Iowa’s startup ecosystem has had its share of changes over the last five years, and the state’s first startup accelerator has been changing along with it.
Since its inception in the fall of 2014, the Iowa Startup Accelerator (ISA) has taken on 35 startups have entered the Iowa Startup Accelerator program. 21 of those companies are still active and, collectively, have raised more than $9 million in funding.
Looking at the big picture
After realizing that the accelerator alone was not providing startups with all the support they needed, ISA expanded into NewBoCo, an umbrella non-profit organization that contains several different programs all designed to support innovation and growth.
Adding to ISA, NewBoCo has developed multiple coding education programs for children and adults, created Corridor Angel Investors, a group of accredited investors interested in early-stage, Iowa-connected companies and is home of Vault Coworking, Cedar Rapids’ largest coworking space.
“What we do falls into three categories: entrepreneurship support, tech education, and innovation.” said Aaron Horn, Chief Operating Officer of NewBoCo. “Any program we do is going to fall under one of those three and the really good programs are the ones that touch all three.”
Social good accelerator
This spring, NewBoCo started the Social Good Accelerator, Iowa’s first and only accelerator program for nonprofits.
“We ran the pilot program with GSI Works, trying to dig into how much of the work that we’re doing for high growth tech-based businesses is applicable to somebody that’s building a non-profit,” said David Tominsky, Managing Director of ISA.
NewBoCo plans on accepting two companies into the Social Good Accelerator for their upcoming cohort this fall.
Our initial funds will most likely carry us through next year,” Tominsky said of the accelerator. “We’ll probably open up that second fund later on this year and then really start exploring what we want to do.”
At launch day last year, NewBoCo announced their goal of scaling ISA up to working with 100 companies a year, ten times their original number of 10 companies per year.
“I absolutely think that in a market like Cedar Rapids and really just the state of Iowa, scaling a program like this to 100 companies a year is what is going to be transformative for the economy in the state of Iowa,” Tominsky said.
NewBoCo plans to continue to develop strong relationships with organizations all throughout Iowa rather than just the Cedar Rapids area.
“We need to be doing a better job of communicating with other communities,” Horn said. “We’re too small of a state to try to cling on to our own little footprint. So doing more to collaborate with all these groups that are doing amazing things is really important.”
“I think we’ve got all the resources we need to have a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem for this state,” Tominsky said. “The benefits we get from working together are too many to mention.”