It used to be that Iowa was a land of prairie, where the
wheat sashayed in the wind and seas of corn stretched out as far as the human
eye could see. Well, the corn is still there and wheat continues to loom large
in the horizon, but there is another industry that is taking root in the
Just as the homesteaders of old raced to stake their claim,
a new generation of coders, developers, and software geeks will be fighting it
out for three days next weekend to decide once and for all who is the reigning
king (or queen) of the iPhone app, SMS code, and other web 2.0 applications.
This event is the OpenIowa competition, and from April 27-29
the downtown headquarters of StartupCity Des Moines will be transformed from
sedate conference rooms and lobbies to a virtual pressure cooker as coders
code, developers hone their applications, and business pitches are made to a
panel of judges who will decide who gets to stay and who is sent packing.
The event is the brainchild of StartupCity Des Moines (or
DSM, as it is colloquially known). With unprecedented access to a treasure
trove of software code, government statistics, and other data, it will be the
job of software engineers, developers and entrepreneurs to take the bushels of
digital data and turn creative business plans that state and local
governments--and perhaps most importantly, venture capitalists--will find
suitable for launch.
"We are lucky to have a large space that can host a big
crowd," Becky Mollenkamp, one of the organizers of the event, said in an
email interview. "We hosted about 150 people for StartupWeekend last
month. This event will be quite
similar in format to that event."
"The codeathon is a chance for developers to get access
to a wealth of datasets—in
this case from the government—and
use those to create a website or mobile app,” said Mollenkamp. “Anyone who
attends can propose an idea and all of the ideas will be voted on by the
room. The best ones will be worked
on all weekend by teams that form."
Those lucky enough to survive vetting by the crowd will get
a chance to have their voices heard by the panel of judges—an array of government officials
and entrepreneurs. But only one project has the chance to become the chosen app
to rule all government data apps.
"This is an informal and fun process," Mollenkamp
said. "Here, people will be creating an app or site in a weekend using
government data. The winning project will be the one that uses government data
to create a useful app or site that addresses a public need."
Participants can register for the competition through
Tikly, a sort of Ticketmaster for the Web 2.0 generation, at https://tickets.tikly.co/-/event/466. The price of admission is $30.
The event kicks off in earnest at 5 p.m., complete with
dinner and refreshment.
Sponsored in part by the Des Moines Register, the event has
the official endorsement of the state's Lieutenant Governor, Kim Reynolds.
Founded in October 2011, StartupCity Des Moines is only the
latest outfit to grace the "Silicon Sixth" corridor. The company
employs only three employees: Mollenkamp, Christian Renaud and Tej Dhawan.
But OpenIowa is just the tip of the digital iceberg for the
"We are already talking about our next big event but we
are currently focused on making this weekend's OpenIowa event a success,"
Mollenkamp said. "There are plans to repeat it statewide in the