Tej Dhawan

tej dhawan photoTej Dhawan, a principal of StartUpCity Des Moines (a technology incubator in downtown Des Moines) and co-founder of Pikuzone CEO, recalled his childhood that “As early as an 8-yr old, I knew that I’d be in business for myself at some point in my life.” The 34 years since have taken him through running a comic-book rental in India, programming a display for Delhi’s first computer retailer, airline tickets, selling computers, programming/consulting small & mid sized businesses, co-owning and running a company that makes correctional software to now, mentoring technology startups. Tej came to the US in 1987 to pursue an undergraduate degree at Central College in Pella.  Upon graduation, he began a career at Principal Financial Group, leaving it to start his IT services company.  He merged the company with a friend’s in 1995 and successfully exiting it in 2010.  Since 2010, he has directed his focus to fostering the entrepreneurial ecosystem for Central Iowa, focusing on technology startups, immigration, entrepreneurship and education.  He serves on the Board of Trustees of Central College, on the Governor’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Council, the Board of Ballet Des Moines, and the Board for SIKH (Sikhs of Iowa Khalsa Heritage), Inc.  He lives in Grimes, is married to Karen Spencer Dhawan of Lohrville, IA and has two children, Anjali and Aidan.

Awards – Luncheon

Erin Kiernan

erin-kiernanErin graduated from Drake University with a degree in broadcast journalism. While attending school, she was an intern and part time reporter at Channel 13 News. Next, she worked for WOI-TV as a reporter and photographer.

Erin Kiernan rejoined the Channel 13 News Team in June 2005 to play a major role in the station’s ongoing success. In June 2006, Erin joined John Bachman on the anchor desk for Channel 13 News at 5, 6 & 10. She also anchors the Channel 13 News at 5 with Sonya Heitshusen. In addition to anchoring, Erin writes and produces many of the station’s special reports, including “13 Cares” and “Workout of the Week”. In 2008, Erin earned the Media Award from the Iowa Commission of Persons with Disabilities for two special reports she produced on Iowans with disabilities. In 2006, she earned a regional Edward R. Murrow award from the RTNDA for her investigation in Iowa’s Department of Human Services.

Erin previously anchored the weekend news at KCCI. In addition to anchoring, she became known for her award-winning investigative work and special series pieces. In spring 2004, she received a regional Edward R. Murrow award for her two-part series on date-rape drugs. In 2000, she also received a regional Murrow Award for her investigative series “True Colors,” which focused on racism at bars in the Des Moines metro area. She has also done investigative series reports on identity theft, sex offenders, arson, ecstasy, meth and unlicensed drivers.

In her free time, she teaches aerobics at the YMCA and during the summer she can be found outside biking. She is a fan of live music and dancing, and as a Nebraska native, she gets “Big Red” fever during the football season. She is also a voracious reader and loves watching movies with her husband, Michael.


jay-byersJay Byers is Chief Executive Officer for the Greater Des Moines Partnership.  The Partnership is the regional economic and community development organization serving more than 4700 businesses and 24 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce and economic development organizations in seven counties in Central Iowa.

Byers currently serves on the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) Board of Directors, and Iowa Chamber Alliance Executive Committee and is active with the Professional Developers of Iowa, Iowa Association of Business and Industry, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  He is a graduate of ACCE’s Ford Foundation Regionalism and Sustainable Development Fellowship and was named to the ACCE 2009 “40 Under 40 Rising Stars of the Chamber World”.  He was named to the Des Moines Business Record’s “Forty Under 40” Class of 2006 as well as the Business Record’s “Forty Under 40” Alum of the Year” in 2012.  Byers serves on the boards of the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, Greater Des Moines Committee, ChildServe, VSA Iowa, Simpson College Board of Trustees, and the Alpha Tau Omega National Fraternity.


Prior to his current role, Byers served as the Partnership’s Senior Vice President, Government Relations and Public Policy.  Before joining the Partnership, he worked as District Director for Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell and as a corporate attorney at the Ice Miller Law Firm in Indianapolis, Indiana.  He is a graduatee of Simpson College and the University of Iowa, College of Law.  Byers resides in Des Moines, Iowa with his wife Katie, and two daughters, Sophie and Charlotte.