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An in-depth look at Iowa’s new ‘G2M’ Accelerator

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.

Previous coverage

Iowa organizations receive funding to launch ‘Iowa Go-To-Market program’ -Sept. 24, 2020

VentureNet Iowa: connecting companies with state funding -Aug. 1, 2018

An in-depth look at Iowa's new 'G2M' Accelerator | 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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