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UI students expand business

BY GRETA MEYLE | APRIL 01, 2014 5:00 AM

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A company started by four University of Iowa students is expanding to Chicago to further a business began in Iowa City.

CEO Noah Berkson said he conceived an idea over the summer of 2013 to create an iPhone application to connect young entrepreneurs with mentors to begin start-up companies. After returning to school at the UI, the four members came together, and a company was born.

“We teamed up, started working on a project, [and] figured out we were a lot more productive this way,” the UI junior said. “We started getting clients out of nowhere, no marketing or anything, started working on stuff, and it just kind of clicked that we could do this as a business.”

According to a 2013 report by the Kauffman index of entrepreneurial activity, the range of entrepreneurs between the ages of 20 and 34 is only 26.2 percent in comparison to the other age groups, making this student-run start up a rare breed in the business world.

Despite the young age of the company’s staff, creative director Michael Greeby said the Bellwether team’s chemistry will set them apart in the corporate realm.

“When you talk about chemistry, I think that stands as one of our competitive advantage because, yeah, we’re a small company, but because we have the team that we do, I think that’s how we compete with … bigger companies,” Greeby said. “If you look at everybody on our team, they have a very unique and pivotal point in the whole product creation process.”

Fabricating everything from a traceable GPS bracelet for children to a phone app to deliver beer and wine, the students say their mission is to create “the technology of tomorrow.” Constructing the name, the brand, the application, the website, and all hardware integration for clients, the company has garnered 30 clients since it started, and it is set to generate more than $1 million in revenue its first year.

“The team’s crazy,” chief operations officer and UI senior Storm Vaske said. “I mean, we built a prototype GPS system in like a week, we built a whole POS system in a week and a half, we built a whole social-media site that’s just crazy detailed in like two weeks.”

While Berkson said it can be difficult to balance school and the business, traveling up to five days out of the week to network in Chicago, his efforts have proved worthwhile.

The business intends to move to Chicago to expand its horizons on May 14. Partnering with psychologist and CEO at PicTricks Steven Nakisher, the small corporation has been gaining recognition.

“I talked to hundreds of entrepreneurs who are starting their own businesses and products,” Nakisher said in an email. “Bellwether really caught my eye because they came at a perfect time for the market, and each individual team member is wildly impressive, and for that reason, I know that this business is going to have huge success.”


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