Fall Startup Pitch Competition 2023 Recap

The atmosphere in the room was electric as students, members of the community, and ISU staff occupied the rows of seats within the Student Innovation Center on campus. A quiet buzz of anticipation filled the air as three judges and an audience of students and competitors eagerly awaited the business pitches from 18 interdisciplinary Iowa State finalists ready to showcase their innovations.

The History of the Fall Pitch Competition

The Fall Startup Pitch Competition has come a long way since its debut in 2013, starting with just one afternoon of pitches. In 2022, it had grown to two days of pitches, drawing in 57 students who competed for a chance to win a portion of $9,000 in cash prizes. It was obvious that the competition was becoming popular as it drew in more and more entrepreneurial talent.

This year marked the 11th annual Fall Startup Pitch Competition. It has grown even further, and this year consisted of three days of pitches plus a finale. 105 students, nearly double the previous year’s number, registered to pitch their new or existing business ideas. The ideas ranged from a variety of industries and addressed many topics, from financial literacy to exotic pet food. The Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship awarded a total of $16,400 in cash prizes, $7,400 more than the 2022 competition.

The growth of this event proves that the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship at Iowa State University is the place to be for students interested in entrepreneurship and innovation. Carrie Mulford, who pitched her idea for Fable Fox Bookstore and made it through to the finale, said, “My experience in the Fall Startup Pitch Competition has been fantastic. It gave me connections with other student entrepreneurs and has helped me build my confidence in speaking in front of judges and promoting myself and my business. It has been an invaluable experience.”

Showcasing Student Innovation and Entrepreneurial Excellence

Last week, the students brought their A-game by presenting incredible business ideas with excellent pitches that left the judges and the audience in awe. After each day of preliminary pitches, six finalists were selected, three with new ideas and three with existing business ideas. These decisions were not easy for the judges.

The grand finale that took place on Thursday, September 28, in the Student Innovation Center featured 18 finalists. Each finalist had the opportunity to pitch their ideas for 90 seconds in front of a panel of three judges: Judi Eyles (Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship), Dylan Kline (Ames Chamber of Commerce), and Jim Langin (Langin Solutions Unlimited). Selecting winners was challenging for the judges, as all 18 ideas were innovative and well-presented. Jim Langin said, “As a business owner and consultant, I know what a challenge it can be to start a business and keep the momentum going. These students originated great ideas…I was blown away by the quality of the ideas and their ability to present in 90 seconds. I went away feeling bullish on the future for the Midwest and our Country with these young people coming up.”

In the end, five awards were presented to the following participants:

  • First place (existing business) – Dakota Belling of Bovi-Jet: Bovi-Jet manufactures automated medicinal spraying systems for cattle producers to make their farming practices more efficient.
  • Second place (existing business) – Henry Shires of Casmium: Casmium provides convenient, affordable, and accessible tools to collect, store, and analyze baseball and softball stats for individuals and teams.
  • Honorable mention (existing business) – Cam Reiman of NutriCubes: a line of pet food formulated for exotic pets.
  • First place (new business) – Andrew Jesus of Zeus Labs: A series of STEM programs highlighting the basics of robotics. Students learn to build, program, and drive robots.
  • Second place (new business) – Vaidehee Bahirat, Benedict Neo, Andy Foo, and Jashwanth Kumar of EdAI: a private, secure, and controlled AI platform that will help professors generate customized assignments, in-class activities, or exams based on their course contents.

Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship

“My experience this year in the Fall Startup Pitch Competition was great! With the winnings earned, I’ll be putting it into the business, and using it to pay for farm show fees as we bring our product to the market,” said first-place winner, Dakota Belling of Bovi-Jet.

The 2023 Fall Startup Competition continues to highlight entrepreneurial talent and innovations happening across the Iowa State University campus. Thank you to our judges and all the students who participated in the event. Head to isupjcenter.org for more information on the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship.

By: Lindsey Murray