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ISU Startup Factory announces eighth cohort

The Iowa State University Startup Factory has announced the eighth cohort of entrepreneurs that will join the Iowa State-based program.

Those accepted in the Startup Factory receive formal training, resources, and access to a network of business mentors, advisors, counselors and investors in two 26-week blocks. The first block will consist of a formal curriculum centered on business validation, with the second block more customized to their individual business needs.

Eleven teams joined the program. The following are the names of the participating startups in the eighth cohort:

AeroSeeder, LLC – is a drone system manufacturer for heavy lifting farming applications, concentrating on seeding of cover crops and spot spraying.

AgTech Innovations Labs – develops innovations to modernize farmers’ production practices allowing access credit and quality inputs, reducing risk of crop failures, and increasing yields.

BrainSoft – specializes in developing technologies for interacting with the human brain including software using brain waves to control physical objects. 

Citizen Scientist – enables researchers to hire verified experts through a web-based platform that offers service agreements compatible with academic, federal, and industry partner requirements.

The FarmHand App – is a platform giving farmers the ability to connect with “Farmhands” for day-to-day or seasonal employment.

FoMA – an online marketplace for peer-to-peer trading of perishable products like fruits and vegetables directly from consumers’ refrigerators.

Legov Systems Group, LLC – is developing scalable energy harvesting systems to convert thermal energy into electrical.

Quantum Control Works – commercializes the fruits of prior research and development into uniquely capable actuators.

seedBiome – exists to explore and harness the microbiomes of commercial and wild seeds to design microbiological solutions to boost food production, quality, and safety.

TdVib – designs and manufactures technology-driven, high-value systems based on electromagnetics including magnetostrictive smart materials Terfenol-D and Galfenol.

WashWright – is developing a hands-free system to automate swine producers’ power washing and sanitation process.

ISU Startup Factory celebrated the new cohort by hold kick-off reception on January 16 at the ISU Alumni Center, followed by an afternoon of programming Tuesday at the Startup Factory’s space at the Iowa State University Research Park.

More than 100 individuals, including past and present cohort members, program mentors, advisors and investors, attended the reception held to celebrate program successes, honor past and graduating cohort members, and introduce the incoming cohort.

“The Startup Factory is an important part of a vibrant ecosystem – a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship – we are building under President Wintersteen’s leadership at Iowa State,” said David Spalding, Dean of Iowa State’s Ivy College of Business. “In this rich environment, companies are provided the resources and support to help them innovate and grow.”

The evening also included a presentation by Smart Ag Founder Colin Hurd. Smart Ag, a Startup Factory inaugural cohort member, was recently acquired by Raven Industries.

Hurd shared Smart Ag’s journey going from an idea to an exit, and provided personal insights and advice to the incoming cohort.

The descriptions of the ISU Startup Factory companies listed above have been provided by ISU.

Previous coverage

ISU Startup Factory announces 12 new team for its sixth cohort -Jan. 23, 2019

ISU Startup Factory continues to grow, announces two new cohorts -July 2, 2018

ISU Startup Factory announces eighth cohort | 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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