UNI helps to accelerate student entrepreneurs
The staff at UNI's John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC) have one mission: to enhance the effectiveness of Iowa's entrepreneurs. Many students have used the entrepreneurial resources that the UNI JPEC offers to help advance their own businesses. Two past JPEC tenants, Wes Merrill (Marketing '16) and Keevin O'Rourke (Marketing '16), have busy months ahead as they seek to accelerate their entrepreneurial mindset.
Merrill and O'Rourke have been involved with the entrepreneurial community for about five years and recently created a new startup. The two entrepreneurs saw a need for sponsorship within the eSports industry and created Streamweaver. According to Merrill, "Streamweaver is a marketplace that helps connect brands and advertisers with video gamers for sponsorship and endorsement opportunities." Streamweaver thrives on Twitch, a website that broadcasts people around the world playing video games live. Currently, Merrill and O'Rourke have over 70 streamers and 6 brands signed up for Streamweaver. But hopefully it only goes up from here for these entrepreneurs.
At the beginning of their entrepreneurial career, Merrill and O'Rourke attended the first Demo Day of Iowa Startup Accelerator (ISA). ISA is a 90 day launch program put on by New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative in Cedar Rapids, IA. They remember sitting in the audience at the first ISA and said to each other "We will be one of those companies. We will get into an accelerator some day." Well it's a dream come true for Merrill and O'Rourke because this year, the two got accepted into ISA with their new company, Streamweaver. They also received a $20,000 seed investment to help kickstart their business.
For Merrill, some of his best entrepreneurial experiences came from the UNI John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC). "I think I can speak for both of us when I say that being apart of the JPEC at UNI was invaluable." From the staff to the student networking, Merrill and O'Rourke made lifelong connections through the JPEC. Merrill goes on to note that the staff molded them into the people they are today because "They allowed us to fail. They didn't always try to steer the ship to achieve success and they made us learn the hard way." Merrill proceeds by saying, "Laurie Watje (Student Business Incubator Manager) was an institutional pillar to our success and saw us at our weakest and strongest moments."
Merrill and O'Rourke hope to gain even more connections through the networking involved with ISA. They have two more months of accelerating their business, but are looking forward to the future with Streamweaver. For Merrill, he's "Looking forward to seeing how the market develops." They started the accelerator program on August 1 and will launch Streamweaver to an audience on November 3. The UNIBusiness family wishes Merrill and O'Rourke the best of luck with their business.