George Daniel works in the Twin Cities as corporate development and information technology manager for an adhesives company. The 2016 graduate of the University of Iowa often reflects on lessons learned from two weekends spent with Startup Games, a team entrepreneurial event hosted by Iowa’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC).
“I remember the commitment and what it felt like to channel all of yourself into something, if only for just a weekend,” Daniel said. “You put other commitments on hold and gave yourself to the team and the mission for a small period of time to sprint through those first few challenges of starting a business. When I reminisce on my first pitch, I point to that moment as realizing I had a passion for entrepreneurship and business.”
Daniel enjoyed success with his teams at Startup Games in the spring of 2015 and the fall of 2015. First, there was JAC MUG (which stands for Just Add Coffee). The prize-winning idea was a novel coffee mug that enabled coffee drinkers to easily conceal and transport their favorite cream and sugar with them to their various coffee sources throughout the day.
The second idea, FlyBy, offered drone videography for real estate agents. For that idea, the team received a letter of intent.
“I enjoyed the thrill from the variety of intense emotions that came out those weekends,” Daniel said. “I recall, equally, the joy and inspiration that came from the progress and validation when talking to prospective customers along with the despair and hopelessness that found us as we hit what felt like insurmountable roadblocks. Entrepreneurship is an emotional journey, so to be able to experience those sensations, I think, is indicative that Startup Games is a great foray into what a day in the life of an entrepreneur truly looks like.”
Daniel has stayed involved with Startup Games, returning to Iowa City for many years to serve as a coach for the teams. When the event took place during the first week of March, Daniel was impressed with how a new generation of Iowa JPEC students is solving problems.
“One recurring theme I love to keep seeing year after year is the passion for tackling impactful social and environmental issues,” he said. “Students today have an ever-growing appreciation for sophisticated, digital solutions, which have the potential to scale quickly. Coupling such issues with such solutions is exciting to see.”
Daniel praised the diversity fostered by the Startup Games.
“It inspires me to see the diversity among participants,” he said. “The Startup Games offers a glimpse into the real world of what working in an interdisciplinary team is like for the students. They expose students to other approaches to the same problems, which helps with critical thinking. Startup Games represents an opportunity to also introduce students to problems that they might not otherwise notice.”
A native of Geneseo, Illinois, Daniel earned a degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Iowa in 2016. During his four years as an undergraduate, Daniel “pretty much did every pitch competition that JPEC was offering.” He utilized the Bedell Entrepreneur Learning Laboratory to develop FlyBy. He also participated in JPEC’s Venture School with an idea called Flock, which set out to provide local restaurants and bars with accurate, real-time, proximity-driven census information on pedestrians.
Daniel remained connected to Iowa JPEC when he attended the University of Minnesota for a master’s degree in medical device innovation. During that time, he worked on a company called Universal Prosthetics with University of Iowa students in the College of Medicine and the College of Law. The company is alive today.
“Startup Games helped me learn how to think as an entrepreneur and put me in touch with the folks who had experience solving those problems, building networks, and living life as an entrepreneur,” Daniel said. “Those valuable experiences ignited what, I believe, will be a lifelong passion of mine, and I look forward to keep giving back in the future.”