Thursday, May 9, 2019

Entrepreneurism can be an important part of a city’s economic development. The UI’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center recently held its Startup Games competition, encouraging students from all disciplines to pitch their entrepreneurial ideas in a three-day competition. As an urban planning master’s student with a concentration in economic development, Emily Legel thought this would be a great opportunity to gain insight into the entrepreneurial process and decided to pitch her idea in the competition, winning second place.

The competition included 74 participates pitching 30 ideas. The participants selected the top 10 ideas and then formed teams among themselves, working on developing each project to present to the final panel of judges at the end of the event. Legel’s idea consisted of creating a mobile application to be used by planners as a platform for engaging directly with the public, and was chosen as one of the top 10. Experience in her capstone project led to the idea after realizing public forums can be limited by people’s time to attend the scheduled events. Her idea centered on meeting people where they are. The app gathers feedback on specific questions planners pose to the public, allowing input on their own timeline, to be used in the planning process.

Her group’s work was selected for second place in the games, winning a $750 prize. Legel recommends planning students participate in this event, or similar ones such as the upcoming Iowa City Startup Weekend July 12-14th, sponsored by MERGE, an Iowa City co-working space for entrepreneurs and startups. Planners often lack business experience and can find it difficult to understand the challenges of the startup process. As entrepreneurism becomes an increasingly significant part of cities’ economic development strategy and an important aspect of the communities planners serve, events that allow for a simulation of the process can provide planning students with a feel for the process.

Pictured are: Vern Ancelet, Art; Anshuman Sahu, Mechanical Engineering; Chukwuebuka Ogwo, Oral Science PhD ; and Emily Legel, Urban and Regional Planning