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IEDA awards funding to four Iowa startups

The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) has approved innovation funding in support of four Iowa startups. In total, $275,000 was awarded to the four startups.

Here are the startups that received funding.

Mazen Animal Health

Ames-based Mazen Animal Health develops oral animal vaccines for animal disease prevention. The edible vaccines can be dosed with feed, offering a cost-effective, safer delivery, efficacious, room-temperature option for animal vaccines. With the opportunity to treat a variety of animals and animal diseases, Mazen plans to focus on commercialization of swine vaccines.

The company was awarded a $125,000 Demonstration Fund loan for IP development and evaluation, marketing planning and entry activities, key personnel, and regulatory requirements.


Formed in the Iowa State University Startup Factory in Ames, NanoSpy produces a biosensor for the rapid detection of Salmonella in food processing facilities to reduce the economic impact of foodborne illness. The technology overcomes the burdens of current methods that require a two-day period before receiving lab results with a quantitative rapid test that allows for near real-time decisions that mitigate the risk of a pathogen contamination in the consumer market.

The company was awarded a $25,000 Proof of Commercial Relevance (POCR) loan for IP development and evaluation, proof of concept work, and market planning and entry activities.


Townhall, an edtechsoftware development company in Ames, is creating a desktop-based app to improve the video conferencing experience. The app increases engagement for large remote meetings on any platform through gamification and instant feedback.

The company was awarded a $25,000 POCR loan for IP development and evaluation, product refinement, market planning and entry activities, and key personnel.

Lola’s Fine Sauces

Headquartered in West Des Moines, Lola’s Fine Sauces sells family recipes of hot sauces throughout restaurants, grocery stores, and retail stands. The product line has expanded to seven sauces, five salsas, a seasoning mix and a Bloody Mary mix and is sold in more than 10,000 stores nationwide.

The company was awarded a $100,000 Demonstration Fund loan for market analysis, proof of concept work, product refinement, market planning and entry activities, key personnel, and equipment.

IEDA awards funding to four Iowa startups | 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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