Issue II, Winter 2014
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UNI-EDA University Center
Regional Entrepreneurship Project Newsletter

This quarterly newsletter will be coming to you to share best practices in creating vibrant local entrepreneurial ecosystems. You are receiving this e-mail because your region is participating in the Regional Entrepreneurship Project.

Read on below as we feature something to check out under the four main tenants of successful entrepreneurship community building efforts of supportive culture, capital, networking, and technical assistance.  

Every edition will be unique as we highlight major milestones in our work together, and/or run a featured story from one of our communities.

Supportive Culture
Each regions' plan addresses the need to have a supportive culture to foster entrepreneurial growth.  We sometimes forget that entrepreneurship is a creative endeavor. Through fostering a creative culture, entrepreneurship can also be supported.  We've seen this happen at home with the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Creative Corridor, and there are also strikingly similar efforts underway in Brookings, South Dakota (the self-described Creative Capital of the state).

One common element found in the Creative Corridor, Brookings, and even our newest northwest Iowa Region III (Monona, Plymouth, and Woodbury counties), has been an effort to designate one week of innovation and entrepreneurship.  In Region III, this was their Launch Week, for Brookings their Creativity Week.  For the Corridor, it was Creative Week.

As an economic development organization, maybe you need to pick a week to highlight all the impressive things happening in your community and spotlight creative entrepreneurs.  Chances are you already have several events happening that could easily be folded into a larger initiative.

Related Reading
Access to business grants is an area that many economic developers struggle with providing. There are only a handful of statewide initiatives that provide grants, and Dream Big Grow Here is one of them.  The Dream Big Grow Here program is an opportunity to provide your region's small and startup firms with up to $15,000. 

This year, there will be six statewide contests that Iowa firms can enter (one for startups, five others for existing industry). The contests are: Pre-Revenue, Ag Innovation, Hospitality/Restaurants, Manufacturing/Bioscience/IT, Professional Services, and Retail/Wholesale. 

The Process
  1. Enter a business dream online
  2. Compete to be one of five finalists
  3. Pitch for a $5,000 business grant
  4. Go on to pitch for an additional $10,000 grand prize
While online voting will provide an automatic bid for each contest's first finalist, the remaining four selections will be based on the merits of the online business dream application. This means you can help your region's businesses have the edge by looping them in with their local SBDC, or by providing direct assistance to them as they enter.  With six contests, it also means you could have six entrepreneurs all from your region go on to win!
Dream entries must be entered by January 31st. For full details on how the Dream Big Grow Here program works, watch this recorded webinar or register to attend the next presentation on January 15th.
Technical Assistance
If you find yourself in front of one of your region's innovators, this next program we are going to explore in the technical assistance category is something you should have them go check out.

Recently, the largest startup event in history was held; the Iowa Startup Accelerator Launch Day in Cedar Rapids. As part of the evening's activities, investors from all across the Midwest gathered to learn about ten new startup firms graduating from Iowa's newest accelerator program.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the night was just seeing so many investors in one place to learn about Iowa investment opportunities. Many previously unknown venture capital groups were brought to light; one was even started- Built By Iowa.  Their group alone invested $150,000 in companies that were graduating from the Accelerator program.

In terms of technical assistance, the ISA program has been compared to nationally recognized leaders like Y Combinator and Techstars. Their ability to mentor ten young startups to be investment ready in 90 days, was pretty amazing and something we think economic developers should be aware of to offer to regional innovators who come to your door.
The Technology Association of Iowa's TechBrew events are great informal gatherings that bring together entrepreneurs, technologists, business people and funders to talk over a drink (for, as they call it, “lubricated serendipity”). Right now, TechBrew events are currently ongoing in Cedar Falls/Waterloo, Spencer, Des Moines, Mason City/Clear Lake, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Council Bluffs, and Ames.

This idea is not solely leveraged by the Technology Association of Iowa.  In Region III (northwest Iowa), they have created their own Biz Brew event which is more open to the wider business community.  What is important here is the core idea of getting entrepreneurs together to exchange ideas, lend advice, and to support each others' endeavors.

Contact the Technology Association of Iowa to learn how to start a Tech Brew or similar event for your region.

Regional Entrepreneurship Project Updates 

  • The Regional Entrepreneurship Website is now live and can be found here:
  • Our Region III announcement has been made.  Please join us in welcoming aboard Monona, Plymouth, and Woodbury counties!
  • Marketing videos we've been working on are close to complete and will be featured soon on the new website.
  • Bilingual marketing collateral is being developed for use in our entrepreneurship marketing efforts.

Resource Links

Related News to Watch

  • Technology Association of Iowa to host ten "Tech Town Halls" where topics to be discussed include entrepreneurship. Read more...
  • U.S. Senator Joni Ernst has been placed on the small business & entrepreneurship committee. Read more...
  • The American Farm Bureau Federation, together with Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business Global Social Enterprise Initiative, launched the first-ever Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge.  Iowa finalist for this award is ScoutPro, Inc. Read more...
  • Why women entrepreneurs love new "Power Circles" concept. Read more...
Submit an entrepreneurship related initiative your community is engaged in for inclusion in this e-newsletter!  Send a note to Rob Williams at
EDA Disclosure
UNI Business and Community Services, as of July 2013, has been designated as an EDA University Center by the Economic Development Administration within the U.S. Department of Commerce. The EDA University Center program is specifically designed to marshal the resources located within colleges and universities to support regional economic development strategies in regions of chronic and acute economic distress. The program supports and recognizes institutions of higher education having extensive resources, including specialized research, outreach, and technology-transfer and commercialization capabilities, as well as recognized staff expertise and resources.
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