Taylor: COVID Turned Lemons into Lemonade for Iowa Startup Accelerator

Guest post by Alex Taylor.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then COVID is the mother of creative solutions and improvement. Pre-COVID, the Iowa Startup Accelerator (ISA) had a very strong residential component that required founders to meet face-to-face for the instructional and networking programs. Of course, all face-to-face activities were summarily redirected when we were hit by the pandemic.  

So ISA did what most organizations did, we improvised using Zoom and other online tools such as Google Shared Drive, Jamboard, AirTable, UTube, and One Hub. It was not always perfect, and we learned a few things along the way, but at the end of the program, ISA successfully coached, mentored, instructed, motivated, and celebrated six startup organizations

As a result of our successful remote experience, beginning with the fall cohort, ISA will embrace a few exciting changes.  First we will move to a hybrid program. This model will include three face-to-face sessions and the rest of the instruction, education, coaching, mentoring and networking activities will primarily use the Zoom platform. The upside of this approach allows startups from all over the state to participate without having the time and expense of traveling to Cedar Rapids and/or Des Moines.

In addition to integrating remote programming into the Accelerator, we’ve expanded the schedule to be six months long. This adjustment offers two distinct benefits to the startups: first they will benefit from more robust and progressive instruction (keep reading); and second startups will more quickly and deliberately qualify for an additional $75k investment from the  ISA Venture Fund.

During the initial three months qualified startups receive a $25K investment and participate in weekly meetings and activities to de-risk the business and more firmly establish their value proposition, market channels, repeatable revenue streams, and growth strategies. During the second three months the schedule relaxes to monthly programming that will focus on sales and scaling the businesses against established measurable benchmarks. And as each participating startup achieves their goals, they may qualify for more investment funding. 

Make no mistake, COVID was disruptive to be sure, but for ISA it wasn’t as much of a game-changer as it was a game-improver.

I am pleased to announce that  We are now accepting applications for the fall cohort to begin September 13. ISA is excited to offer a more accessible experience to qualified Iowa-based startups, with access to as much as $100K in initial investment funding (up to $1MM from ISAV as startups successfully scale and expand), and more progressively robust and deliberate programming for successful growth and business acceleration.  

Click here to learn more about the Iowa Startup Accelerator and how to apply.

Alex Taylor is the managing director for the Iowa Startup Accelerator powered by NewBo Co. Additionally, he is an adjunct instructor with the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and (with his wife) is a founder and co-owner of Woofables Gourmet Dog Biscuits