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Medical device startup Voxello raises funds, gets FDA clearance

A Coralville startup has brought in its first equity investment round and hit a regulatory milestone as it pushes its medical device further to being market ready.

Voxello has raised an investment round of about $800,000, CEO Rives Bird told Clay & Milk this week.

Mid-America Angels, a Kansas-based angel network, led the recent round with a $287,000 investment.

“Effective communication between patient and provider is critical to the delivery of safe, high-quality healthcare. … Mid-America Angels is excited to be coming aboard as an engaged partner,” Mid-America Angels Managing Director Rick Vaughn said in a statement.

The company has developed a medical device known as the “noddle” to aid hospitalized patients who can’t otherwise speak communicate. The noddle can detect motions or sounds, such as tongue clicks, that can be used to call nurses or, integrated with speech software, help a patient talk.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also cleared the noddle for market, Voxello announced this week.

While Bird said Voxello could start broadly selling the device, the company has a soft launch planned for hospitals in Philadelphia and Chicago to further test how the noddle works in a real-world environment.

“This has never been in a hospital before,” Bird said. “So, when that happens you don’t really know all of the decision makers, the flag bearers, the influencers. We believe we know who a lot of those people are, but until you get into the hospital and you start working with them, you don’t know all of those things.”

The soft launch will take between six and nine months.

Bird said Voxello will use its recent fundraise to hire more staff, further development and continue clinical trials of the noddle. Voxello has five employees currently and previously raised $525,000 in non-equity funds, he said.

Previously known as Iowa Adaptive Technologies, Voxello was founded by a student team at the University of Iowa.

Voxello is eyeing another fundraising round, Bird said.

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

Medical device startup Voxello raises funds, gets FDA clearance | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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