable, Opentable and old fashion buzzers.

Beyond simply enhancing the dining experience, WaitCube by Citispoon constitutes innovation that resolves a fundamental disconnect between restaurants and patrons. WaitCube by Citispoon app is intuitive and easy to use.

The team
Citispoon incorporated in 2014 by co-founders Dapo Kolawole and Ola Kolawole. Dapo has extensive experience in product design and development. The company is an Iowa C-Corp located in Davenport, Iowa, and both co-founders are graduate of the 2014 University of Iowa Venture School.

Our advisers consist of Mike Baxley, president of Bee line Company. Mike is a leader with a record of strategically focused turnarounds, start-ups and new product launches. Strong sales and marketing background integrated with significant manufacturing operations experience. He is successful at delivering profitability goals and re-engineering business processes in domestic and international markets for leveraged, private and public companies. His has a hands-on people-centered management style. He was one of our mentors at the University of Iowa Venture School. Mike has great knowledge and leadership skills and has been very helpful in developing Citispoon.
Linda is a business leader and President at CarexTech, Inc. Linda is passionate and an effective innovator who thinks strategically and drives results by finding key insights into user needs and creatively delivering value.

Business Plan
1. Customer Segments
Citispoon is focused is on casual dining restaurants based in the United States. Citispoon creates value for our segment of restaurants and the patrons who dine at these restaurants. Conducting 95 customer discovery interviews and rigorous research reveals these restaurants need to set clear wait-time expectations so that they can reduce patron walk-away ad build long-term relationships with their patrons.

With patrons, our focus is to help them save a valuable commodity, time, so that they can spend time where it matters and not waiting for a table. Citispoon gives them a tool to find out what the wait-time is before the leave for the restaurant.

2. Value Propositions
Our target market is casual dining restaurants and their customers; WaitCube by Citispoon is helping restaurants do 3 things:
a. Publish wait-times, so that their customers can know the wait-times before they get to the restaurant.
b. Increase revenue by converting diner walkaways due to the perception of a full lobby.
c. Build long-term relationships by setting clear wait-time expectations for their patrons.
As well, we are helping patrons do 2 things:
a. Manage their time so that they only spend time where it matters.
b. Enhance their dining experience by knowing what the wait will be and being able to choose a restaurant based on a wait-time that they are comfortable with.

3. Channels
Citispoon’s channels include;
Direct channels such as direct sales force and web sales to engage restaurants.
Campaigns in social media, search engine marketing, and industry education
Trade shows and trade magazine advertising

Citispoon plans sales tactics used for pull marketing which include mass media promotions, word-of-mouth referrals and advertised sales promotions. This will allow us to create brand loyalty and keep customers coming back.

4. Customer Relationships
We plan on having a customer service department to provide personal assistance.

5. Revenue Streams
Citispoon is based on a subscription SaaS model. This proven sales model allows customers limited trials and starting subscriptions just by entering a credit card number. We will offer a standard and premium subscription service levels. The standard offering does not offer the ability to send out deals and promotions while the premium option does.
Service levels are:
Standard offering - $199/month
Premium offering - $249/month
Both offerings provide customer analytics. We collect the most comprehensive customer profiles, including party size, wait-time and more. This translates to new and targeted transaction opportunities: predictive up-sell, intelligent discounts, and branded giveaways.

6. Key Resources
Citispoon’s key resources are:
Intellectual property: Software code, user interface layouts, system behavior, trademark and brand, graphical elements, and contracts
Developed business relationships with reference customers and a large, deep, personal network of potential customers established over decades
Team members and employees: Management team of experienced business professionals;

7. Key Activities
Citispoon’s activities include:
Pitch competitions
Software development
Working closely with reference customers in our closed beta/early adopter pool.
SEM and organic marketing to attract customers.
Trade events - in the restaurant space, trade shows and other industry gatherings are highly important.

8. Key Partners
Citispoon’s key partners include:
Reference customers and beta testers - these partners help develop the Citispoon software beyond the MVP stage by providing real-world use, feedback on software performance, and ever-improving product/market fit. They also provide word-of-mouth promotion and valuable connections to peers.

9. Cost Structure
Our cost structure will be cost driven to create the and maintain the leanest possible cost structure. To accomplish this, we will use low price value proposition and extensive outsourcing.

Our Mission

We believe the dining experience should begin with being informed of the wait times prior to arriving at a restaurant and not at the restaurant lobby.

We believe restaurants can enhance the dining experience by clearly setting wait-time expectations, preventing customers from walking away due to a long wait.

