Iowa Startup Games

A couple weeks ago I spent an entire weekend with ~40 other people to build businesses within a weekend. This is a program put on by JPEC to get ideas flowing and giving students a crash course on how to take your business idea from an idea to perhaps an actually feasible concept. Startup Games was definitely a really interesting experience and I highly recommend that everyone partake—even if you’re not a business or entrepreneurship-related major/minor/certificate.

It started Friday night: we all piled in S401 of Tippie, munched on free food (and jeeze, there was a lot of it over the weekend), and went over the schedule for the weekend. Friday night would start with quick tips on how to pitch and some suggestions on how to make your pitch standout by attaching a story behind it. We then moved onto actually pitching ideas. Everyone was encouraged to pitch but not required. After pitches, we would vote on all the ideas then the top voted 11 ideas would be left for everyone else to form teams around. I pitched an idea that I came up with 10 minutes before pitching started. I did make it to the final filtering but did not gather enough people to make a team (I gained one other person. We could have built around the idea but that would have been a lot more work for two people instead of say, four.). So my one other person and I moved to join another two person team to help with Elastic Language.



Elastic Language is the idea of creating a web based application for critical languages, such Chinese, Korean, Arabic, and Indian languages; because a lot of these languages do not have programs on Duolingo or are badly rated on Rosetta Stone.

Saturday started with a free breakfast (like I said, there’s a lot of free food involved) and socializing with some of the other groups before the day started. Saturday was dedicated to Customer Discovery: going out and seeing if what we perceived as a problem was actually a problem. We conducted online surveys to reach our farther friends and strangers and did in person interviews at the library. After collecting all this information, groups would either a) push on with their ideas or b) pivot and work their idea at a different angle or come up with another idea. We collected a lot of good information and pushed on with our project. Lunch came with free Pancheros burritos and hearing from all the groups on how their ideas were progressing. People announced their pivots, their successes in customer discovery, or the splintering of their groups and having to join new ones. The afternoon was then dedicated to experimentation: making mock ups of what our product would look like and going out to see what people thought. (aka I spent 6 hours planted in a chair, staring at photoshop, and helping build our mockup). Dinner was then served and we talked about the layout of Sunday: finishing up our presentations and finalizing our final pitches. Sunday afternoon would consist of travelling to Kinnick and performing our final pitches for a panel of judges to hopefully win some prize money. After dinner, my group worked late into the night (11PM when they kicked us out of the rooms), pulling our mockup together.

Sunday went by quickly: we put together our powerpoint over breakfast while I put the final touches on our mockup with another group member. After a couple of intstructions, we were all directed to find a way to Kinnick’s press box where lunch would be served and final pitches pitch.

We didn’t win first place. Or second. Or third. We did, however, win judge’s choice for best presentation and our team won $250 dollars (~$75 between the 4 of us). It was a really fun experience overall—full of free food, people I may have never met, and learning to work with a group of strangers and learning to capitalize on each other’s strengths. 10/10 would recommend to everyone.