IC Co-Lab opens to serve young entrepreneurs, startup businesses in Iowa City


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Josh Krakauer helped form Sculpt, a social media agency, when he was a student at the University of Iowa, and the recent opening of the IC CoLab will provide new space for him and other young entrepreneurs in Iowa City to develop their businesses.

Sculpt, a social-media marketing agency, is just one of several local businesses now operating at the recently opened space. The IC CoLab is a co-working incubator for start-ups; it had its grand opening on March 8.

“It’s not really a place for local businesses, but for interstate commerce, ones just starting up or already established, that are creating software or working to manufacture products,” said Mark Nolte, the president of the CoLab, and currently the president of the Iowa City Area Development.

UI officials agree that co-working incubators, such as the CoLab, will be the next step for newly graduated entrepreneurs.

“The whole point of co-working is to not feel alone,” said Krakauer, the CEO of Sculpt, a business formed by three UI graduates. “It is easy to get down on yourself and forget why you are doing this in the first place.”

Lynn Allendorf, the director of the UI’s Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Lab, said the space will provide for further support and peer-mentoring.

“Options like the IC Co-Lab and Technology Innovation Center at the UI Research Park are both very viable starter offices for a new graduate launching a business,” she said.

UI officials and Nolte are working together to help young entrepreneurs make a smooth transition from the university to the community.

“We try to connect student entrepreneurs with Co-Lab,” said David Hensley, the executive director of the UI’s Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center. “We get students to work with companies at CoLab, and that could include research or even potentially an internship.”

A collaborative space is another benefit when working in the CoLab, Nolte said. Being able to pitch ideas to other entrepreneurs and getting feedback is the advantage needed for the business they maintain.

“Things are moving so fast, you need to be first to market, first to stay ahead, and you need to be first to fail faster,” he said.

UI students who have established companies in Bedell are preparing for the future and considering the next step in expanding their business.

Epiphany Social Design, a web design and social-media firm established by four current UI students, is just one example.

“As local entrepreneurs, we are always looking to expand our business and I believe the IC CoLab gives us a great way to do so,” said Rishabh Nath, a co-founder of Epiphany Social Design. “After graduating from the UI, we would be very interested in expanding our company and setting up an office space in the IC CoLab.”

UI officials are not only trying to link students with CoLab, they are also trying to recruit local established entrepreneurs whom students can learn from.

“The one thing we are trying to do collectively is not only trying to support young entrepreneurs, but we are trying to look for people in the community to help mentor students,” Hensley said.

Young businesspeople are aware of the benefits of learning from established entrepreneurs and the benefits of meeting with similar creative minds.

“In business, I have noticed that some of the best ideas come from working together as a group and intermingling with other entrepreneurs,” Nath said. “The IC CoLab was established with this goal in mind, and I believe we will see many great ideas and companies develop here.”

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