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Next Level Ventures announces new investment fund for fintech companies in the credit union industry

Next Level Ventures along with credit union partners of Members Development Company (MDC) have announced the launch of a new venture capital fund Curql that will focus on financial services technology companies in the credit union industry. 

The Curql Fund will be managed by Next Level Ventures. The firm will help to lead, structure and manage the investments from the Curql Fund in the fintech companies. To date, NLV invested in two credit union service organizations—Dwolla and LenderClose—and has worked with several credit unions over the last nine years.

So more than two dozen credit unions have committed to investing in the Curql fund. The fund is projected to reach $75 million from MDC credit unions alone, according to a press release from earlier this week. As the Curql Fund is open to investments from credit unions outside of MDC, the fund is expected to grow even further. Craig Ibsen, Managing Partner of Next Level Ventures, says the goal is to grow the fund to between $100 million and $150 million by this summer.

“Every day there are fintech startups emerging on the scene with new technologies designed for online banking, lending, payments, savings, financial education, digital engagement, cyber security and more,” said Ibsen in an announcement. “Each offers the potential for members to more easily engage with credit unions and simplify the process for using new services. As this rapid expansion takes place, Curql seeks to bring credit unions into the center of it all, to activate meaningful, experiential change for credit unions and for members through technology.”

Previous coverage

Next Level Ventures continues to invest in Iowa’s growth as it opens second fund -Sept. 19, 2018

Next Level Ventures leads $1.3 million investment in LenderClose -April 17, 2018

Next Level Ventures announces new investment fund for fintech companies in the credit union industry | 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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