Our Vision
Enhance the dining experience for all
Our next steps are app development and business development - specifically marketing and sales. During the next few months, we will devote the majority of our resources to beta testing the android app as well as launching the IOS app, working directly with our reference customers, validating our sales channel, and building our sales funnel.

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Make your dream a reality with VoidWorks Website Design and Hosting

Ifran Xion
VoidWorks, LLC
Cedar Falls, IA
VoidWorks is a Digital Agency that provides services including web design, site development, hosting, search engine optimization, software development and Linux based server solutions.
Many companies, especially those that are in the initial stages of expansion, lack a strong technical support department. Though a general statement, this applies to most industries, even those that commonly employ programmers or developers as many programmers possess specialized skill sets. This is an understandable consequence of the nature of IT – new programming techniques and algorithms are introduced frequently, and it requires constant training to keep up-to-date on the latest technology. VoidWorks offers a solution to this problem, providing all the services that are typically handled by a comprehensive IT department to our friendly and communicative team.

We provide a complete solution to our clients by developing them a website and then provide them with a web & email hosting server along with complete Search Engine Optimization, because we believe complete solution is something that’s been missing out in today’s world of technology.

VoidWorks provides a variety of package options for clients, all of which are displayed on our website. We operate on both client and server-side with the latest web technologies such as HTML5/CSS3, PHP/MySQL, JavaScript, jQuery, WordPress, Drupal, Magento etc. as well as provide e-commerce solutions for businesses. Website development packages range from $1,000 to $18,000. Most business owners find these prices are affordable regardless of the size of business they own, and significantly more affordable than typical web dev prices.

One-time setup costs for a personal shared/dedicated VPS server costs anywhere from $1,000-$5,000 depending on how extensive the client’s needs are. Other Linux-based server-related services start at $500 for a one-time setup. Server maintenance costs are anywhere from $10-$300 per month, depending on client need.

Our Web hosting costs are determined based on data overhead and type of hosting, which is typically 5-30$ a month or around 60-300$ a year and that is very feasible for anyone to afford.

The web design industry has been steadily growing for decades, a trend that is expected to continue, with an average of 3.6% growth expected annually through 2020[1] as consumer internet usage increases. Custom platform web design is losing business to design platforms that require less coding experience such as Wordpress, which is VoidWorks’ specialty. This allows for the creation of custom websites that can be later modified by the client with much less work on our end.

In a similar fashion, the web hosting industry is expected to grow at a rate of 5.5% annually, on average, until 2020[2]. VoidWorks’ position as a website design and hosting company allows it to take advantage of both of these growing industries, offering complementary services to the same client in order to optimize revenue.

[1] Carter B. 2015. IBISWorld Industry Report OD4586 Web Design Services in the US. IBISWorld Inc.

[2] Morea S. 2015. IBISWorld Industry Report OD6083 Internet Hosting Services in the US. IBISWorld Inc.
Ifran, the CEO of VoidWorks, is currently attending UNI as a first-year student majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Business, and working on his Entrepreneurship Certification. Originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh, Ifran is a largely self-taught programmer and web developer. Beginning his education in 2010, whilst still enrolled in high school, Ifran began doing freelance programming work in 2011. Utilizing professional resources available from w3schools, NewHorizons and CSL-IT, Ifran has obtained proficiency certifications in numerous programming languages and platforms including: HTML5/CSS3, PHP/MySQL, WordPress, RedHat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and Asterisk (IP PBX Telephony). A professional web developer and server administrator since 2013, Ifran compiled a team of three developers in Bangladesh who share his passion for programming and business, eventually founding VoidWorks in 2014. Over the course of the next year and a half, VoidWorks has designed over 90 websites and handled business with over 100 clients.

If we win Dream Big Grow Here, VoidWorks will purchase two virtual servers from Ramnode ($960 each) in two different regions of the United States (NYC and Atlanta, GA) and two virtual servers from different regions in Europe (time4vps $438.32 each). By diversifying our server locations, VoidWorks can increase the hosting security and safeguard against any potential downtime. Each server has a WHM licensing fee associated with it, which cost $130 annually. We then intend to launch a marketing campaign for the next year with a budget of $500 for Google AdWords and $500 for SEO/SMM services. We predict that this campaign will bring in many more client prospects, bolstering sales and allowing us to expand into new markets.

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Roster Monster

Matt Getting
Roster Monster
Clive, IA
The Roster Monster is a comprehensive web-based system built for the fan and school to track, view, and analyze real-time stats of athletes in sporting events.
The Rostermonster tracks high school rosters, schedules, and statistics. Our competitive advantage is having interactive statistics, having a responsive design built for PCs, tablets, and mobile devices, and allowing fans to see the head to head competition week to week.

