The Emerge Foundation: Providing capital to startups at Simpson College

A nonprofit in Indianola is offering its business incubator services to enterprises with high commercialization potential and an affiliation with Iowa’s private and community colleges.

The Emerge Foundation at Simpson College formed earlier this year and will work with ventures on business modeling, organization development, and financing.

Todd Kielkopf is the executive director of The Emerge Foundation and told Clay & Milk Monday that the idea is to leverage business startups from Simpson College—initially—staff, professors and students.

“We’re exploring this gap in the marketplace outside of the regent universities,” Kielkopf said. “We know Simpson has stakeholders that are not part of the ecosystem. And it makes me think there are probably others in the same spot.

“So we are kind of showing a prototype model in ourselves.”

According to a press release on Nov. 20, the Emerge Foundation Board of Directors adopted a $300,000 funding plan to launch its operations and initial ventures with $200,000 pledged from early supporters. The foundation is also developing a $5 million Seed Capital Fund to be a lead investor for college-affiliated ventures.


For its first venture, The Emerge Foundation is working with DNP123—a company founded by Simpson College Chemistry Professor Dr. Derek Lyons and Dr. Aaron Santos. They are developing ways to structure nanoparticles into cubes and those cubes into specific shapes.

“Trying to do some market discovery for them to see what type of technology spinouts are commercially viable,” Kielkopf says. “Collect the information and essentially be a lead investor.”

And because Simpson College works with other two and four year colleges, Kielkopf sounds hopeful that through those relationships, more schools will get involved.

“We understand each college that does entrepreneurial programming does it in their own way and for its student body the best,” he says. “We aren’t looking to stamp a ‘best practices’ on the program side. But the components that work, those should be talked about.”