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VentureNet Iowa: connecting companies with state funding

For ten years now, VentureNet Iowa has been helping companies find the right resources and funding.

Since 2008, VentureNet has contracted with the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) to provide business commercialization services to innovative companies applying for state funds. Specifically, the programs are designed for Iowa-based companies commercializing innovative technologies in one of four industries: biosciences, advanced manufacturing, value-added agriculture, and information technology.

The IEDA’s Innovation funding programs are split into three different funds that companies can apply for depending on the stage they are currently at.

  • The Proof of Commercial Relevance program is designed to define and articulate the opportunity for businesses that demonstrate a proof-of-concept for innovative technology. Proof of Commercial Relevance awards are up to $25,000.
  • The Demonstration Fund provides assistance to companies with market-ready innovative technologies or products that have a clear potential for commercial viability.  Demonstration Fund awards are up to $125,000.
  • The Innovation Acceleration Fund promotes the growth of businesses that have demonstrated financial and operational stability, earned substantive revenue and have a complete management team. The fund is split into two programs, Propel and Innovation and Expansion. Propel awards up to $300,000 and Innovation Expansion awards up to $500,000.

“If a company is interested in these programs, they contact us and we set up a time to talk with them and learn about what they’re doing,” said  Adrienne Greenwald, Director of Communications & Public Relations at VentureNet Iowa. “This helps us determine if they’re eligible for these programs and which program is the best match for them.”

Once companies have applied, they have a focus group meeting with VentureNet. This consists of the company giving a twenty-minute pitch followed by a 45-minute Q&A. The companies are evaluated during this which serves as part of the application which is sent to the Technology Commercialization Committee (TCC), a sub-committee of the IEDA Board.

“Of the companies that go before the TCC, right around 60 percent of the companies get funded,” Greenwald said.

VentureNet goes through six application cycles per year and typically accommodates twelve companies per cycle.

Changes to application process

Funding applications are no longer available directly from IEDA website to ensure that applicants are filling out the current application and are applying to the correct program.

“We really just want to make sure on the front end that people are aware of the eligibility requirements and applying the best program for them,” Greenwald said.

Companies interested in applying can contact VentureNet at for an application and to verify eligibility.

VentureNet Iowa: connecting companies with state funding | 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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