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Five startups receive funding from IEDA

The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) Board has approved innovation funding for five startups located in Iowa City, Davenport, Ames and Urbandale. In total, $650,000 was awarded to the five startups.

Hear are the five startups that received funding:


Founded around a medical technology developed at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, CartilaGen produces a novel therapeutic for post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA). Filling an unmet medical need, the company’s product can prevent the development of the disease at the earliest stage. The current therapeutic landscape only consists of products to manage the symptoms, nothing with preventative of curative capabilities. CartilaGen’s product is the only treatment that focuses on the earliest stage of PTOA and modifies the underlying disease in an easily performed, cost-effective manner.

The company was awarded a $25,000 Investigative Proof of Commercial Relevance loan.


MC4L in Davenport creates products and services for the higher education marketplace, which are developed from their proprietary dataset of college pricing information gathered through TuitionFit, the company’s online platform. Providing more transparency for students and families seeking higher education, the platform compares individualized college prices by engaging in a secure exchange of information. With this dataset, students and families can purchase comparative pricing information, college search professionals can subscribe to search it and higher education institutions can subscribe to access competitor pricing information.

The company was awarded a $100,000 Demonstration Fund loan for marketing planning/entry activities and key personnel.

Qi Learning

 Qi Learning, based in Ames, promotes science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through trainings, products and workshops for instructors. Designed with a skills-based approach, Qi provides teachers with the tools to teach and actively engage students in standards-aligned instruction with the resources they already have. The company focuses on effective teaching methodologies with an emphasis in STEM, although the programs can be applied to all subjects. With distance learning during the pandemic, Qi has been able to provide programs to help with the transition.

The company was awarded a $25,000 Proof of Commercial Relevance loan for product refinement, market planning/entry activities, key personnel and equipment.


Davenport-based TapOnIt, a messaging technology company, provides a SaaS platform that enables businesses to reach, engage and convert opted-in customers through personalized multi-channel messaging, known as TapOnIt Technology. The platform helps automate a brand’s entire customer engagement and retention strategy. TapOnIt Deal is the company’s branded, national database of consumers that have opted in to receive offers and promotions from restaurants, retail and entertainment businesses via text message.

The company was awarded a $250,000 Innovation Acceleration Propel fund award for growing the team and the database and continuing product development.

Tractor Zoom

A mobile app and web-based platform, Tractor Zoom in Urbandale allows customers to quickly search and value heavy equipment using big data and technology. Used specifically for upcoming farm equipment auctions, the app streamlines the advertising process to directly place the auctions in the hands of farmers. Farmers are now able to search auction inventory across the entire country anytime, anywhere. It will build a database of comparable sales to assist with equipment valuations and industry market trends.

The company was awarded a $250,000 Innovation Acceleration Propel fund award for product refinement, market planning/entry activities and key personnel.

Five startups receive funding from IEDA | 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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