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Iowa City area startups compete for $25,000

Date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Originally published in the Iowa City Press Citizen by Aly Brown.

Eight Iowa City and Coralville companies were chosen to advance to the second round in the Iowa Business Plan Competition, each vying for a grand prize of $25,000.

After 50 companies entered executive summaries to the competition, which is run by the University of Northern Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, 26 will advance to the second stage. Of that 26, eight companies are from Iowa City or Coralville.

Contestants go through three rounds of elimination where each business submits a plan and interviews with a panel of judges. The top three businesses divvy up $50,000, with $25,000 going toward first place, $15,000 to second, and $10,000 to third place.

The 25 remaining competitors submitted their business plans on Thursday. Seven to 10 companies will be contacted on Aug. 12 to advance to the next round. The competition will end Sept. 18.

Cardiostrong and Pear Deck, two startups based at IC CoLab in Iowa City, are bringing new products and services to two booming markets — sports drinks and supplements and web-based teaching tools.


Anant Kamath, founder and CEO of Kamath Biosciences LLC and Cardiostrong, said his team is formulating natural products for athletes such as a recovery beverage, an energy gel and an upcoming product for triathletes and marathoners.

“We wanted to create something better that athletes can consume so that they can become better in competition,” he said. “Some of the athletes that we have compete for money, so it’s their actual way of life and they’re doing it to put food on the table, and they want to make sure they have the best resources available, in terms of nutrition.”

The recovery beverage is sugar-free and safe for diabetics, and the gel is vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free. Kamath said the company will continue to focus on a variety of dietary needs, including more vegan, Kosher and Halal products.

Kamath said his team sampled every sports gel on the market to study their deficiencies and particular ingredients that were delivered in too high of amounts.

Most gels don’t contain calcium, which positively contributes to bone density and growth, and magnesium, which prevents cramping, he said.

Cardiostrong also added ursolic acid, a cutting-edge natural compound from sources such as the skin of green apples, which was found to burn fat and build muscle.

“We did it because we wanted to make sure we weren’t just copying somebody and creating the same product and giving it a different name,” he said. “We wanted to reformulate it from the ground up.”

Kamath said the company is offering its products in four local stores, nationally and online, and hopes to expand into markets in Asia, the Middle East and South America.

Pear Deck

What if you could plan and build an interactive lesson in which you could receive real-time feedback from your students and adjust to their needs?

Pear Deck, a platform built on Google Drive, allows students to respond to the lesson in real-time via devices. Students can ask or answer questions anonymously, and the teacher can adjust the lesson if students aren’t comprehending the material.

Michal Eynon-Lynch, COO and chief educator at Pear Deck, has a background in education, and was a high school English, history and drama teacher, most recently at Scattergood Friends School in West Branch.

Eynon-Lynch said she previously helped develop ActiveGrade, an online grade book for standards based testing. Pear Deck originally was developed as a way to present ActiveGrade to buyers.

“Later, as we were thinking of leaving that company and maybe starting a new company, we started thinking that maybe that presentation was really neat and had a lot of applications and thought other teachers might enjoy that interaction as well,” she said.

Eynon-Lynch said the idea behind Pear Deck dates back to when she was a shy student, afraid to speak her mind even when she had a really good idea she wanted to share.

“What I really love about Pear Deck is it allows every student in the class to participate and really think for themselves and put their ideas out, and those come up on the projector screen anonymously,” she said.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority Board also awarded the startup $100,000 this week, which Eynon-Lynch said she plans to use to hire personnel this fall.

Reach reporter Aly Brown at or 887-5404.

Local Companies Advancing in the Iowa Business Plan Competition

Immortagen, biotechnology (withdrawn from competition). A biotechnology company based at the University of Iowa BioVentures Center offering a tumor profiling service for personalized medicine, dropped out of the competition.

“We are a very young startup, and we decided to focus our efforts on building a more robust business model before entering into such a visible competition,” co-founder Kristina Thiel said via email.

Innovas Technologies LLC, industrial/energy.

Iowa Adaptive Technologies, medical devices and equipment.

Kamath Biosciences LLC (Cardiostrong), food and beverage.

Pear Deck, internet/web service.

pxAlpha, medical devices and equipment.

Real Property Intelligence, LLC, real estate.

TranslaCare, Inc., software.

For more information, go to

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