Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Iowa Startup Accelerator’s new expanded programming helps startups at all stages

Iowa’s startup ecosystem has had its share of changes over the last year, and the state’s first startup accelerator has been changing along with it. Late last year, the Iowa Startup Accelerator (ISA) announced that it was expanding its programming to support startup companies at different stages.

The accelerator now offers five different tiered levels of support for startups—Pre-accelerator; Foundation (25K); and advanced accelerators for Growth ($75K); Scale-up (up to $250 – $500K); Expansion (up to $1MM). 

All of the funding support for startups accepted into one of the five stages of programming will come from the ISAV Fund, a new venture capital fund that ultimately aims to invest between $20 and $30 million in Iowa companies over the next five years.

Screenshot from Eric Engelmann’s blog post on expanding ISA’s programming.

“The pre-accelerator program is supposed to be somewhat self-guided. We’ll throw some videos at them, do some coaching, have them pitch and give them feedback. But really focus on customer discovery. Hopefully through the nurturing of that, they can apply for the traditional accelerator, which is that 14-week program,” said Alex Taylor, Managing Director of ISA.

Taylor was named the new Managing Director of ISA last August and was brought on to help expand ISA as the program enters its seventh year. Prior to joining ISA, Taylor worked at several Eastern Iowa companies including Parsons Technology, Dell Computer Corporation, and most recently Digital Diagnostics in Coralville. In addition to helping establish the Tippie Executive MBA program for the University of Iowa, Taylor continues his teaching there as adjunct faculty.

Applications for the 14-week Foundation Accelerator are now open and will close this Friday, Feb. 5. Taylor says he expects to accept 6-8 startups into the accelerator. Accepted participants will receive a $25k pre-seed investment in their business. ISA will run two cohorts of its Foundation Accelerator per year—one in the spring and one in the fall.

Beyond the 14-week accelerator, ISA’s programming for more advanced startups who have completed traditional accelerator but are still in need of follow-on support or investments.

“If you look at these startups, they go through the acceleration and often need another shot in the arm to get to that point where they’re legitimate,” said Taylor. “So now we’ve got the programming in place to get them into that growth stage and beyond.”

Previous coverage

ISA Ventures raises $15 million to invest in Iowa-based companies -Aug. 23, 2020

Iowa EdTech Accelerator announces four startups for inaugural cohort -Feb. 26, 2020

Iowa Startup Accelerator's new expanded programming helps startups at all stages | 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
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives
Purchase Now