RosterMonster is absolutely free for schools and fans. The revenue will be based on ads on the website.

In the state of Iowa, we are the only website that shows head to head competition, shows visual and graphical statistics, and allows fans/schools to track their teams in their home or in the stands via their devices.
We are excited about this opportunity to showcase the RosterMonster.com. The 'Dream Big, Grow Here' competition feels like a great fit for the Roster Monster to gain exposure and show what a tremendous service it is for schools and fans across the state of Iowa.

The money would be used for marketing and continuing to attract fans and schools to our site as well as a small chunk of development assistance.

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Rethinking traditional surveying with TruVu Data.

Zack Feser
CIE Systems
Waukee, IA
Organizations have used the same method of surveying their audience forever; send a list of questions and hope people take the time to answer them all. The issue is, people don't have the time, so TruVu Data has created a unique survey software to connect with an audience on their time.
TruVu Data is an online surveying/research software geared towards creating a more powerful form of two-way communication with an audience. This software utilizes a unique one-question-at-a-time email surveying system designed to maximize response and engagement rates. (Engagement rate is the number of unique users who will answer at least one question). The question, responses, and explanation of the survey are built directly into the body of the email, and these emails are purposely designed with minimal information to make answering take seconds. This software has proven its ability to improve the validity of data and increase the engagement of an audience.

The online surveying industry is one with relatively few players. These companies administer surveys the same way they have been done forever. A link is sent to the respondents to click on, all the questions have to be answered, and then the connection with the respondents is lost. The problem with this is, no matter the length of the survey, most people are not willing to spend the time to complete it. The software TruVu Data employs creates a much simpler system which makes respondents much more likely to answer.

Our initial target markets have been Chambers of Commerce and Economic Development organizations because they have large membership lists who have a vested interest in the programming provided. We recently started expanding outside of the initial market into colleges and grocery stores as well. Our clients have seen response rates of 25-75% and engagement rates of 35-85%. These rates are significantly higher than the average electronic survey rates of 5-15%. Also, all respondents to campaigns that have used TruVu Data have stated they are more willing to answer our software than others.

Key Partners:
The EMERGE program at Simpson College has connected key students with TruVu Data to generate new ideas and create marketing material.
Our email delivery service SendGrid, provides exceptional email delivery rates and response analysis.
A Small Orange hosts our website and provide extremely fast and reliable web hosting.
We leverage all of our current clients to provide valuable feedback regarding what additional services and options would be beneficial.

Key Activities:
Front and back end website development.
Software development, we are consistently adding enhancements according to the feedback received.
TruVu Data currently works with outside groups to create marketing materials.

Key Resources:
Intellectual property in the form of software code.
Zack Feser works on client acquisition and overall project development and Jared Bearss has developed the software and website.
Strong relationships with current and potential customers have been key to our current growth.
Advisory council members representing multiple industries provide feedback and connections.

Value Proposition:
For any organization looking to reach out to an audience and gather information about product/services, the issue has always been the amount of time it takes to answer a survey. The options are limited so many organizations use the same survey methods that aren't effective. TruVu Data changes the dynamic of the typical electronic survey by sending out one-question-at-a-time. Our survey method breaks a survey down into one short question asked at regular intervals. The question and responses are built within the email instead of having to follow a link. This whole process takes seconds out of respondents day. Our survey method has seen response rates average 25-75% which is 10%+ higher than average survey response rates. TruVu Data gives organizations piece of mind knowing their data accurately represents their population.
An exciting secondary effect of TruVu Data is its ability to build a stronger relationship with an organizations' audience. A typical organization working with us sends 1 question per week. This type of consistent, non-invasive questioning builds a relationship where the customers are looking for and expecting questions.

TruVu Data has developed relationships with entrepreneurship groups in the Des Moines area such as 1 Million Cups and Gravitate.
Close connections with individuals at organizations like Leadership Iowa University have led to prospective clients and partners.
Also, a very close relationship has been built with Simpson College and their EMERGE program to provide students with the opportunity to bring their expertise to different aspects of the business.

These relationships are maintained through attendance of events and regular phone and email communication.

Indirect connections made by people within my network.
Word of mouth marketing. (No large scale marketing yet)
Phone calls and emails to potential clients.
Economic Development and Chamber of Commerce meetings.

Customer Segment:
Economic Development organizations
Chambers of Commerce
Grocery stores

Cost Structure:
TruVu Data incurs direct costs from three sources. We are charged for each email we send, web hosting, and we also incur costs for time spent creating consulting material and data analysis.

