New space created to foster entrepreneurial growth


With a population of motivated entrepreneurs that is continually growing, the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business is presenting a new resource to the collection of working environments in Iowa City — Thinc.

Thinc opened at 122 E. Market, which also houses the Hillel House, a space previously used by the School of Art and Art History the 2008 flood. Officials hope this renovated area will serve as a starting point for sparking further innovation and partnership.

Lynn Allendorf, the director of the UI Bedell Entrepreneurial Learning Lab, said the intention is to have students begin at the new Thinc space and work toward Bedell.

“We thought this collaboration space could be a place where [students] could go and meet with their teams and meet with their clients,” Allendorf said.

Calling it a “space for collaboration of people of all ages,” Dawn Bowlus, the director of the Jacobson Institute for Youth Entrepreneurship, noted that the space will reach first and foremost to individuals affiliated with the UI, though it will still accommodate the public.

“The entrepreneurial programs at the university appeal to students across the University of Iowa so we accommodate students from 50-plus  majors who take entrepreneurial classes,” Bowlus said. “So definitely the innovation culture and wanting to be part of the creative movement is a very important aspect of Iowa City’s culture, the university’s culture, as well as the state’s.”

The UI entrepreneurship program has grown recently, jumping up to 3,890 undergraduate students in fiscal 2012 from 3760 students. The graduate program has also increased its enrollment — increasing to 273 students, up from 227 the previous year.

Among available office space, giant white boards line the walls to aid in business-to-business collaboration efforts. There are various study atmospheres — including a table area, stand alongside computers, couches, and private meeting rooms.

“The space is a very open floor plan where there are a lot of area for people to work in teams and collaborate,” Bowlus said. “There are white boards all over — every open space has the ability to be a white board where people can draw out their ideas and create a vision for what they want.”

Founded in 1996, the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center was made a reality through a gift from John and Mary Pappajohn of Des Moines.

David Hensley, the associate vice president for the Entrepreneurial Center, said in his time at the UI he has seen enrollments increase from 200 to now over 4,000.

But, he said, the entrepreneurial climate in the state has also been escalating in terms of growth.

“From the president down to the governor: when you think about it at the national level, the state level, the local level, its innovation and entrepreneurship — that drives the economic ecosystem and that’s why people are so excited about entrepreneurship and want to help support it, because it leads to job creation, wealth creation, solving Syria’s problems, etc.” Hensley said. “And I think it separates the U.S. from a lot of other countries in that we are the world’s biggest leader in innovation and entrepreneurship, and that’s what we are trying to help young people take advantage of here.” 

Mark Nolte, the president of the Iowa City CoLab and currently the president of the Iowa City Area Development, said if Iowa and the Midwest are to be taken seriously in regards to entrepreneurial endeavors, more co-lab spaces are needed.

“If we’re going to be recognized for a hub for entrepreneurship, we need density,” he said. “These spaces are the baseline; it’s where we start.”

The initiative to expand was birthed from the growing popularity seen at the Bedell Entrepreneurial Learning Laboratory. In recent months, students who sought out office space for their venture startups have been put on waiting lists. Seeing this problem, UI officials advocated for a new place to encourage entrepreneurship.

Through a business consulting class, UI students are paired with an entrepreneurial venture before tackling real- world projects.

Thinc, Allendorf said, is an additional outlet where that project development can occur as well as building clientele relationships. The space harbors great possibilities for many areas of innovation and entrepreneurship, Allendorf said, especially for students who are beginning get a taste of the trade.

Josh Krakauer, a cofounder of Sculpt, a social-media marketing agency, said he is eager to witness the impact on students derived from the new co-lab.

“We all started companies here so we are celebrating the next generation of entrepreneurs,” said Krakauer, a 2012 UI graduate. “And this space is all about cultivating ideas and people who have ideas.”

For Nolte, local startups have the potential to grow beyond their entrepreneurial roots.

“One of these companies that’s starting out at Thinc today could be the next ACT in 10 years, if we support them,” he said.

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