CYstarters Spotlight Story: Up The Ante Productions

By Gracen Kostelecky, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship

This story is part of a series featuring each of the fifteen startups in the CYstarters 2018 summer cohort. Each team has the opportunity to focus on their startup or business idea while receiving $6,500 or up to $13,000, along with mentorship, accountability, and educational sessions on how to build a business.

Walsweer shares about Up the Ante Production’s business progress to a community of supporters at the CYstarters’ 2018 Demo Day event held at ISU Research Park, Core Facility on August 1, 2018.

Get to Know: Anthony Swindell and Ethan Walsweer

Anthony Swindell
 Senior at Iowa State University, studying mechanical engineering
Grayslake, Illinois

Ethan Walsweer
 Senior at Iowa State University, studying mechanical engineering
Marengo, Illinois

Ethan and Anthony met during a materials engineering course in the fall of 2017. They started studying and doing homework together, but assumed their friendship would probably end there. The two mechanical engineering students thought that their only similarity was that they were both from the Chicago suburbs, but little did they know that they shared a passion for creating videos and telling stories.

After discovering that they each owned different types of camera equipment, they decided to shoot their first video together. Fast forward a few months; the two were accepted into the CYstarters student accelerator at Iowa State University. They spent all summer together, honing their videography skills to start their own company, Up the Ante Productions.


What is Up the Ante Productions?

A: Up the Ante Productions is a videography company. We produce videos to tell a story. The problem we saw was how marketing videos are generally unengaging and overall ineffective. We found a way to engage an audience using storytelling and unique video techniques. Up the Ante Productions plays off the emotion of the viewer.

Up the Ante Productions uses its unique video techniques, along with drones and professional DSLR cameras to build a story around events, brands, or businesses that are worth watching.


How do two engineers start a videography company?

E: I met Anthony in class a few years ago. We quickly became friends and started hanging out a lot. He mentioned to me once that he owned a drone and I told him that I owned a GoPro. Both of us had a passion for making videos, but neither of us knew that about each other. Anthony’s sister set us up with our first gig at her apartment complex to shoot a promotional video, and the rest is history.


How did you get into flying drones?

A: I have been flying RC Helicopters for almost 10 years. I got an entry level drone for Christmas a few years back and have slowly updated since. I just recently updated to a DJI Mavic Pro.


Swindell landing his drone during a video shoot for Union on Lincoln Way Apartments.

Who are your customers?

E: We have been all over the board this year. We have shot videos for real estate, including Rally Cap Properties, a sorority, product companies, a local church, a student organization for Iowa State University, and events like ‘Out of the Darkness’ and the 80/35 Music Festival.

A: Eventually we would like to focus on shooting videos for brands. We are currently working with Bear Butt, Barefoot Campus Outfitter, and Leedz Salon to shoot promotional videos about their products and services.

How have you grown professionally?

E: Technology is a huge part of our industry. Staying up-to-date with the latest techniques and trends with video editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects is extremely important.

A: Like Ethan said, Adobe Premiere Pro can be a bit daunting, but I have learned so much over the last year. I am also working on drone time lapses. Using a drone adds a lot of variables, and the shots you capture improve videos a lot.

How has CYstarters helped you?

E: Collaborating with everyone involved with CYstarters is awesome. Not only do we learn from everyone in the program, but we have also picked up quite a few clients from some of the CYstarters businesses.

Additionally, the accountability aspect is great. Meeting one-on-one with Diana and Gracen is extremely beneficial. Forcing us to have the difficult conversations that we normally wouldn’t think about has been huge for our business.

What is your favorite resource?

E: YouTube is an incredible resource. People like Peter McKinnon and Parker Walbeck produce amazing ‘how to’ videos for video and editing techniques. There is a huge community of videographers on YouTube, and that has been very beneficial.

Advice for aspiring Iowa State entrepreneurs?

A: The best entrepreneurs are experts in that industry. Don’t try and start something you don’t know anything about. In addition to Up The Ante Productions, I am also a chess player, and I have my own business where I teach chess to kids. I am passionate about it, so it makes working that job a lot easier. During my three years at Iowa State, I have taught over 100 kids from three different schools in Ames and plan to expand to the Gilbert school district this coming year.

Swindell and Walsweer shoot a promotional video for CYstarters member, Srdjan Pavelic, and his business, Aloha 21st Century Boomboxes.

What are your goals going forward?

A: We would love to have this turn into our full-time job. One goal is to work with some of our favorite brands and travel around the world to shoot incredible videos.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced?

A: As an engineer, we are taught to be very analytical, and rely on the left brain. Finding the balance of analytics and creativity, is something we typically don’t utilize during academics, but it can also be very rewarding in the end if we find the correct balance.

How can others help you?

E: If you have a product, business, or event that needs video promotion, we would love to talk to see how we can help you.

A: On the other side, if you know of any successful videographers that we could talk with or shadow, that would be incredible.

How should others find and connect with you?

A: You can find us at, on our Facebook and Instagram pages, and you can see all of our work on our YouTube Channel.