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EntreFEST 2021 kicks off with ISA Launch Night

EntreFEST 2021 started off strong on Wednesday night with Iowa Startup Accelerator (ISA) Launch Night. The 6 businesses going through this spring’s ISA Foundation Accelerator gave their final pitches live on the Chrome Horse patio stage in Cedar Rapids.

The Iowa Startup Accelerator is an intensive 14-week program that matches Iowa-based startups with seed funding, mentors, and product development expertise to accelerate their businesses.

Here are the six businesses that gave presentations on Wednesday night.

Steel Therapeutics

Steel Therapeutics is a startup biotech company focused on getting FDA approval for pharmaceutical therapies in the pharmacy compounding sector. Specifically, the initial product is a unique and convenient delivery solution for a pharmaceutical compound to treat a common medical condition, improve compliance, and increase efficacy.

The company plans to finalize prototype development for testing by Q3 2021 and to initiate contact with FDA for device testing in Q4 2021.


Presaj is a risk assessment software system that identifies key areas of risk for individual patients in different care settings. Presaj identifies the specific steps with risk at each point-of-care in order to help doctors, nurses, and other healthcare personnel focus on what’s most for the individual patient.

“We can’t expect doctors and nurses to keep track of 138 things that can go wrong. But we can provide them with a software system that cuts out the noise and focuses attention on what’s important,” said Dr. Jim Levett, CEO of Presaj. “The reason Presaj works is that we’re using proven systems engineering principles to assess risk.”

Lotus Razors

Lotus Razors has developed a completely reinvented razor that improves the consumers’ shaving experience. This ergonomic circular design allows the product to move in any direction, eliminates cuts, reduces irritation, and lasts longer than conventional razors.

The company recently completed its second prototype and plan to do a soft launch in Q3 of this year.


Stagerie is an online marketplace connecting homeowners and realtors with home stagers to provide specific staging recommendations that improve home appearance and marketability, to increase listing performance and sales price.

“Sellers can earn 10% more on their sales price if they properly stage their home for sale before they list it on the market,” said Nora Croswaithe, founder of Stagerie.

Stagerie now has stagers in five states and recently became the first and only home staging company that is RE/MAX approved supplier.


Curbicus is a patent-pending, lightweight, easy-to-use vacuum device that “picks up” and disposes of dog waste in a clean, hands-free and environmentally safe way with self-closing compostable capsules. 

“Current methods of collecting and disposing of dog waste are broken. There’s a huge gross factor of sticking your hand in a plastic bag and walking down the street holding it. Plastic and biodegradable bags can sit in landfills for hundreds of years before they even being to decompose,” said Anna Gannon, CEO of Curbicus. “We solved this problem with a clean, convenient device, environmentally friendly compostable capsules, and a hygienic disposal method.”


Sevelyn is an online marketplace for Teletherapy services for Latinos in the U.S. Through its platform Sevelyn connects Latino patients to licensed, board-certified Therapists and Psychologists in Latin America who understand the Latino culture, language, beliefs, and daily mental health challenges faced by Latinos in the U.S.

“Latinos face major inequalities when seeking mental health services in the U.S. Many therapists do not speak Spanish, counseling is very expensive, and many Latinos do not have health insurance which limits them when seeking the mental health that they need,” said Carlos Argüello, Sevelyn CEO.


Iowa Startup Accelerator’s new expanded programming helps startups at all stages -Feb. 24, 2021

ISA Ventures raises $15 million to invest in Iowa-based companies -Aug. 3, 2020

EntreFEST 2021 kicks off with ISA Launch Night | 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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