Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

A new accelerator program is coming to Iowa City

The Iowa City Area Development Group (ICAD) is partnering with Heartland Forward and Builders and Backers to bring a new accelerator program to Iowa City.

The Idea Accelerator is a 90-day, virtual program to get your idea off the sidelines and into action. All accepted into the program will receive $5,000 in non-dilutive funding to help test out their business idea.

Anyone who has a creative for solving a problem facing the Iowa City community can complete an application. Residents with the most promising and innovative ideas will be selected to participate in a two-month long virtual program starting on January 20, 2022.

”The Iowa City Area is a community full of innovative thinkers who are passionate about developing solutions to problems in our community and beyond,” said Liz Hubing, Director of Marketing, Community Development, and Entrepreneurship at ICAD in a statement. “We’re excited to work with Heartland Forward and Builders and Backers to provide a low-risk, experimental environment for people in our community to test their ideas and bring new businesses to life. We’re certain that this program will serve as a powerful conduit for our community’s existing entrepreneurial programming.”

The new program in Iowa City is part of Heartland Forward’s commitment to funding and supporting 1,000 builders across the heartland by 2023. The program was successfully piloted in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Oxford, Mississippi this summer.

Builder and Backers will be hosting an informational session on Dec. 9, where you can learn more about the program and have a chance to ask questions.

Iowa City residents must apply by December 19, 2021.

A new accelerator program is coming to Iowa City | 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
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives
Purchase Now