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Investing in Iowa: Q1 2021

Investing in Iowa is a quarterly review of all investments made into early-stage companies in Iowa. The series is sponsored by ISA Ventures, a venture capital fund that invests in Iowa-based companies.

Iowa startups raised $31 million in Q1 of 2021. Since the beginning of 2018, Iowa startups have now raised a total of more than $340 million. The following is a list of all known investments raised by Iowa companies in Q1 of 2021.

CompaniesLocationAmount RaisedDate
Continuum AgWashington$125,00003-22-21
Digital DiagnosticsCoralville$2,500,00002-19-21
Haber TechnologiesAmes$300,00003-08-21
IgorWest Des Moines$500,00001-04-21
LenderCloseWest Des Moines$10,000,00003-23-21
Mazen Animal HealthAmes$2,000,00003-01-21
NanoBio DesignsWest Des Moines$450,00002-10-21
RoboflowDes Moines$2,100,00001-12-21
Viewpoint Molecular TargetingCoralville$13,000,00001-11-21


Multiple 10MM+ rounds

Two startups—LenderClose and Viewpoint Molecular Targeting—raised Series B rounds of $10 million or more this quarter. Since we began tracking investments in 2018, 9 companies have raised rounds of $10 million or more.

Investments continue to come from within the state

Much of the capital raised in 2021 continued to come from investors within the state. Next Level Ventures invested in several of the companies that raised capital in 2021 including a $10 Series B round in LenderClose and a $2.1 million seed round in Roboflow. ISA Ventures participated in a $2 million round raised by Mazen Animal Health.

Next Level Ventures raises new fund for fintech companies in 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.

Ag Startup Engine raises second fund of $2.25 million

Ag Startup Engine announced in February that it had increased its investor-member base and has raised a second fund of $2.25 million with plans to invest in up to 45 startups in the agriculture and food technology space over the next five years. 

Established in late 2016, ASE began by looking at agtech startups in the Iowa State University ecosystem. The Ag Startup Engine’s goal was to address how to deploy risk capital into early-stage startups to solve problems in all aspects of agriculture.

Startups that receive investments typically receive a $25,000 to $50,000 investment along with additional resources, connections to investors, partners, customers, advisors, and preferred service providers. This can include office space in the ISU Research Park, assistance in talent acquisition, and discounts on digital tools that help the startups scale quickly.  

These lists were made from a combination of SEC filings, Crunchbase and previous Clay & Milk stories from throughout the year. If you are aware of investments we may have missed, please post them in the comments or send us an email and we will be sure to add them.

Investing in Iowa: Q1 2021 | 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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