Battle of the Brands: First Round, Tech Startups Region

If you’re looking for the pulse of the tech startup community in the Midwest, look no further than what’s happening at Silicon Prairie News (SPN). As all of the brands below would probably attest, SPN not only provides excellent new coverage of the tech startup community in places like Des Moines, Omaha and Kansas City, they offer support to make the startup community a better place to network, collaborate and build. All of us at Lessing-Flynn are more than stoked that SPN agreed to participate with us as a sponsor for the Tech Startups Region in this years’ Battle of the Brands.

Brands for this region were selected by SPN with input from Lessing-Flynn. Copy about the brands discussed below were compiled by SPN’s Geoff Wood and Brittany Mascio and unless otherwise noted.


lessing_flynn_battle_of_the_brands_startup_regionSmartyPig vs. Jethros’s BBQ* An online, social savings platform, Smarty Pig is one of the most established startups in the contest today. Founded by Mike Ferrari and Jon Gaskell in 2006, SmartyPig is popular not only in it’s home state of Iowa but with users across the country and Australia! Al Roker is a bit of a fan, too!

Jethro’s in a tech start-up region? Well, let’s just say Lessing-Flynn couldn’t resist the idea of pork vs. pork. And who would have though you could do that without the Iowa Pork Producers. We digress. Jethro’s emerged victorious over Smokey D’s BBQ with about 75% of the total votes. The folks at Jethro’s don’t just make great BBQ, they’re a class act and actually directed people to check out Smokey D’s BBQ on Twitter after they won the play in game.

Eliason Media vs. Pongr Somewhat of a parent company to several online and social applications, Eliason Media was founded by it’s namesake James Eliason and is based in Urbandale. Apps include, Gordilla, Twittad and With additional technical resources on board, they recently announced a new initiative, 9 Blue Labs will take off August 1.

Officially based in Boston, Pongr became an Iowa startup in 2010 when co-founder Zach Cox returned to the Des Moines area. He’s now building the infrastructure for the company here and the team now has three members based in Iowa. They’ve built a game out of their image-recognition technology, allowing people to scale a virtual corporate ladder by texting more and more photos of brand logos to back to Pongr HQ.


Torsion Mobile vs. VolunteerLocal** In 1998, Christian Gurney and Richard Kirsner teamed up to start building tools for the web. Now working under the name, Torsion Mobile, the team is working on innovative – and somewhat secretive, mobile app software. Located in downtown Des Moines as neighbors across the hall from Dwolla in the Midland Building, the team continues to adapt to the evolving mobile scene and grow with a new hire set to come on board in August and more developers joining the team.

VolunteerLocal offers web-based software to manage volunteer forces at large athletic competitions, community festivals, and non-profit events. Born out of a need identified by Des Moines Arts Festival, VolnteerLocal has helped support events like the AAU Junior Olympic Games and the World Food Festival. The Des Moines based company is led by Catchwind founder, Brian Hemesath and Geoff Wood, who is the COO of Silicon Prairie News and the Co-Founder of Startup Foundation Des Moines.

T8 Webware vs. Hatchlings T8 Webware is one of the most active startups in the Cedar Falls’ area. The financial web strategy and personalized services firm created by Wade Arnold in 2005, now counts more than 200 financial institutions as clients and provides several products across the banking spectrum. Recent engagements include international work with and Indiana-based German American Bancorp.

Formerly known as the Worldwide Easter Egg Hunt, Hatchlings is a Facebook application that still considers itself the “world’s largest Egg Hunt” with more than 9 million virtual eggs collected by more than 55,000 active users. 22- year-old Brad Dwyer founded the application in 2008 and has described it as “a mix between Beanie Babies, Pokémon cards, and Tamagotchis.”

tikly vs. Shoplr Tikly is a ticketing service for local venues established this year and lead by founder Emma Peterson. This ticketing service with a twist works with artists, venues, and event coordinators with seven artists and six venues represented in the Des Moines area.

Shoplr launched in private beta in late May of this year and announced the latest beta had been sent through to testers last week. Set to launch shortly, Shoplr, co-founded by Nathan Haila and Sam Schill, will teach Ames and the surrounding areas not how to Dougie but how to shop smarter locally.

bHeroic vs. Locusic Emerging from Startup Weekend’s Unleashed Heroes, Robert Hidajat created bHeroic to be a social game that encourages ordinary heroism by tracking and rewarding heroic acts. Although they’ve yet to launch, bHeroic has won an award for “Best in Category for Emerging Technologies” by AMA Iowa.

Also emerging from Startup Weekend was Locusic – an Internet radio service that lets you discover local music and gives unsigned bands airplay in their local community. Think of it as Pandora for local music; locusic.

Uppward vs. ScoreYard Uppward is a social travel application that makes it easier for travelers to chat, make connections and get value from in-flight conversations, check-in to specific flights and connect with fellow travelers sitting beyond their immediate row. Co-founders James Elliason, Nate Becker, Nathan T. Wright and Ben Sinclair have recently been accepting beta testers for the Facebook app. Integrated with TripIt, it’s a Foursquare for air travel.

Co-founders Mike Templeton and Levi Rosol created Scoreyard in 2008 after communication between coaches and parents became an issue with Levi’s son’s baseball team.  Scoreyard provides online player registration and league management tools and recently participated in TechStars Startup Madness this past spring.

Dwolla vs. DSM Daily Dwolla is one of the fastest growing startups in Des Moines. Now in its third year, Ben Milne originally created the cash-based network that allows you to exchange money between people and companies for a flat rate of $.25 and he’s now accompanied by a fast growing team. Recently, they’ve added an autoload feature and weeks ago the crew celebrated one million a week in transactions.

Owner Jeremiah Terhark officially launched DSM Daily at the end of April, offering users a daily deal on the best “stuff” to do, see, eat, and buy in the Des Moines metro.  The smartphone-friendly website features only locally owned Des Moines businesses with discount coupons starting at 50% off goods or services. They built up a big following with “I [heart] Des Moines” merchandise prior to launch, we’ll see if that crafty marketing translates to LFBOTB glory!

Vote here:

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Voting for the Tech Start Up Region will end Sunday, July 24 at noon CST.


To view the entire bracket, click here.

To vote for the first round of the Randoms Region, click here.

To vote for the first round of the Leaders Region, click here.

To learn more about Lessing-Flynn’s Battle of the Brands (and watch puppets parodying a musical and people doing the Dougie, click here.)

* Jethro’s copy written by Lessing-Flynn **VolunteerLocal copy written by Lessing-Flynn because Geoff Wood from Silicon Prairie News is a co-founder of that company. It was Lessing-Flynn’s call to put them into the Battle of the Brands. Full transparency folks! : )