Multiple Iowa City entrepreneurs accepted into accelerated program

A National Idea Accelerator Program has selected ten Iowa City locals to make their innovative ideas into reality through grants and workshops.


Lillie Hawker

The University of Iowa Tippie College of Business building is seen on Sunday, April 24, 2022.

Katie Asher, News Reporter

University of Iowa second-year College of Dentistry students Jackie Yeh and David Jun noticed a lack of dental glasses and tools that fit facial structures of Asian people. The duo now has an opportunity to change that.

The student team will create the innovative tools in a national program that accepted 10 Iowa City entrepreneurs to make their ideas into physical inventions as part of a national program.

“What inspired us was taking action and taking that extra step to make a difference in people’s lives,” Yeh said.

The Builders + Backers National Idea Accelerator gives participants a chance to share their ideas and put them into action using grant funding, resources, and workshops. All entrepreneurs will go to a 45-day bootcamp and receive a $5,000 grant.

Some Iowa City entrepreneurs will create projects including an arm-wrap for neuropathy for chemotherapy, a digital platform surrounding skincare, and a new method for developing the Iowa City community economy.

Jun and Yeh both said they originally thought about creating their own products as a pipedream, until they found out about the Builders + Backers program.

“We joked about creating something new,” Jun said.

As dental students, Yeh said they know certain glasses or tools do not fit everyone’s facial structure, and they wanted to design something that would fit everyone.

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Yeh and Jun will evaluate their service using the “four phase” program, which is used to help people better with their product.

“Currently we are on Sprint 1 out of 4 and each sprint is about 2-3 weeks long,” said Jun. “Our first sprint is to define the problem and how our idea will solve it, this is done by breaking down the problem into multiple exercises.”

The program is conducted nationwide, and 10 Iowa City residents, including UI students and alumni, will represent Iowa:

  • Jackie Yeh and David Jun, a current UI student.
  • Madeleine Humpal-Pash, a current UI student.
  • Quincy Fuller, a UI alum.
  • Madison Richard, a current UI student.
  • Aravin Sivamurugan and Subin Erattakulangara, who are current UI students.
  • Sylvia Jons, an Iowa City Human Rights Commission Member.
  • Simeon Talley, a UI alum and owner of Basic Goods in Iowa City.
  • Brain Nigg, a UI alum.

The four steps include discussing an idea and why it might be beneficial, experimenting and testing the product, figuring out whether it is good and usable, and finalizing the item/product.

During this process, the two hope to gain a better idea and understanding of the process of developing equipment and to create more quality glasses for Asian people. The two stated they are most excited to meet the other Iowa City entrepreneurs and see what their ideas are.

The first Iowa cohort was created in January 2022, according to a press release from the program.

The program will invite all entrepreneurs to a 45-day bootcamp to teach participants how to put ideas into action. All builders will also receive a $5,000 Pebble Grant to test their ideas.