15 people to know in the Iowa Startup Community


This post was put together as part of my presentation at EntreFEST called "Plugging Into Iowa’s Entrepreneurial Community". Join the fun Friday at 1:15 p.m. in Sheraton - Dean Ballroom C.

I use the term "connector" a lot when describing what I do day-to-day in regards to helping grow the startup community in Iowa. I get the opportunity to meet with people all the time who are new to the community or are just getting started with an idea. As we talk, I usually keep a mental check list of people that I'd like to connect them with who can help them with what their building and then send a slew of emails afterwards to make those connections happen. As it turns out, many of those introductions and suggestions go to the same people and this post represents 15 (actually 17, you'll figure it out) of them (given more time, I could easily expand it to 25 or 50 people). You'll notice that most of the people listed aren't founders — thats on purpose (and founders will probably be its own list at some point). List is presented alphabetically.

15 people to know in the Iowa Startup Community

Wade Arnold - Managing Director of Banno at ProfitStars

Wade founded and lead financial tech startup Banno through it’s acquisition by Jack Henry & Associates in March. Wade is a board member of the Technology Association of Iowa. He is based in Cedar Falls (also has an office in Des Moines).

Mike Colwell - Executive Director, Entrepreneurial Initiatives at the Greater Des Moines Partnership

Mike is probably best known for advising companies through the The Business Innovation Zone since 2007, he’s work as expanding to include other Greater Des Moines Partnership (GDMP)-related initiatives in recent years including the Plains Angels angel investment group, the NestMint angel fund and is the staff person for the GDMP new Entrepreneurial Advisory Council. He’s an active angel investor and is based in Des Moines.

Brad Dwyer - Founder/CEO of Hatchlings

Brad founded Hatchlings while a student at Iowa State University and has expand the social gaming company into one of the most active in the state. He’s a frequent participant and supporter of events like Startup Weekend and 1 Million Cups and helped organize the I/OWA Conference. He’s an active angel investor and is based in Des Moines.

Tej Dhawan & Christian Renaud - Principals/Mentors-in-Residence StartupCity Des Moines

Tej and Christian lead StartupCity Des Moines an incubator turned coworking space and the “entrepreneurial center of gravity” for the Des Moines. Tej is an active angel investor and also works with Mike Colwell to lead Plains Angels and NestMint. Both are based in Des Moines.

Eric Engelmann - President & CEO at Geonetric and Managing Director at Iowa Startup Accelerator

Eric leads Geonetric, an established health tech company, and is also the guiding force on the new Iowa’s first startup accelerator program which is currently accepting applications. He’s also involved in several of the University of Iowa’s entrepreneurial programs. He is based in Cedar Rapids.

Max Farrell - Business Development Relationship Manager at Dwolla

In addition to his work at Dwolla, Max is an active startup community organizer working both in Iowa and his home state of Arkansas. He’s lead several Startup Weekends and is a member of the current Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute Class. Max is based in Des Moines

JD Geneser - Senior Partner at LWBJ Capital Advisers

JD has helped several Iowa startups raise capital (more than $250MM). Most apropos this post, he’s served as the external CFO for Dwolla guiding them through their raises. He’s based in West Des Moines.

Josh Krakauer - CEO of Sculpt

Josh leads Sculpt, a social media marketing agency, that seems to be involved in one way or another with every new startup or event making news in Eastern Iowa. He is based in Iowa City.

Ben Milne - CEO of Dwolla

Ben founded Dwolla which is perhaps the most well known startup in our state. He’s become a de facto ambassador for the Iowa tech startups community as he speaks at conference events all over the world. Be sure to check out his blog. He’s splits time between Des Moines and San Francisco.

Brett Neese - Iowa State University student and regional manager for StudentRND

Brett is one of the community’s most active organizers - even this semester while he’s studying in Asia - and his current focus is CodeDay (a 24 hour hackathon for high school and college students) a program of StudentRND. He’s also involved in organizing CyHack (the hackathon community at ISU). Brett is (usually) based in Ames.

Jennifer Ott - JPEC Training and Engagement Liaison

I don’t know Jennifer as well as others on this list but the University of Iowa seems to be coming out with new entrepreneurial programs every week and each time Jennifer’s name is almost always behind the scenes. Jennifer is based in Iowa City.

Amanda Styron West & Andy Stoll - Founders at Seed Here Studio

Amanda and Andy (and their team) are the production group behind things like the Creative Week, the Iowa Hour at SXSW, UP America Summit, EntreFEST and I’m sure several others. They’re connectors by nature and represent our community through their active work on the Startup Iowa initiative and participation in UP Global’s events. They are based in Cedar Rapids.

Tom Swartwood - Entrepreneurship Professor at Drake University

The team at Drake’s entrepreneurial centers have some interesting programming in Des Moines and one of my favorites is Tom’s Startup Boot Camp for Women. He is based in Des Moines.

Brian Waller - Manager of Information Technology Business Development at Iowa Economic Development Authority

Brian is the startup community’s connection to the formal economic development efforts from the state. He’s a very innovative view on the role of startups in economic development in a state like ours, check out this recent presentation at the Kauffman Foundation (From the Field: Policy in Action Panel). He is based in Des Moines.

Kaylee Williams - Director of Business Development at VolunteerLocal

Kaylee runs the ship day-to-day at VolunteerLocal and also helps lead several community events like 1 Million Cups (Des Moines) and the I/OWA Conference, serves on the GDMP’s new Entrepreneurial Advisory Council and regularly writes columns about the startup community for the Des Moines Register.

Hat tip to Danny Schreiber for the idea for this post.

Photo Credit: startupstockphotos.com