Iowa Startup Power Rankings—April

Welcome to the first ever Iowa Startup Community Power Rankings! The idea is to highlight the most interesting things being done within our statewide community at any given time. The plan is to publish around mid-month and recognize companies for the things they've accomplished in the 30 (or so) days prior.

Before we begin, five rules:

  1. The Power Rankings are completely subjective and don’t actually mean anything. I’m doing this for fun.
  2. I’m not picking winners. I want to see everyone succeed and this community grow. If you don’t agree with a particular pick or think I missed something, feel free to debate it in the comments.
  3. I’m pretty good at picking up startup news from across the state but I don’t catch everything. If your startup is doing something great this month, let me know about it.
  4. I’ll usually pick companies but I reserve the right to substitute in individuals, products, organizations, fun YouTube videos or anything else that makes sense to me at the time I’m putting them together.
  5. Standard “King of the Hill”-rules apply, you retain your ranking until someone unseats you.

April Power Rankings

1. Tourney Machine (Ames)

We learned yesterday that Tourney Machine, a scheduling startup for youth sports tournaments, had agreed to be acquired by Sports Illustrated Play, a division of Time, Inc. This is obviously huge news for the team (Rob, Tom, Sam, Nathan & co) and also huge news for our statewide community that doesn't see exits as often as we'd like.

The acquisition news vaulted Tourney Machine to the top of the list this month but I think it will also signals their last month on the list. Though the definition of "startup" is oft-debated, I'm pretty sure that an acquisition or IPO signals that you've firmly moved beyond this list.

2. Syncbak (Cedar Rapids)

Syncbak was in the news a few years ago when Aereo filed a federal lawsuit to get information related to CBS Corporation's (the folks that own the broadcast network) investment in the company and things have been pretty quiet (at least publicly) for the TV over IP startup since they prevailed in court. That changed this past week with the announcement that Atlanta-based Gray Television, a company that owns and operates TV stations including KCRG in Cedar Rapids, had invested $3MM into the startup. Crunchbase lists this as a Series D with their total investment raised to date as $21.35MM.

3. UpCraft Club (Des Moines)

I've been excited about UpCraft Club for quite a while (they were on my "five most interesting" Des Moines companies list) and Elizabeth Caven earned the number three spot this month after she won "the whole [bleepin'] thing"* ($40,000 from Microsoft) at the SBA's InnovateHER Challenge in Washington, DC. Check out her experience at InnovateHER here.

4. FunnelWise (West Des Moines)

This year's "Outstanding Startup of the Year" in Iowa is marketing automation startup FunnelWise, according to the judges at the Technology Association of Iowa's annual Prometheus Awards held last week, and that has earned them the the fourth spot in this month's Power Rankings. FunnelWise was also in my "five most interesting" list a few weeks ago.

5. SwineTech (New Sharon)

These guys have been hitting the pitch circuit pretty hard lately and its proving lucrative. They won $10,000 in Nebraska, $10,000 from Dream Big Grow Here in Des Moines, $3,000 from Venture School in Iowa City and some unnecessarily-hard-to-discover amount of money in Merrillville, Indiana (all in in the last two weeks!). In the middle of all that, they were recognized as one of five finalists for "Student Innovation of the Year" at the Prometheus Awards.

Hat tip to my friend Tom Chapman of Nebraska Global who inspired this series when he wrote a post a few months ago with this idea that I couldn’t shake: “ a minimum chambers and other similar organizations should be able to name the five most interesting [local] startups…”

*Written in Tom Berenger's voice from Major League