Quad Cities Venture School teaches businesses how to succeed

Published: Apr. 19, 2017 at 10:56 PM CDT
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Whether it is a brand new idea, or an existing business looking for help, a six week boot camp through a partnership with the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce, Eastern Iowa Community Colleges and the University of Iowa is giving locals the opportunity to turn their dreams into reality.

“It's really de-risking the process of starting their business and enhancing their chances for success,” said Julie Forsythe VP of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the chamber.

For the past six Tuesday nights local entrepreneurs like Conor Flaherty of Bettendorf have gotten the chance to refine their products.

“We had a product, the original “Germbot,” that we developed and we put it out into some markets and had mixed success,” Flaherty said.

The device uses UVC light to kill harmful pathogens. The original “Germbot” is a robot that moves around the floor on its own and was designed with preschool and daycare facilities in mind.

Through Venture School Flaherty and his business partner were able to research what the marketplace was looking for.

“We now have two product offerings that fit the two different markets that we're chasing – the athletic and fitness enthusiast market with the new version, and the original version that is a perfect fit for childcare facilities,” Flaherty said.

The new product acts more like a vacuum being pushed by hand around a room. It was developed and prototyped during the six week Venture School. Flaherty says the program sped up the products development.

“I think we would have absolutely gotten there, it would have been a lot more painful.”

Venture School offered a different opportunity for ALM Positioners.

“Our goal was to analyze are we doing things the correct way,” said company president Kevin Toft. “We’re actually one of the fastest growing positioner companies in the U.S. right now.”

Toft acquired the business and brought it to Rock Island in 2015.

“Our equipment is used to lift and rotate weldments and assemblies, trying to make welders, assemblers, operators, make their jobs easier,” Toft said.

The company is ready to release a new piece of equipment, but wanted to make sure it was on the right track. Toft said applying to the Ventrue School program was well worth it.

“It really validated a lot of the things we thought we knew, and so it kind of reinforced that where we're headed with the new products is a really good idea,” Toft said.

And the QC Chamber says the success of any of the Venture School team points to great things for the region.

“They're very scalable businesses so I would expect that they're going to be employing quite a few people down the road,” Forsythe said.

The next QCA Venture School will be held in spring 2018.