InnoVenture Challenge, Catalysts Live, Ag Startup Engine
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Business Record innovationIOWA Weekly | December 8, 2022
Hawkeye Surgical Lighting wins first InnoVenture Challenge pitch competition
Hawkeye Surgical Lighting was selected Wednesday evening as the winner of the first InnoVenture Challenge pitch competition, hosted by Iowa's new co-investment fund InnoVenture Iowa. The company has developed the world’s first voice- and motion-controlled surgical headlight that integrates with an iOS through Bluetooth. From left, COO Manny Ray and co-founders Dr. David Christianson and Anthony Piscopo are pictured above receiving the cash prize of $100,000. The other finalists were the Hummingbirds and Clayton Farms.
Tell us what you think: Trends to watch in 2023
What big trends will affect your organization next year? What are experts in your industry preparing for ahead of the new year? What will the community look like 12 months from now?

The Business Record is asking its readers to submit a response describing a trend they see coming to their industry or the community in 2023. Select submissions will be published.

Please send in a submission by the end of day on Wednesday, Dec. 14. Thanks in advance for taking time to share with us.

Submit a response

– Emily Barske, Business Record editor

4 ideas for taking action on DEI from Catalysts Live
By Sarah Bogaards | Staff Writer
The companies and organizations profiled for the Technology Association of Iowa's Catalysts initiative in 2022 shared about their  initiatives around diversity, equity and inclusion during the Catalysts Live event on Dec. 1 at the Tea Room. Photo courtesy Technology Association of Iowa
During Workiva’s presentation at the Dec. 1 Catalysts Live event, Binny Nanavati, head of belonging, asked attendees to replace the statement "Diversity, equity and inclusion is the right thing to do" with this one: "Diversity, equity and inclusion creates and drives impact, for both short- and long-term value."

The updated statement spoke to a similar shift in this year’s Catalysts initiative by the Technology Association of Iowa. This year’s event was a platform for Iowa organizations to share about outcomes from ongoing DEI efforts that can help guide other companies, an idea that came from the chair of TAI’s board of directors and UnityPoint Health Chief Information Officer Laura Smith.

"For the last four or five years we've been profiling individuals in the state of Iowa, just one person is doing really great work within DEI," TAI President Brian Waller said. "What we did every year is we [took] a pebble or a little rock and we [threw] it in the lake and then watched it ripple. This year, she said, ‘Let's throw boulders in that lake.’"

The eight Catalysts profiled in 2022 were:

Here are ideas from four of the organizations around introducing or advancing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

Workiva: ‘The S of ESG is the next big thing’
Mandi McReynolds, Workiva’s head of global environment, social and governance, said at the heart of ESG are all stakeholders, including investors and employees, "demanding that businesses have both mutually beneficial relationships between themselves and the communities." But making that happen requires translating organizations’ values to business value, she said.

She said the environment component of ESG has "gone first," largely because it is easy for companies to measure the long-term risks and cost-avoidance associated with environmental issues.

There is movement to define the business value of the S portion, but investors are seeking more from the social and DEI metrics currently available, according to a survey by Workiva.

The company's head of belonging, Binny Nanavati, said a crucial first step for companies is not only understanding where they are with DEI but not getting stuck because of it.

"We want to begin with, first, an honest assessment of where you are as a company and embrace it, own it," Nanavati said. "Don't get frozen into saying, ‘Well, we're not really there yet' or 'Here's what our future should look like' or 'Here's what we say we are.’ Actually go ahead and own it. A lot of companies do get frozen by the current realities. What will happen is they'll say, ‘Well, we can’t talk about pay equity because we're not in a good position yet. We can't talk about gender diversity because we’re too white-male-dominated.’ I mean, you are where you are, and you have to embrace that."

Grand Consulting: Build inclusion through apprenticeship programs
Igor Dobrosavljević shared his journey living his American dream, emigrating from Yugoslavia to Iowa as a teenager. He started working a part-time IT job in high school that led to his starting Grand Consulting in 2008, an IT support firm for small and midsized businesses.

