CBJ on Small Business
Your weekly roundup of news and views impacting small businesses around the Corridor, for Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016.

Compiled by Adam Moore, adam@corridorbusiness.com
Involta named best-funded tech company in Iowa
   
 
Involta, a provider of
managed IT, cloud computing and data center services , has been named the best-funded tech company in Iowa, according to a recent report by CB Insights.  

The Cedar Rapids-based company in 2014 secured $50 million of equity financing in an investment led by M/C Partners of Boston and including Morgan Stanley Alternative Investment Partners. Involta has also secured $40 million in bank financing at interest rates and terms significantly better than the industry average, according to Involta CEO Bruce Lehrman, although that was not factored into the CB Insights report.

"Involta is a clear leader in the markets they serve," Gillis Cashman, managing partner at M/C Partners, stated in a press release following the firm's announcement. "The company has built a strong reputation and a scalable platform for continued growth. We are proud to be part of this exciting company."

The equity funding has allowed Involta to pursure strategic acquisition, provide early investor liquidity and support its rapid growth.
In 2015, the company acquired most of the assets of Data Recovery Services LLC (DRS), a managed-services and IT consulting firm operating in Ohio and Pennsylvania, bringing its number of data facilities across the U.S. to 13.
UI startup making a splash in eSports world
University of Iowa student Connor Alne and his startup, the National College Gaming Association (NCGA), in January hosted the largest eSports event in Iowa since 2012, drawing more than 100 people to the competition at the CPMI Event Center in Ames.

Mr. Alne said in a release that he started the NCGA in 2015 after discovering a gap between developing players and the cost of competitions.

"I have loved eSports for many years and as I watched it develop, I saw a huge problem emerge," Mr. Alne said. "Thousands of great players were not being given an opportunity to compete because these events would cost them upwards of $1,000 just to compete. So I started this company as a way for college gamers to compete for little cost to gain the experience and exposure needed to grow in the eSports industry."

The NCGA hosts gaming tournaments, offers scholarships to players, and produces team building and eSports programs. It will hold its next tournament Feb. 27 in
Champaign, Illinois, and has events scheduled in Minneapolis, St. Louis and Des Moines later in the spring.

Mr. Alne is a student in the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC), and holds one of eight offices in the Founders Club program. The Founders Club is
a business incubator for entrepreneurial students pursuing the creation of a startup while attending the University of Iowa.
Voting ends Friday for 2016 Dream Big Grow Here competition
 
Online voting will close tomorrow for Dream Big Grow Here, the statewide business competition sponsored Center for Business Growth and Innovation at the University of Northern Iowa, with 10 Corridor-based businesses seeking a chance at $5,000 in funding.
 
Business owners were invited to enter in one of six industry categories: ag innovation, hospitality/restaurants, manufacturing/bioscience, information technology, pre-revenue and retail/professional services. Following the close of public voting tomorrow at 5 p.m., the five businesses from each category with the most votes will move onto a live pitch session in April, followed by a final pitch round in May.
 
Corridor entrepreneurs participating in this year's contest include:
  • Rebecca Herman, with Iowa Cricket Farmer of Keystone (Ag Innovation)
  • Matthew Rooda, with SwineTech of New Sharon (Ag Innovation)
  • Morgan Jacobsen, with Empower of Iowa City (Pre-revenue)
  • Alberto Lacayo III, with Climb Lab of Cedar Rapids (Pre-revenue)
  • Jed Eichhorn, with Eichhorn Recreation of Marion (Services & Hospitality)
  • Mary Segriff, with kor of Cedar Rapids (Services & Hospitality)
  • Jeri Frank, with AssetRover of Cedar Rapids (Services & Hospitality)
  • Phill Anton, with Trofix of Cedar Rapids (Retail & Restaurants)
  • Aaron Hall, with The Local Crumb of Mount Vernon (Retail & Restaurants)
  • Rina Jensen, with Domicile of Cedar Rapids (Retail & Restaurants)
You can view each of the entrepreneurs' profiles and vote for your favorite at the Dream Big Grow Here website.
Principal: Millennials more confident in business growth
 
Millennial business owners have an overall healthier outlook on their business prospects when compared to owners from other generations, leading them to offer more job benefits and work/life balance, according to new research from Principal Financial.

