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IEDA awards grants to three entrepreneurial assistance providers, one startup

The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) Board has awarded grants to three entrepreneurial assistance providers through its Entrepreneurial Investment Awards program. The IEDA board also approved one grant through its Strategic Infrastructure Program to an Iowa City-based startup.

In total, just over $975,000 was awarded. Here are the four organizations that received funding:

Creative Adventure Lab

Creative Adventure Lab was founded in 2008 and launched its first Innovation Lab in Dubuque in 2018, which offers incubator space and entrepreneurial coaching.

The company received a $150,000 grant to launch Innovation Labs in select rural communities in Iowa and deliver services to the start-ups and existing small businesses in those areas. 

Iowa’s West Coast Initiative

Iowa’s West Coast Initiative (IWCI) is a partnership between the economic development organizations in Plymouth, Monona and Woodbury counties to increase entrepreneurial activity in northwest Iowa and support small business growth.

IWCI received a $185,000 grant to support a full-time staff position over two years that will guide entrepreneurs in the regional area, direct them to entrepreneurial resource providers and coordinate regular entrepreneurial programming. 

Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation

Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation, a public/private partnership in the counties of Buena Vista, Clay, Dickinson and Emmet, focuses on developing new job opportunities, retaining existing businesses, helping new businesses start and expanding the tax base.

The organization received a $150,000 grant to launch additional entrepreneurial development programming through videos, outreach and networking events. 

University of Iowa’s Protostudios

Iowa City-based Protostudios received a $493,207.76 grant through the IEDA’s Strategic Infrastructure Program. The Strategic Infrastructure Program assists projects that develop commonly utilized assets that provide an advantage to private sector entities or create necessary physical infrastructure in Iowa.

Protostudios is a state-of-the-art rapid-prototyping facility. The grant money will allow be used to establish a Medical Print Service Bureau which will provide enhanced design capabilities and produce anatomical models to the University of Iowa and the broader Iowa med-tech community. 

IEDA awards grants to three entrepreneurial assistance providers, one startup | 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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