Some of his realizations as he sought to grow the company were that the path to achieving his goal was not the same for everyone and the people he was looking to hire did not require a college education.

"I noticed that a lot of our applicants for our open technical positions, well, they didn't look like me so it actually hit me that maybe I was able to live my American dream because of all the structures that are in place that have opened doors for people that look like me," Dobrosavljević said.

Since starting an apprenticeship program at Grand Consulting in 2016, he has become an advocate for how the approach can democratize access to education in technology as well as other fields.

"My hope is that Iowa will be at the forefront of this and I hope that one or two of you that are listening to me today that have power to effect change in your organization will go back and consider amending your hiring process and adding an apprenticeship to their program, because the prerequisite for Iowa being at the forefront of this is many different organizations providing a diverse and enduring set of apprenticeships that people can rely on being there for them when it's time to enter the workforce," he said.

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ABI panel discussion focuses on innovation and technology
By Michael Crumb | Senior Staff Writer
Iowa Association of Business and Industry President Mike Ralston moderates a panel discussion Dec. 1 at the Gateway Hotel Conference Center in Ames. Panelists, seated left to right, were Mitchell Messmore, director of computer vision and AI at Inseer Inc., Craig Ibsen, managing partner at Next Level Ventures, and Gabe Glynn, CEO at MakuSafe Corp. Photo by Kendall Antle, ABI Foundation
Pick a great team over a great idea.

That was the advice of Craig Ibsen, managing principal at Next Level Ventures, a strategic investment firm, during a discussion Dec. 1 at an Iowa Association of Business and Industry event with Leadership Iowa in Ames.

Ibsen participated in a panel discussion at the Gateway Hotel Conference Center as part of the Connecting Statewide Leaders discussion series, presented by ABI.

He was joined on the panel by Mitchell Messmore, director of computer vision and AI at Inseer Inc., an ergonomics safety assessment company, and Gabe Glynn, the CEO of MakuSafe Corp., a safety, data and analytics company that makes products to reduce workplace hazards and risks. The discussion was moderated by Mike Ralston, president of ABI.

During the discussion, which focused on technology and innovation, Ralston asked the panelists a series of questions ranging from the current state of innovation and technology in Iowa and what challenges the state is facing, to how investment decisions are made and what innovations they'll be closely watching in the future.

Here are highlights of the conversation. Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Give us your view of innovation and technology in Iowa.
Messmore: The University of Iowa has a great math program and a great data science program, and Iowa State has a really good software engineering program. So if you’re trying to build a company, those are great places to find people to build your product. Additionally, it seems like everything’s going cloud-based, and that infrastructure is being built out in Iowa. And we’re getting more access to different cloud-based computing throughout the U.S. So all that is coming together to help us build local companies, software companies with resources that are right here.

Ibsen: We get involved in a lot of conversations — is there enough money in the state of Iowa, are people having trouble that have great ideas getting access to capital? I’m going to have the bias that there is [enough capital] because I’m on the capital side of the equation. I think the state of Iowa, with leadership like [Iowa Economic Development Authority Director] Debi Durham and a lot of other players, does have a robust series of programs that are designed to allow young businesses to have access to capital. There are funds like myself that are waking up every day looking to make investments. Then there’s an active angel [investors] ecosystem that is looking to make investments.

How do investors decide where they want to invest?
Ibsen: It always starts with a good idea and a big addressable market. We’re in the risk business. When you make a bet, when you get into business with people, that’s a relationship that’s going to last up to 10 years, sometimes beyond. So you’re going to be in business together with people for a long time. I’ve learned there are many bumps along the road. There are macro economic events, most of them not as bad as the pandemic, but recessions happen. There are factors outside of your control that you’re going to have to weather. What I’ve learned is that an idea is going to pivot over a number of years. The original idea you invested in is not at all, almost always, going to be the business that gets sold. So if we get a chance to invest in a great team with an idea that seems a little fuzzy but we can get behind it, or what we think is an amazing idea and a team that we have some questions, every time we’re going to pick a great team because we’ve learned that great individuals, great leaders will get through and figure it out. So we’re very much investing in a people business. The most important thing that we look for is a team of people. We’re kind of looking for people who want to change the world and we think that potential is within them.