Revenue Streams:
Email marketing service charges by amount of emails sent in a campaign.
5,000 or less emails - $25
5,001 – 50,000 emails - $5.00 per thousand sends
50,001 – 100,000 emails - $4.50 per thousand sends
100,001 – 150,000 emails - $4.00 per thousand sends
150,001 or more emails - $2.50 per thousand sends
TruVu Data is looking to add consulting services to assist organizations with development and analysis of questions and responses. With this service will come analysis materials. We are valuing the consulting services at $150/hr, but our current model is to provide the consulting services free of charge.
The next stage of our revenue stream model is to charge for the consulting services. We are currently working with all of our active clients to build a consulting package that will be equivalent in value to the cost.
We are applying for the grant in order to make necessary enhancements to the TruVu Data website and software. This one-question-at-a-time system has gotten a lot of positive feedback from our current clients and their respondents, so we feel we are ready to market this tool to a wider audience. We have recently implemented a new website and software enhancements, but in order to be prepared form more clients we need complete/update this new development. With the funds we will create an electronic payment system, complete the redesign of our front end website, and add features to the client portal. Accounting for issues that will come up these enhancements will take all of the funding. If any additional funds are available they will go towards the creation of an infographic, as well as other marketing materials. These funds will put TruVu Data in a position to market to the entire industry and bring in the early adopters.

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Help us get to the next level

Alyssa Nolte
iTracking Research Inc
Cedar Falls, IA
iTracking Research is an advanced User Experience (UX) research company. We work with clients all over the world to help them optimize their marketing. By improving your conversion, we help business get to the next level. We are ready to take ourselves to the next level.
We are a technology company using eye-tracking technology to understand how users are using websites and other consumer technologies. We are unique because only a few companies do what we do. Of those who are direct competitors, they exist on the coasts which has a high-cost requirement. Our industry has grown significantly in the last few years and our client base continues to grow.
We would use the money to help us continue to grow our client base. Specifically, the money would go to support our marketing team and to help them bring in the client's we need in order to continue to grow and add value to the technology sector in the Midwest.

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Champion Complementary and Alternative Practitioners

Juli Morris
Cedar Falls, IA
My application will create a standard de facto for Self employed people; supporting them in making their interactions with others simple and less time consuming.
I am unique in that I am a hub. There are a few (very few) people who have looked at this Sector as a whole; Complementary and Alternative care focus on preventative, and non-invasive. This is a direction that will allow cost savings to the Healthcare sector as a whole.

My paying client will be the Practioner themselves; Their directory business listing will be free; Creating an ACTIVE Profile with be a nominal fee, and with each feature that they "turn on" as a part of that Profile will be an upcharge. Because the hub will be a low cost alternative it will be too hard to resist. I envision many people will drop their personal webpages and come on board.
I have invested a year and 1/2, and about $5000 of my own money thus far; I am committed to this project. I architected it, hired freelancers for things I did not know how to do, and it is built on a strong self sustaining structure; Users can search for Events; and Paying clients can list events for free - after marketing this feature, this will drive activity to the site, therefore affecting it's rating on Google search.
I currently have over 2500 people in the directory.

I would use the money to do 3 things:
* Make the site mobile
* Create the Active profile and features; Scheduling, invoicing, payment, and interface to social media.
* Start an Marketing campaign to raise awareness.

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Building fairer negotiations

Chris Draper
Des Moines, IA
Trokt is a fully-integrated, cloud-based negotiation management platform that removes the risk of human error from complex negotiations, mediations, and arbitrations. With Trokt, you can see what’s happening right now, in real time - in a safe and secure environment.
Trokt is the only platform that provides technological tools tailored to the processes used by negotiators, mediators, and arbitrators to codify agreements.

Trokt sells access licenses to individuals or organizations, like the National Mediation Board, allowing them the opportunity to start and manage any number of cases or documents in the system. Clients are charged a fee based on the number of active negotiations per month, with prices starting at $149 per contract per month and decreasing as the number of contracts increases.

The primary market being pursued by Trokt is the labor relations market, which supports over 14,000,000 employees nationwide in the form of hundreds of thousands of contracts and over 5,000,000 grievances or arbitrations annually.

There are currently no competitors that have worked with the Unions and Federal agencies - as Trokt has - to ensure they have a product that mimics the needs of the labor relations community.
While we have an anchor client in the National Mediation Board, we need to increase our full-time staff here in Iowa to fully realize the potential of this client and expand to new business.

Any support received would be divided between operational support and business development.

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