CYstarters Cohort 8 Demo Day Recap

by Lindsey Murray, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship

CYstarters Cohort 8 Demo Day Recap

After 11 weeks packed full of education and mentorship, the CYstarters accelerator program came to a close on Tuesday, August 1. The ISU Research Park atrium was buzzing with excitement as the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship hosted the 8th annual CYstarters Demo Day. This event celebrated the 15 businesses developed over the summer by cohort 8 and showcased the progress they’ve made as part of the CYstarters program. In front of a crowd of more than 150 peers, community supporters, alumni, faculty, and staff, all 19 cohort members pitched their businesses for the final time as part of the summer experience.

CYstarters program director, Megan Graettinger with the 19 members of cohort 8.

Dean David Spalding of the Ivy College of Business took a front-row seat at the event. Spalding kicked things off with remarks on the achievements of the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, highlighting the recent recognition as #1 Entrepreneurial University of the Year by the Accreditation Council for Entrepreneurial and Engaged Universities (ACEEU).

Over the course of the afternoon, a total of $13,750 was awarded to current cohort members, CYstarters alumni, and CYstarters supporters who are paving the way for entrepreneurship and innovation at ISU. Each member of Cohort 8 blew the crowd away with compelling business pitches and high-level prototypes, making the selection process difficult for judges.

Alumni Awards

The Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship opened the awards ceremony by presenting three $2,500 CYstarters alumni awards. The winners were judged based on their business accomplishments since exiting CYstarters, future goals, and engagement within the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The winners include Collin Gauck and Jacob Kautman (Campus Town Trading), Nicholas Hanstad and Joe Thatcher (TH Media), and Dillon Jensen (JAS Monitoring).

Collin Gauck and Jacob Kautman (cohort 7), are co-founders of Campus Town Trading – a service that provides stock market education, resources and community for young investors. Since launching their company in 2022, they’ve made $25,000 in revenue, added 15 contractors to their team, and have a 27.8% growth rate month-over-month.

Nicholas Hanstad and Joe Thatcher (cohort 5), co-founded Lokoly, a platform for small business food brands to tell their stories. The team has since moved on from Lokoly, but are still in the business of storytelling. In June 2022, they launched TH Media – a Des Moines based marketing company that tells the stories of local businesses through high quality content marketing. Since 2022, they’ve added five team members, and by the end of 2023, will have over $1,000,000 in sales revenue. The team is moving into a new space to keep up their incredible momentum.

Dillon Jensen (cohort 4), is the co-founder of JAS Monitoring, a company developing state-of-the-art remote monitoring software solutions that are simple and accessible, for a more data-driven world. To date, the company has brought in over $140,000 in revenue. Since graduating, Jensen has participated in several entrepreneurship and startup accelerator programs and continues to be highly involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Ted Bair Award

The Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship presented the Ted Bair CYstarters Award to the student who best demonstrates the following characteristics: passion, respect, work ethic, cheerleader, generosity, and support. The late Ted Bair, who embodied these characteristics, was Iowa State’s SBDC Director and a generous supporter of the CYstarters program. One supporting mentor was also selected to receive a Hy-Vee gift card as thanks for their involvement in the program. Congratulations to Andrew Nguyen of Chingu BBQ and ISU graduate, Keith Kreuer of Red House Associates.

Clayton Mooney Award

Clayton Mooney of Clayton Farms (cohort 1) donated $250 that was awarded to one student team who demonstrated grit, hustle, and transparency in their startup. Congratulations to the recipients of the Clayton Mooney award, Tommy Collins and Michael Joensen of Tom Collins Soap Co.

Mystery Judge Awards

Unbeknownst to the students, five mystery judges were seated throughout the audience as they gave their business pitches. Thanks to a charitable donation from Kurt and Kristyn Tjaden, each judge received $1,000 to award one CYstarter of their choice. With 15 incredible businesses to choose from, each judge had a difficult decision to make. Mystery judges included Kurt Tjaden, former President – International, HNI; Kaylee Williams, Investment Director, InnoVenture Iowa; Max Gangestad, COO, Gross-Wen Technologies; Adrienne Greenwald, Managing Principal, VentureNet Iowa; and David Spalding, Raisbeck Endowed Dean, Ivy College of Business.

From their ability to identify a problem and clearly communicate the solution to the scalability of their business, the final selections were made based on the judges’ personal criteria. Congratulations to the recipients of the mystery judge awards: Zackry Brannen of Perfect Plantista, Eugene Meyer and Dakota Belling of Bovi-Jet, Andrew Bergerson and Jacob Elliott of True Force Technologies, Denzel Decker of FLY Designs, and Josiah and Joshua Graves of Ensemble.


Mystery judge Kurt Tjaden with award recipient Zackry Brannen.

Mystery judge Kaylee Williams with award recipients Dakota Belling and Eugene Meyer.

Mystery judge Max Gangestad with award recipients Andrew Bergerson and Jacob Elliott.

Mystery judge Adrienne Greenwald with award recipient Denzel Decker.

Mystery judge David Spalding with award recipients Josiah and Joshua Graves.

CYstarters program director, Megan Graettinger, was thrilled with the outcome of the event. She congratulated the CYstarters as they received alumni status saying, “You helped hold each other accountable. You cheered each other on…way to go for taking advantage of everything that was available to you this summer and making the most of your experience.”

Thank you to our partners, sponsors, Iowa State University staff, faculty, and the Ames community for cheering on our students as they embark on their entrepreneurial journeys. Head to the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship website for more information on the program and to read the CYstarters Spotlight stories on each member of cohort 8.