Eighty-three percent of millennial business owners have added staff in the past year, compared to 66 percent of Generation X and 49 percent of baby boomers. Over half (51 percent) of millennial owners say their businesses are growing, compared to just 35 percent of Gen X and 36 percent of baby boomers.

Additionally, millennials (48 percent) are significantly more likely than Gen X (31 percent) and baby boomers (23 percent) to add benefits in the coming year.

Millennial business owners are also more likely to offer unique work perks than their Gen X and baby boomer counterparts. While flex time remains a top perk across the board, millennials are considerably more likely to offer free food, telecommuting, laundry services, onsite daycare and nap rooms, to name a few.

All these amenities point to confidence. More than three-fourths (78 percent) of millennial business owners think their business financials will improve in the next 12 months, compared to only half (54 percent) of baby boomers and 65 percent of Gen X owners.

Read the full February Well-Being Index report from Principal Financial at the company's website.
SBA to offer social media tips for crisis recovery
 
The U.S. Small Business Administration will offer a free webinar on creating a crisis communications plan using social media on Feb. 16, co-hosted by Agility Recovery.

The discussion will focus on ways for small businesses to protect their brand and speed up the crisis recovery process through the use of social media channels. Participants will learn simple first steps toward building a crisis communications plan and best practices based on recent disasters. A question and answer session will follow the presentation.

To register for the webinar, scheduled for 1-2 p.m., visit www.preparemybusiness.org and click on "Education." Visitors can also check out past webinars and download helpful disaster preparedness checklists.
Consulting: Work on your business, not in it
 
In this week's consulting column, CBJ columnist K.P. Persaud offers tips for freeing yourself from the daily business grind to do more strategic planning:
 
When I hear the expression "work on a business," I envision a business owner in full control. I see a person connected to the business, yet making strategic decisions from a healthy and objective distance. And if tomorrow this individual received an offer he couldn't refuse, he could simply walk away and hand over the keys to the new owner.
 
By comparison, the expression "work in a business" leads me to envision someone trapped inside their company, unable to escape. This particular business owner is constantly in a spin-cycle, putting out one fire after another and racing to accomplish tasks on a never-ending to-do list. This owner could never sell the business in the shape it's in now - after all, this person is the business.
 
Given the choice, we all want to be owners who work on our businesses and not in them. But how do we make this transition?
 
You might be familiar with Michael Gerber's book, "The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work And What To Do About It." The book teaches us the invaluable lesson that to be able to work on our business, we must first view ourselves as three different people in one: The Technician, The Manager and The Entrepreneur. If we are too much of one or not enough of another, our business is destined to fail.
 
The important thing to note is that as a business owner, the technical, managerial, and entrepreneurial aspects of your endeavor are always competing for your focus. Finding the right balance between all three is critical.
 
Read the full column at www.corridorbusiness.com.
From around the web: 
  • Forbes details the top five travel rewards cards for small business owners.
  • Need a business idea? Entrepreneur has 55 of them.
  • Small business hiring was up in January, signalling optimism among business owners, according to ADP.
  • Inc.com details the six "fatal startup problems that money can't fix."
Corridor Stocks 
 
