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Startups Thrive in Ames, IA and Story County

If you're an entrepreneur looking to launch a startup, here's why you should consider Ames.

By Kevin Litwin on February 19, 2020

Ames, IA Startups
Ames / Jeff Adkins

Calling all brainstormers. Thriving business incubators are helping foster a growing entrepreneurial culture that has earned the area recognition as part of the “Silicon Prairie,” a cluster of successful tech cities across the Midwest and Great Plains states.

Ames is a recognized leader because it houses Iowa State University (ISU) and its Research Park, where many startups are developing new companies in growth sectors such as agriculture, insurance, manufacturing and technology.

One of ISU’s incubator resources is CYstarters (CY for Cyclones), a 10-week summer accelerator for ISU students or recent graduates to focus on startup or existing business ideas. If accepted for the competitive program, individual students receive $6,500 or up to $13,000 per team to pursue these plans.

Also available at the Research Park is the ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, which provides resources and business plan training to aid with the development and launching of new ventures. Another successful incubator is the ISU Startup Factory, a 52-week intensive program that uses the best training practices from the likes of MIT, Stanford and other successful accelerators, giving entrepreneurs access to a network of business mentors, advisors, counselors and investors. Anyone from Ames – not just ISU students – can apply for the Startup Factory program.

Opportunity Blooms in Ames, IA and Story County

Paint the Town

The list is long for successful entrepreneurial efforts coming out of ISU Research Park. Just one example is HomePainter, co-founded by Jacob McClarnon and Anthony House and incorporated in May 2018.

“During my time in college, I owned and operated a commercial and residential painting company and saw all the issues on both sides of every transaction between customers and contractors,†McClarnon says. “I met Anthony through the ISU entrepreneurial community and decided to start HomePainter, and we enrolled in CYstarters and the Startup Factory to get training and some funding.”

Today, HomePainter helps homeowners plan their painting projects, allowing customers toget actual online quotes, review local contractors and book projects – all from the computer.

Ames, IA: Iowa State University
Ames / Jeff Adkins

“We focus on homeowners who aren’t do-it-yourselfers, saving them from finding contractors, booking times for contractors to come out and estimating the cost of the home project, and all the other headaches involved with such a large task,†McClarnon says. “As a result, HomePainter allows customers to book their entire project all within an hour, saving customers up to nine hours in the whole preparation and planning process.”

House says the ISU incubator programs were invaluable in helping HomePainter to form.

“The incubators plugged us into networks that we basically couldn’t find on our own,†he says. “They taught us about building a viable product, customer discovery, talking to customers, learning how to start a company and running it, and much more.”

Ames, IA Startups
Ames / Jeff Adkins

Aiming High

Another entrepreneurial success story from ISU Research Park is UAnalytics, a company that will launch in 2020 and was co-founded by ISU researchers Shafqat Shad and Ali Jannesari. UAnalytics helps companies use unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in industries such as agriculture, insurance, safety, traffic management and mining.

“We received great training through the Startup Factory, especially learning how to get investors lined up for our company,†Shad says.

“We even established a laboratory at ISU for our project, and we’ve received a lot of interest. We actually presented our idea in October 2019 at the Commercial UAV Expo drone conference in Las Vegas.”

Shad adds that because of ISU’s excellent reputation in entrepreneurship, the university has been selected as a new National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps) site, which will further help faculty, postdoctoral and graduate students transition their ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace.

“The support for students and faculty at Iowa State is amazing when it comes to entrepreneurial and innovation efforts,†he says. “Students in Ames are lucky to have such fantastic incubator and accelerator programs available to them.”

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