Mike Ralston, president of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, hosts a panel Thursday at the Gateway Hotel conference center in Ames. Panelists, seated from left to right, were Mitchell Messmore, director of computer vision and artificial intelligence at Inseer Inc., Craig Ibsen, managing partner at Next Level Ventures, and Gabe Glynn, CEO of MakuSafe Corp. Photo by Kendall Antle, ABI Foundation
Pick a great team with a great idea.
Craig Ibsen, director of strategic investment firm Next Level Ventures, spoke Thursday at the Iowa Business and Industry Association’s Iowa Leadership Meeting in Ames.
Ibsen participated in a panel discussion at the Gateway Hotel Conference Center as part of the Connecting Leaders Across the Nation series of discussions presented by ABI.
He was joined by Mitchell Messmore, director of computer vision and artificial intelligence at Inseer Inc., an ergonomic safety assessment company, and Gabe Glynn, CEO of security, data and analytics products maker MakuSafe Corp. workplace hazards and risks. ABI President Mike Ralston moderated the discussion.
During a panel discussion on technology and innovation, Ralston asked the panelists questions about the current state of innovation and technology in Iowa, what challenges the state faces, how investment decisions are made, and what innovations to pursue. keep an eye out.
Here are the highlights of the interview. Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Tell us your thoughts on innovation and technology in Iowa.
Messmore: The University of Iowa has a great math program, a great data science program, and Iowa State has a really good software engineering program. So if you’re starting a company, these are great places to find people to build your product. Plus, everything seems to be cloud-based, and the infrastructure is being built in Iowa. And as we get more access to different cloud computing across the US, we’re coming together to help build local companies and software companies with resources that are all here.
Ibsen: We engage in many conversations – Is there enough money in Iowa and are people with great ideas having trouble getting capital? I will have the biases there [enough capital] Because I’m on the capital side of the equation. I think Iowa has the lead [Iowa Economic Development Authority Director] Debi Durham and many other players have a robust series of programs designed to give young businesses access to capital. There are funds like me that wake up every day to invest. Then there is the active angel [investors] ecosystem in which to invest.
How do investors decide where to invest?
Ibsen: It always starts with a good idea and a large addressable market. We are in a risky business. When betting and doing business with people, this relationship lasts up to 10 years, sometimes even more. So you will be doing business with people for a long time. I learned that there are many bumps along the road. There are macroeconomic events, most of them not as bad as epidemics, but recessions do happen. Factors beyond your control will affect your weather. What I’ve found is that the idea kicks around for years. The first point you made not at all, almost always sold business. So if we get an opportunity to invest in a great team with ideas that seem a little vague but we can get behind it, or so we think Great ideas, great teams, and every time we pick a great team, we’ve learned that great individuals and great leaders will get through it and figure it out. So we’re investing a lot in people’s businesses. The most important thing we are looking for is a team of people. We’re looking for people who want to change the world, and we think they have the potential.
What is Iowa doing right?
Glyn: There are a few things Iowa does incredibly well, and that’s one of the reasons I decided to stay here when we had the opportunity to get funding and move to Silicon Valley. Access to people who can get test data and determine if what I’m doing is actually possible. Or in the discovery phase, if I sit down with the owner of a production company and sit down with these leaders, they’ll open their doors and spend time with me, and I can ask them honest, candid, sensitive questions about what I’m going to do. I’m trying to create, how does it fit into their business, what should the design look like? I don’t think you take up much space. Whenever we talk about funding and money, there are various political challenges, and I tend to be a fairly conservative person financially, but I can say that I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for some financial programs. was in place.
Messmore: We have two big research organizations that have helped us a lot. We are located in Iowa City, one of the research centers of the University of Iowa. They’re an incubator for local startups, and we got discounted rent and great resources right out of the gate. In Iowa, we worked with CIRAS [the Center for Industrial Research and Service] So we go to customers and say, “Hey, are we accurate?” and deliver this data to students. Another thing about Iowa is that it’s small. You open your textbook and see one of the authors is from Iowa, and you call them and say they’d love to work with you as a consultant or something. There are also local companies willing to help you produce your products. I don’t think a lot of people are exposed to Iowa, so I think it’s going to really grow as people come here and as technology flourishes and there’s more of an atmosphere to it.
What’s the next big innovation you’re looking out for?
Messmore: This is a type of machine learning. An analogue is a self-driving car. Right now, your car can parallel park for you, it can provide lane assist, but it’s not fully autonomous yet, and if the car crashes, whose fault is it? I’d be interested to see how that changes things if companies like Tesla can move to fully self-driving cars, and now the machine learning algorithms responsible for that gateway.
Glyn: I think the biggest thing we’re seeing right now is cyber security. There are many difficulties. We are fortunate to work with many Fortune 500 companies. We work with many local companies in Iowa. It takes us a year or a year and a half to get through a cybersecurity protocol with a Fortune 500 company. We are a 26 person team with limited resources in Iowa. This is an absolute challenge, so we continue to focus on the market for cybersecurity technology and some of the advancements that are happening there.
Ibsen: I have not attended to any business to-day; They don’t seem to have an AI component. A board meeting was held with an innovative business that performs lung diagnostics using imaging technology. For decades, you’ve had doctors look at X-rays, but with machine learning, AI can do it more efficiently and see things sooner. So that business is really growing and doing amazing things in that space. You talk about artificial intelligence and driving, we see it in agriculture, tractors and cultivation. In Iowa, there are innovative businesses exploring the impact of artificial intelligence on agriculture. I’m very excited to see businesses popping up there.