This story is part of a series featuring each of the fourteen startups in the CYstarters 2022 summer cohort. Each student has the opportunity to focus on their startup or business idea while receiving $6,500 or up to $13,000 (per team), along with mentorship, accountability, and educational sessions on how to build a business.
By Samantha Dilocker, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship
Education: Sophomore majoring in computer engineering with a minor in entrepreneurship
Hometown: West Des Moines, IA
Education: Sophomore majoring in computer science and math with a minor in entrepreneurship
Hometown: West Des Moines, IA
Currently working on: Casmium, sports analytics solutions for various baseball teams so they can utilize data to improve team performance and strategy.
Have you always seen yourself starting something?
Henry: I have, absolutely. I think that started in elementary school. I always had ideas that I’d bounce around with friends and set up lemonade stands at my family’s garage sales. That was my first introduction to starting something. Throughout public school, I’d always do business with friends and make up company names, really dream big.
P.D.: I was more focused on education. I was most concerned about getting the best grades, going to the best school, and working the best job. Until high school, when starting something of my own started to take more priority.
When did you start working on Casmium, and who or what inspired you?
Henry: In February 2020, we were in computer science class as juniors at Valley High School. We had no idea of working on a project until our teacher forwarded us an email from the baseball coach saying they wanted a digital way to track stats. They had previously been using paper and pencil and talked about using spreadsheets, but they were tired of being unorganized and having messy data and finally considered using a digital tool. They were smart to ask computer science students to make something! We were super interested, so we said yes. The original intention was that it would be a school project, nothing more, and we thought it would be pretty simple to make. They had an existing tool to collect data, a simple mobile app, that we could take that data from the spreadsheet into a mobile dashboard. That took us a few months, but we were able to do it by the summer. As we were building it, we learned so much because all of the technology to build it was very new to us. And we realized there was a huge market for this. Big data is such a big thing right now, and sports is a huge industry, so after some research, we realized that other schools had the same problem and we could do something about it. That’s when we officially started and called it Casmium, which is inspired by the periodic table. Since elements are the foundation of nature, we wanted Casmium to be the foundation of sports analytics for everyone. We were motivated to make our own app instead of the app Valley was using because it was causing problems with our system, so we expanded that and our team, three more guys, and then we formed an LLC in January 2021, and now we’re here.
P.D.: We knew that if Valley had a problem, and they’re a pretty large school in Iowa and a pretty well-established baseball team, then other teams probably do. So we decided to go for it and get it started, so we could market to other teams and maybe make money and give the tool to other teams.
What excites you about being an entrepreneur?
P.D.: Everyone in this space is passionate. Everyone is working on something and actively putting all of their efforts into it, and you just don’t get that in any other industry. One of our mentors, Dave Sly, you can see that as soon as he sees a problem within a company, his wheels are immediately turning and he’s thinking of potential solutions. You don’t see that anywhere else. That’s what I love about entrepreneurship.
Henry: Being passionate about an idea and willing to go the extra mile is something I see in the entrepreneurship community, and it’s really inspiring. A Steve Jobs quote I really resonate with says, ‘The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.’ I’ve always been a curious person about literally everything, and being able to identify with the entrepreneurship community makes me feel like I guess I’m one of the crazy ones. The ability to make a small difference, if any, gives me the drive to work on something. I love making things, so this is the perfect avenue to have a way to do it.
What is your biggest goal for your business?
Henry: The quick answer would be to make money—
P.D.: Reach more teams. We’re still very much local. Right now, our reach is only a few high school teams. Through CYstarters, we’re hoping to reach more schools in Iowa and go from there. Baseball analytics at that level just doesn’t exist yet.
Henry: I think we have a unique opportunity to provide technology that people may not have access to. We’re in a space where we can make a difference, and I challenge others on my team to think like that as well.
What has been your biggest challenge thus far, and how have you overcome it?
Henry: Well, software development is hard.
P.D.: Technology keeps updating.
Henry: Estimating how much time things will take is not our strong suit because of the challenges that come with software. Our app has taken us over two years to have a working version, which is a lot longer than we expected. I find myself losing patience some days, wondering why we’re still stuck where we are. Overcoming that allows me to realize that I shouldn’t be stuck in the day-to-day. I should reflect on what we’ve actually done, which is a lot more than I think.
P.D.: There’s a big difference between high school and college projects. I spent at most thirty minutes to one hour on one assignment in high school. Problem to solution. In college, probably ten, eleven hours on one, problem to solution. When it comes to software, to a whole application, you have to make each individual page for settings, profile, and individual thing that doesn’t even focus on the problem. That adds so much extra time. All the back-end stuff you don’t even see, there could be one “if” statement that’s throwing everything off, and it could take you an hour to fix. None of that is really reflected in high school or college class settings. You can’t plan time management like that. We initially estimated it would take three months to get it done, just all of it.
Henry: That’s also because we were ignorant to what the scope of it would look like.
P.D.: Our goals have kept growing as we’ve worked on them. We completed what Valley wanted a few months later, but then we made new goals ourselves.
How has entrepreneurship at Iowa State impacted you?
Henry: Extremely positively. After freshman year, I’m surprised and very fortunate to already be involved in the entrepreneurship family. That’s really what I would call it. A mentor we spoke to even before we came here told us to grab every resource we could, every opportunity, and get involved with the Pappajohn Center. In September, we placed first at the Fall Startup Pitch Competition. That was a wow factor for me. That showed me we can do so much, and we aren’t even close to being done with our college journey. I’ve appreciated that so much.
P.D.: AS soon as we got involved with the pitch competitions, we felt so much support from each person. At the pitch competition, we went in expecting not to get anything. As the names were rolling out, third place came, second place came, and I thought, ‘Okay, all the names are done, there’s no way we got first,’ and then Casmium was named as first. It was a huge shock and a huge reinforcement that what we are doing is moving in a meaningful and positive direction.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student?
Henry: Personally, I have trouble with balance and FOMO, the fear of missing out, so as our mentor said, try everything you can. But try not to take that too literally, don’t push yourself too far. People like to make fun of the work-life balance thing. To a certain extent, you have to have true grit and be able to put in the extra work to accomplish something. Still, it’s all about keeping your priorities where they align with your core values, whatever that may look like, and doing something that makes you joyful is what I think would make a college student most successful.
P.D.: One of the things you hear from elderly people after they’ve retired is a lot of “I regret doing this, I regret not doing that,” so ever since I saw that pattern of them regretting, I’ve always tried to combat that myself. My approach to this life is before every major decision, starting a company, making a decision within that company, you think about whether that is the best decision, you really focus on what the benefits are, the costs are, and after making that decision, you commit fully to it. You can’t really regret something that you thought about and thought was the best decision at the time.
How can we support Casmium?
Henry: Connect with us. We’re happy to discuss our sports analytics software with anyone. We’re still prototyping right now. Follow us on our social media, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. If you’re interested in what we’re doing, hit us up.
P.D.: We want to get more involved in the baseball community in Iowa and learn more!