What is the next big innovation you’re keeping your eye on?
Messmore: It’s a sort of custom thing for machine learning. The analogy is the self-driving car. Right now your car can parallel park for you, it can do lane assist, but full automated driving is not here yet, and a lot of that has to do with if that car crashes, who is at fault? I would be curious to see how companies like Tesla, if they can transition to full driving cars and a machine learning algorithm that is now responsible for that output, how that changes everything.

Glynn: I think the biggest thing from our perspective right now is cybersecurity. There’s so many challenges. We’re fortunate that we work with a lot of Fortune 500 companies. We work with a lot of local companies here in Iowa, too. It takes us about a year or year and a half to get through the cybersecurity protocol with a Fortune 500 company. We’re a team of 26 people with limited resources here in Iowa. It’s just an extreme challenge, so we continue to keep our eye on the market for cybersecurity technology and some of the advancements that are happening there.

Ibsen: I’m not involved in any business today; it seems that they are not having an AI component to them. I’ve got a board meeting with an innovative business that does lung diagnostics with imaging technology. For decades you had clinicians to look at X-rays, but machine learning, AI can do that more effectively and see things earlier. So that business is really taking off and doing wonderful things in that space. You talk about AI and driving, and we see that in agriculture as well, with tractors and planting. And there’s some innovative Iowa  businesses that are emerging and looking at how AI is affecting agriculture. I’m super excited to see businesses emerge there.

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Do you know where the term 'entrepreneurial ecosystem' comes from?

"I do. The first time you saw [the word] "ecosystem" associated with entrepreneurship was in [the book] "The Rainforest" by Victor Hwang and Greg Horowitt. Like a rainforest in nature, all the different parts of a system play a role, and as we see, if one of those parts gets off-centered, it can affect all that is around it. So that was where you first saw that idea of an ecosystem being a very healthy, accurate way of describing an environment," said Ben McDougal, ecosystem builder, Techstars Iowa.
— Sarah Bogaards, staff writer

Ag Startup Engine adds Farmwave to portfolio
Ag Startup Engine, a seed capital program for agricultural startups, on Wednesday announced Farmwave as the latest company to join its portfolio. According to the news release, Farmwave offers a solution to monitoring and managing mechanical harvest loss. Using AI software, the company has developed a system of cameras that mount on the combine in three specific locations to continuously monitor mechanical yield loss, the release said. The cameras count losses every three to five seconds, allowing an operator to make adjustments as needed such as changing the pace of harvest, changing their tilt headings, or making mechanical alterations. "We're excited to be part of the growing community and relationship that ASE brings to Farmwave," CEO and founder Craig Ganssle said in the release. "We look forward to expanding those relationships with our own connections around the world and adding value as a leader in artificial intelligence in the agriculture industry." Colin Hurd, co-director for the Ag Startup Engine, said, "What intrigued me about Farmwave was the simplicity of the value proposition to farmers. We see a lot of technology looking for a problem but the Farmwave team found the problem and built some very impressive technology to solve it." More information about Farmwave is available on its website.

DMACC becomes partner institution for UI JPEC Venture School program
The University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center announced that Des Moines Area Community College has become a partner institution for its statewide Venture School Entrepreneurial Training Program. In this new role, DMACC will help recruit entrepreneurs, teams and startup coaches, and organize a Local Launch Day pitch event to be held the final night of class. "We rely on a network of partners to help us deliver our training program in communities across the state," Lynn Allendorf, director of Iowa JPEC, said in a news release. "Our partners — armed with their local knowledge — are able to provide support to the entrepreneurs after program completion." Other Venture School partner locations are in Iowa City, Dubuque, Mason City, Sioux City, Cedar Falls and the Quad Cities. The Venture School program uses the National Science Foundation I-Corps curriculum to help startup businesses turn ideas into reality. Startups, small businesses, nonprofits and corporate innovation teams can participate in the Venture School program.

