A new accelerator program launching early next month will look to fill the need for follow-on support programs for entrepreneurs who have completed one of the growing number of accelerator programs in the state.
The Iowa Go-To-Market (G2M) Accelerator is part of a $1.29 million program funded by the US Economic Development Administration as part of a Build-To-Scale grant to Iowa Innovation Corp, in partnership with Iowa State University Startup Factory and VentureNet Iowa.
“One thing that repeatedly popped up in conversations was that founders and companies could really benefit from an extended, structured entrepreneurial support program beyond what most of the existing accelerators in the state provide,” said Jim Register, President and CEO of IICorp. “Another point that popped up a lot is that improved access to various types of business support services that could help make these folks more successful. I’m talking about things like legal support, finance, branding, marketing.”
The accelerator is not focusing on any particular industry sectors but is focusing on high-tech, research-driven startups that are based in Iowa. Startups accepted into the program will not receive funding.
“We feel like that’s the group that could most benefit from what we’re trying to offer,” said Register. “We’re also focusing on startups that have previously participated in some form of a structured entrepreneurial support program. This could be another accelerator, something like UI Venture School, or even technical and business assistance programming that comes with SBIR grants.”
“Some of these companies are going to be a year or two years away from revenue,” he continued. “Others, particularly those that require regulatory approval, might be five to ten years away still. That’s going to create a dynamic we’re going to have to work through.”
Jon Kallen will serve as the accelerator’s entrepreneur-in-residence. Kallen is the Managing Partner of Jennings Kallen Advisors, an advisory practice in Des Moines focused on the environmental infrastructure, agtech and renewable energy sectors. Outside of Kallen, all of the staff involved in the G2M Accelerator will be ISU Startup Factory Personnel.
VentureNet Iowa will manage the application and application review process for the program, Register told Clay & Milk.
“We very intentionally modeled that process after what VentureNet has developed and currently runs for state funding programs,” Register said. “The rationale behind that is that a lot of the companies we are targeting with this accelerator are also very likely to be companies that either have recently received or will like to receive state funding. So there’s an efficiency of process for everyone involved by combining those. They [VentureNet Iowa] have got a good process. It works. Why duplicate or create something else. Let’s piggyback on what works.”
The inaugural cohort will begin in early January and will last 7-8 months with a heavy emphasis on mentor engagement.
“We think that’s appropriate for a more advanced company because the type of advice and guidance that they need needs to be more specific,” said Register. “Because they’re a little more advanced, these founders are going to have more going on than they might have a year or two before when they went through an initial program. So we’re not condensing this down to 100 days. It’s going to be a 7-8 month program that’s not as intense at any one time, allowing them to work across time.”
The first cohort will be entirely remote with longer-term plans to have components of the program take place in-person in Ames.
Register says he expects to have around six companies per cohort, although the first cohort might be a little smaller. “We think that will allow for a bit more individualized engagement.”
The accelerator will also provide an opportunity for accepted startups to access a variety of business support services that can help entrepreneurs achieve commercial success. Around fifteen firms in Iowa have agreed to provide pro-bono support to cohort companies, Register told Clay & Milk.
“I think that was a key part of the grant proposal funded and we think it will be really valuable for the companies at the stage we’re talking about,” said Register.
In addition to the accelerator, the grant will help fund an online resource guide focusing on the needs of high-tech startups.
Iowa organizations receive funding to launch ‘Iowa Go-To-Market program’ -Sept. 24, 2020
VentureNet Iowa: connecting companies with state funding -Aug. 1, 2018