CYstarters Spotlight Story: PollUp

By Maggie Larson, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship

Some people know exactly what profession they want to pursue. Others explore every option until they finally stumble upon something suitable for them. And the most innovative and inventive of them all, create something for themselves.

This self-directed path is exactly what Kenyon Brown was ready for.

After the realization that he was not going to be a doctor or astronaut or any other career in between, he finally decided that what he wanted to do could not be molded into one specific category. Entrepreneurship was the route that was calling his name and studying management information systems (MIS) at Iowa State, he had the perfect toolset he needed to develop his own software. Not to mention the perfect partners to aid him in building a business.

When the stars aligned between big ideas and the needed resources to accomplish them, Kenyon, along with Neil Saigal and Dave Leo, didn’t hesitate.

Last October, they landed on the idea of polling Iowa State students to get feedback on campus culture that could be shared and used by the student body. What was their favorite restaurant? What is the best thing to do in Ames? And further content along those lines. However, they quickly found that it was a dead-end.

“Students didn’t seem to care,” Kenyon stated.

Pivoting — His team liked the platform they created, but had to reconfigure their audience. So they started asking — what is the pain point we are looking to solve? And who’s pain is bigger than all the others?

The pain with biggest gain — Human Resources Managers.

After this epiphany, the pieces for PollUp started falling into place.

What is PollUp?

PollUp helps companies get employee feedback in real-time to retain employees, and create a proud company culture.

PollUp is becoming the expert within Proactive Feedback Management — the act of utilizing feedback to understand your employees so you can get ahead of any situations that may prevent or alter their best work or engagement within the organization.

Note: Text, numbers, and questions are arbitrary and are not reflective of real data; for demo purpose only.
Demo of the iOS version of PollUp

How does it work?

HR managers can now utilize PollUp’s curated content and questions to help guide their organizations with success and not just retain employees, but happy employees. Customization is also available within the software.

While content is king, so is the software in and of itself. By focusing on providing efficiency and effectiveness in decision making, PollUp’s software platform offers HR managers a seamless experience on both the front and back-end. This is all conveniently done through either a mobile app or web version.

In recent interview, we sat down with Kenyon Brown to get further insight on PollUp, the current status of their business, and their plans for the future.

What has made you successful so far?

How much I truly care about design and the feel of PollUp. When I show people the product, it speaks for itself. There is such a stigma that goes along with HR, so creating a service to help with the perception of HR , you have to make it beautiful. And my team has put in so much time into seeing that through.

Have you experienced any setbacks?

Yes. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to fit as many features as we initially hoped. This is when we took to customers to reevaluate what was most essential and worth it for them. After that, we had a very clear guide when it came to what to eliminate and what to keep.

Where do you see your business in the short-run and long-run?

In the short run, I want to make PollUp accessible on all applications- iOS, Android, and Windows. Currently we are building on the iOS platform.

I have big aspirations when it comes to long-term goals. I envision PollUp being THE portal for employee communication. I want it to completely redefine things like “employee of the month”, strengthen company morale, and be the tool companies utilize to find and solve problems internally.

What was your earliest entrepreneurial experience?

I’m originally from Mason City, and in 5th grade, we took a field trip to the NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center. Obviously I thought nothing of it at the time, I still thought I was going to be an astronaut!

But in high school, I had my first real encounter with entrepreneurship. A friend and I thought we had a brilliant idea for a documentary series and were ambitious enough to want to pursue it and start a film company. Our dreams were shot when we realized just how expensive all the equipment would be. So that was the beginning and end of that pursuit!

What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?

If you have an idea, it may not seem like you have the means needed to get it done, but don’t let that discourage you or allow you to give up. If you really open your eyes and search for those resources, they will find you.

You can create something out of nothing.

What has been your favorite moment of CYstarters?

Seeing how possible it is to becoming a successful entrepreneur in Iowa. You always hear about people making it in places like Chicago and New York, but entrepreneurship isn’t as prevalent here. With CYstarters, I am surrounded by people who are on the same journey to starting their own business, just as I am.

We are all crafting our own success stories.

Checkout PollUp through their website,

Interested in becoming a Beta User? Contact Kenyon at