New Pearson study: Human skills are the work ‘power skills’ most in demand
Corridor Business Journal: New research from Pearson finds that despite new technologies transforming the world of work, the top five most in demand skills today are human skills, with the trend set to continue through at least 2026. Using an analysis of more than 21 million job ads from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, Pearson’s Skills Outlook identifies today’s new "power skills" – those human skills now powering the world’s work economy and individual careers. The analysis shows that while technical capabilities remain vitally important for many roles, employers highly prize human skills such as collaboration, communication and leadership. Pearson’s Skills Outlook shows that job ads in 2022 were dominated by five human skills: communication, customer service, leadership, attention to detail, and collaboration. Looking ahead to 2026, Pearson’s AI-based modeling suggests that the top five power skills that will be most in demand to meet economic needs are also human skills.

Other news:
- Alliant Energy offering 25 innovation scholarships (Corridor Business Journal)
- US, EU agree to coordinate semiconductor subsidy programs (Wall Street Journal)


These stories originally appeared in the Business Record's e-newsletters and weekly publication.
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Computer science students face a shrinking big tech job market

NEW YORK TIMES: Over the last decade, the prospect of six-figure starting salaries, perks like free food and the chance to work on apps used by billions led young people to stampede toward computer science — the study of computer programming and processes like algorithms — on college campuses across the United States. The number of undergraduates majoring in the subject more than tripled from 2011 to 2021, to nearly 136,000 students, according to the Computing Research Association, which tracks computing degrees at about 200 universities. Tech giants like Facebook, Google and Microsoft encouraged the computing education boom, promoting software jobs to students as a route to lucrative careers and the power to change the world. But now, layoffs, hiring freezes and planned recruiting slowdowns at Meta, Twitter, Alphabet, Amazon, DoorDash, Lyft, Snap and Stripe are sending shock waves through a generation of computer and data science students who spent years honing themselves for careers at the largest tech companies. The cutbacks have not only sent recent graduates scrambling to find new jobs but also created uncertainty for college students seeking high-paying summer internships at large consumer tech companies.

IN OTHER NEWS: University of Iowa marketing professor Chelsea Galoni writes that the importance of a founder’s origin story is no longer just a strongly held belief but is integral to whether consumers patronize a business, according to her own and other’s emerging research (ENTREPRENEUR). One of Amazon’s recently unveiled robots automates the repetitive task of picking up objects and moving them, but long term could automate away factory jobs (WALL STREET JOURNAL).
Laying groundwork for greater collaboration
Envision Iowa survey results identify opportunities to create thriving communities
By Michael Crumb | Senior Staff Writer

Rail Explorers, a company that takes customers on a 12-mile round- trip ride from the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad to the Bass Creek High Trestle and the Des Moines River Bridge to the west and back on rail bikes, has drawn almost 10,000 customers since it opened in July.

"This is probably the biggest thing that’s happened in Boone in a long time," said Ian McCaskey, assistant division manager overseeing Rail Explorers in Boone.

And McCaskey would know. The 26-year-old is a lifelong Boone resident.

Customers have come from several states and from as far away as Canada, Mexico and Spain to ride the rails on the bikes, which carry two to four passengers, McCaskey said.

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Dec. 9: Eide Bailly Inspired Perspectives | The Anatomy of a Cyberattack: Inside an Incident
You’ve likely heard of cyberattacks but unless you've experienced one for yourself, it is easy to think it’ll never happen to you. However, the threat of a cyberattack isn’t something to be taken lightly and the damage that may occur from a poor incident response can be detrimental to an organization. This webinar will offer a different viewpoint of cyberattacks and incident response by exploring the process an attacker takes in successful cyberattacks.

WHEN: 11 a.m. - 12 p.m.
WHERE: Webinar
Register on the event page

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