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The Midwest is more than great BBQ and Tornado Alley. It’s a veritable pool of ingenious startups that are giving their coastal neighbors from New York to Silicon Valley a run for their money. From foodie startups to companies revolutionizing education, it’s crucial for investors and consumers alike to keep an eye on this surprising hot spot of entrepreneurship. Heading into 2014, here are five innovative Midwestern startups to watch.
Classrooms are changing at lightning speed, but the technology to do anything beyond tapping into lectures online and class forums are lagging behind (until ClusterFlunk entered the picture). This platform lets students easily access every peer in their class, gain celeb status if they’re one of the highest users, and easily upload/download class files via cloud hosting for a secure transaction. Even better, this platform is totally free so it easily fits into a college student’s budget. There’s even an anonymous option so if you’ve always been wary of raising your hand in class, you’ll fit right in.
What began in Des Moines, Iowa as an option to more easily transfer money, Dwolla is slated to bring some serious competition to PayPal. Recently partnering with Comenity Capital Bank, a local favorite, users can now purchase via Dwolla without even having to use a credit card. In 2014, the founders are looking to initiate real-time Internet payments that are so easy and secure, it could completely change the financial structure as you know it.
3. Food Genius
It’s no surprise that this startup is based in Chicago, and it’s all about the creation of dish concepts just for restaurants. Instantly skim over 100,000 menus in the database that’s growing every day. Restaurateurs can also get insight into big data from the biggest chains, manufacturers and distributors. Currently, Food Genius touts Kraft as their biggest client, but more are being added daily. Plans for 2014 include perfecting the virtual creation of dishes which might just lead to better menus in chains around the country.
What began in Kansas City, Missouri as a local movement, this startups is helping restaurants get their meat from local (to them) farms. You can simply place a meat order via the app, which makes shopping local quick and easy for many restaurants. Everyone from diners to restaurant owners wants to go local, but it can be a time-consuming and expensive process. AgLocal wants to remove the middleman and make connections between farms and buyers simple.
5. Bulu Box
Based in Lincoln, this membership-based startups delivers vitamins along with free samples to members who currently pay $10 per month. The company has over 30,000 customers and rakes in $100,000 per month, but it’s still in the early stages and focused on the second round of securing capital. However, it’s filling a growing demand of natural supplements at an affordable price, making it easy for consumers to live a healthy life without comparison shopping all over the place to find affordable supplements.
The Silicon Prairie is on a roll. There’s no telling what further developments the year could bring.
Do you live in the midwest, specifically Iowa? If you do, we’re coming to you! Scoop.it’s #leancontent meetup series is headed to the Iowa City CoLab next Tuesday April 22nd. See you there!