NAME
SYM PRICE CHG %CHG
AEGON AEG 4.67 -0.25 -5.08%
Alliant Energy LNT 67.18 -1.11 -1.63%
Deere & Company DE 76.41 -1.00 -1.29%
Dow Jones ^DJI 15,660.18 -254.56 -1.60%
General Mills GIS 55.98 -0.11 -0.20%
GoDaddy Inc. GDDY 24.25 -0.46 -1.86%
Great Western Bank GWB 23.10 -0.72 -3.02%
Heartland Express HTLD 18.38 -0.39 -2.08%
ITC Holdings ITC 38.36 -0.53 -1.36%
KemPharm KMPH 12.62 -0.05 -0.39%
Marsh & McLennan MMC 54.95 -0.56 -1.01%
MidWestOne MOFG 26.44 -0.51 -1.89%
Pearson PSO 10.43 -0.32 -2.98%
Pepsico PEP 96.9 -0.72 -0.74%
Principal Financial PFG 34.34 -1.67 -4.64%
QCR Holdings QCRH 21.00 -0.56 -2.60%
Rockwell Collins COL 78.30 -0.94 -1.19%
S&P 500 ^GSPC 1,829.08 -22.78 -1.23%
Tanger Factory SKT 29.67 -0.26 -0.87%
Procter & Gamble PG 79.90 -1.72 -2.11%
United Fire Group UFCS 36.33 -0.08 -0.22%
U.S. Bank USB 37.45 -1.59 -4.07%
Wells Fargo WFC 45.16 -1.01 -2.19%
West Bank WTBA 17.64 -0.16 -0.90%
Whirlpool WHR 129.74 -4.62 -3.44%
Short-Term Event Planner
     
Feb. 12 
Health Care Summit, by the Corridor Business Journal, 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Cedar Rapids Marriott, 1200 Collins Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids. The Health Care Summit will address the topics of wellness, best company practices, health insurance developments and the economic impact of health care through panel discussions and speakers. The event will conclude with the Corridor's Worksite Wellness Awards and Luncheon. Recipients are selected by the Linn and Johnson county boards of health. The event includes a networking breakfast and lunch. For more information, contact Ashley Levitt at ashley@corridorbusiness.com or (319) 887-2251.
 
Feb. 13
Small Farms Conference, by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, 8:30 a.m.-3:45 p.m., Scheman Building, 1805 Center Drive, Ames. The conference kicks off with a keynote address from Daniel Salatin of Polyface Farm, a family-owned, pasture-based, local market farm and informational outreach center in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. Agriculture experts will also lead sessions in three concurrent sessions throughout the day on topics including orchard establishment, the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium, raising ancient grains and more. To register, visit bit.ly/1lwXgJ2.
Headlines from CBS 2/FOX 28
T
hese news items are provided by CBS 2/FOX 28  
A State Senator wants the Iowa and Iowa State athletic departments to help cover the cost of UNI's athletic programs. The bill, introduced by Sen. David Johnson (R-Ocheyedan), calls for UI and ISU to transfer a combined $4 million each year to UNI's athletic department, beginning in 2016 until 2021. Under the legislation, UI's athletic department would contribute $2.28 million, while ISU would provide the remaining $1.72 million. The bill will be discussed in the Education subcommittee. A USA Today report using figures from 2014 ranks Iowa No. 16 in the NCAA in total revenue before expenses ($105,958,954) and ISU No. 48 ($68,170,381). UNI ranked No. 147 ($16,966,524). With expenses factored in, the UI brought in $3.68 million, ISU made $202,669, while UNI lost $1.13 million.

A new report says a Corridor community has one of the top unemployment rates in the country. Forbes.com has placed Iowa City fifth on its list of metro areas for low unemployment, tied with Provo, Utah and Mankato, Minnesota. Iowa City's unemployment rate was 2.5 percent in December according to the Iowa Workforce Development. That's 2.3 percent under the national average. Another city in Iowa took the top spot. Ames was ranked first by Forbes, with just 2.2 percent unemployment.
     
T hese news items are provided by CBS 2/FOX 28 
CBS 2 Chief Meteorologist Terry Swails' Weather First Forecast
 
A clipper system will move in tonight and bring a slight chance for snow in the area. Eastern Iowa will likely see a light dusting, with accumulations less than a half an inch expected. Temperatures will warm up to the teens and lower 20s Friday. Then, arctic air moves in Friday night and will lead to frigid conditions. Temperatures will fall to near and below zero Friday night, with wind chills as low as 25 below zero.