Iowa Startup Accelerator changes 90-day program to full year

Teams meet during the Iowa Startup Accelerator. (Jessalyn Holdcraft/Courtesy of NewBoCo)

A year-long program, a bootcamp for idea-stage companies and an emphasis on Iowa-committed companies are all among changes coming to the Iowa Startup Accelerator.

The Cedar Rapids-based program announced the overhaul Friday saying it would make the accelerator “more rigorous but also more flexible than before.”

The changes will move ISA away from a 90-day calendar that put participating teams through a quick, pressure cooker-type development cycle.

Iowa Startup Accelerator Managing Director David Tominsky. (Jessalyn Holdcraft/Courtesy of NewBoCo)
Iowa Startup Accelerator Managing Director David Tominsky. (Jessalyn Holdcraft/Courtesy of NewBoCo)

“I think that perception that if you just commit 90 days to this program, you’re going to come out and you’re guaranteed success, it’s just not true,” ISA Managing Director David Tominsky told Clay & Milk.

Instead, the ISA will be a 12-month commitment.

“We’ve realized that most companies still need more support after 90 days and aren’t ready to be cut loose yet,” Program Manager Molly Monk said.

Tominsky said the ISA will focus on accepting startups that are committed to or based in Iowa, although it won’t be a requirement. The program has brought in startups from Iowa before, but past cohorts have also included companies from across the U.S. and other countries.

“If teams aren’t from Iowa, they go elsewhere after the program. A really critical part for us is to help build businesses in Iowa and have a really strong connection to Iowa,” he said.

The ISA will accept startups at three different times – spring, summer and fall – this year.

Unlike past years, accepted startups won’t have to physically work from the ISA for the duration of the program. They’ll have set days to check-in and work with ISA staff, starting at once per week and ending at once a month.

Tominsky said the program’s changes are meant to encourage less hand-holding.

“People need to learn to remove their own barriers to identify what the barrier might be and then seek out those solutions. They need to be in the real world to be able to do that,” he said.

ISA will also implement a six-week startup bootcamp to quickly go over the basics of starting a business, such as financial modeling and market strategies. The bootcamp will serve as a feeder into the ISA, Tominsky said, but it’s not a requirement for startups applying to the accelerator.

The ISA plans to accept 10 startups a year, providing $20,000 in seed money in exchange for 6 percent equity – a threshold the program set when it began in 2014. There’s potential for $50,000 in follow-on investment.

The program expects to deploy $500,000 in capital this year, according to a press release.

A “launch day” event is scheduled for Dec. 7 for participating startups to pitch, regardless of when they join the accelerator.

Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at mpatane@clayandmilk.com.

Megan Bannister contributed to this report.