Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Techstars partners with Grinnell College to launch Techstars Iowa

Techstars, in partnership with Grinnell College, has announced the creation of a new accelerator program, Techstars Iowa, which will take place in Des Moines starting next year.

The investment office of Grinnell College will provide the initial funding for Techstars Iowa, committing enough money to support the program through its first three years.

“Techstars Iowa will address two critical gaps faced by Iowans today. First, it will connect local teams with world-class investors, advisors, mentors and through the Techstars global platform,” said Jainen Thayer, Chief Investment Officer at Grinnell College. “Second, Techstars will fund companies at the earliest stages of development and will provide access to capital, dedicated to supporting the growth of successful companies that emerge from the accelerator.”

The inaugural cohort will run for 13 weeks, from Sept. 2020 to Dec. 2020 and will accept 10 startups. Startups accepted into the program will receive $20,000 in funding and will have the option of taking an additional $100,000 in convertible notes.

The program will be lead by Techstars Iowa Managing Director, Kerty Levy. Prior to taking the Managing Director position, Levy served as the Interim Managing Director of the Iowa Agritech Accelerator.

“I am so excited to be the Managing Director of Techstars Iowa,” said Levy. “In Iowa, there’s no shortage of talent, ideas and hard work. But it’s challenging for new companies to find the tools and funding they need to take their ideas to the next level. That’s where Techstars Iowa can come in and fill the gap.”

Techstars first showed interest in expanding to Iowa in September when they posted two job-listings based in Des Moines. The position for Program Manager is still open and Levy says she hopes to see the position filled before the end of the year.

Applications will open on Feb. 17 and be accepted through May 10, 2020.

Previous coverage

Techstars shows interest in expanding to Iowa -Sept. 30, 2019

Techstars partners with Grinnell College to launch Techstars Iowa | 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
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives
Purchase Now