Created in the Corridor

You have an idea for a technology startup, so you should move to the coast…right?

Not necessarily.

A software-development company started by a group of University of Iowa students is thriving at the UI Research Park in Coralville after more than 12 years in business.

Bio::Neos co-founder Steve Davis, who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in engineering from the UI, says staying in Iowa was key to his company’s success—especially in the early stages, when it was important to keep costs low, and Davis was able to build on the professional connections he’d made here as a student.

“I love Iowa,” Davis says. “I’ve been happy here ever since I moved here for college.

“One of the coolest things that I’ve seen is the increased energy, passion, and support for entrepreneurship in the past five years in Iowa City and around the state.”

Davis, who is from Mequon, Wisconsin, says the idea for Bio::Neos grew out of his master’s thesis, which included software written for a faculty researcher in the UI Carver College of Medicine while working in engineering faculty member Tom Casavant’s research lab.

Along with co-founders and fellow College of Engineering students Mike Smith and Brian O'Leary, Davis created a commercial version of that web application but never was able to sell it.

“While we were trying to figure out what to do, we started to consult and do custom software for researchers,” he says. “Most of our first sales were made through our connections with people we had met at the University of Iowa because they knew us and they knew our capabilities.”

Davis credits support from faculty members and programs at the UI as essential to getting Bio::Neos off the ground. He, Smith, and O’Leary won financial and business guidance through the College of Engineering’s Hubert E. Storer Engineering Student Entrepreneurial Start-up Award in 2004, and they were given free office space at the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center’s Bedell Entrepreneurial Learning Laboratory.

Now housed at the UI Research Park, Bio::Neos still designs research software, but for bigger clients with projects lasting more than six months. Davis says they are looking to grow the business by expanding to include more commercial clients.

Davis returns to the College of Engineering April 5 to serve as a judge for the same Hubert E. Storer Award he won in 2004. Judges will hear elevator pitches from three top candidates and choose one winner.

“I really enjoy just seeing the passion and energy these students have,” Davis says. “It always helps me because I can bring that back to my company.”

As for other entrepreneurs with winning ideas? Davis says he hopes they will start their businesses in Iowa.

“Know that it’s possible,” he says. “We as a community are really trying put our pin on the map as a place for technology. From developer groups like TechCorridor.io to events like 1 Million Cups, we have a lot of great opportunities here for tech entrepreneurs to network and get involved.”