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Des Moines Start-Up ‘Bawte’ Wins $100k Investment from AOL Co-Founder

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- A Des Moines-based start-up is now $100,000 closer to success, thanks to an investment from AOL co-founder, Steve Case, as he passed through Des Moines Wednesday on his national bus tour.

Bawte was founded by John Jackovin here in Des Moines. The company's product is an app for mobile smartphones, designed to catalog the user's purchases and provide links to online manuals, notifications when warranties are about to expire, in-app how-to videos, and alerts when recalls on a product have been announced.

The Bawte team competed in a pitch competition against other area start-ups, with a panel of judges including Case, Dwolla founder Ben Milne, and Iowa Department of Economic Development director, Debi Durham. The pitch competition concluded a day's worth of start-up tours across Des Moines, where Case's "Rise of the Rest" bus tour stopped Wednesday. But John Jackovin wasn't able to pitch his own company to Case and the rest; he's currently in Colorado, pitching Bawte to a sea of investors there. Finding out at the last minute that his company had the opportunity to pitch their idea to Case, Jackovin asked his wife, Melissa, to do it for him.

"It was funny because he sent me a text saying, 'Hey, how would you like to pitch to Steve Case for a chance to win a hundred thousand dollars," said Melissa Jackovin. "And I responded with big 'question mark', saying, 'Are you sure you sent this to the right person?'"

Despite her fears, Melissa must have done something right, because Bawte walked away with $100,000 they didn't have before her pitch.

"It's hard for start-ups here in Iowa. You know, we don't have the resources that they have out on the coasts, and what Steve Case does, is he comes in and says, 'Hey, I want to make it accessible to everybody. I want to put a spotlight on some of the amazing tech start-ups here in the Midwest, and not just out on the coasts,'" she said. "So, we have absolutely no intention of moving. We want to keep Bawte here, we want to grow it. We want to make Iowa proud, we want to make Des Moines proud."

Case will continue to travel the Midwest, selecting one start-up from each city to present a $100,000 check to. However, he emphasized all of the start-ups competing for the money were "winners."

“We’re trying to put a start-up on the map, but we’re really trying to put Central Iowa on the map,” he said. “And make sure the story around American entrepreneurship – which is not limited to California or New York, it’s all over the country – that story gets told by rolling our bus through the middle of the country.”

In addition to a large investment from Case, Jackovin will travel to Austin, Texas in March 2015 to represent Bawte - and Des Moines - on the national stage, in another pitch competition against the winners of every other city on Case's tour.