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Techstars Iowa alum Onward Delivery Raises $4.7 million seed round

Onward Delivery, a freight marketplace that connects retail stores to underutilized trucks already on the road, has closed an oversubscribed $4.7 million seed funding round, led by Range Ventures and Matchstick Ventures.

The round also includes participation from angel investors including Andrew Leto, Founder & CEO of Emerge; Jett McCandless, Founder and CEO of Project44; Sean Henry, Founder & CEO of STORD; James Eberhard, Founder & CEO of Fluid Truck; Mark Joseph, Board Member at Rubicon; and Leo Polovets, General Partner at Susa Ventures.

Onward Delivery was founded in 2020 after its founders experienced the inefficiencies in freight brokerage firsthand working in the industry. On average, it takes nearly 35 days to ship a customer any large appliance or piece of furniture since many retail stores rely solely on a single delivery company in each market.

Onward Delivery was one of ten companies that participated in the 2021 Techstars Iowa accelerator, which took place in Des Moines earlier this year.

“With the ongoing driver shortage and supply chain issues, there is a dire need to automate and digitize final mile delivery,” said Grafton Elliott, CEO of Onward Delivery in a release. “Our technology connects retailers to unused cargo space already on the road, making drivers more efficient. With the completion of our seed round, we are excited to have the support to build out our operations to fix one of the biggest crises of our time.” 

Onward’s platform allows shippers to place shipments to its load board where it is then instantly priced and smart-matched to a truck already headed in the same direction. Onward’s platform streamlines a historically archaic industry by digitizing documents and processes along the final-mile journey, enabling truck drivers to complete more deliveries in less time. Onward’s auto scheduling feature removes the burden of extensive communications between drivers, customers, and shippers with one click. 

“We believe Onward Delivery is well-positioned to innovate an industry that has been historically under-invested in” said Nathaniel Zola, Managing Member at Matchstick Ventures. “At a moment when everyone is talking about the need to solve supply chain challenges, Matchstick is looking forward to watching Onward bring its final-mile delivery solution to more markets across the country.”

Currently, Onward partners with 75 retail stores across six states and is actively looking for new partnerships with retailers and to expand into more markets across the country. Some of Onward’s retail partners include Slumberland Furniture, Bassett Furniture, Woodley’s Fine Furniture, Element Home and The Tile Shop. Today, Onward operates in Iowa, Colorado, Nebraska, Georgia, Kansas and Missouri.

Onward plans to expand its operations to Texas, California, Florida and Wisconsin over the next year. This funding will be allocated to hiring engineers to further build out Onward’s SaaS platform and strengthen the marketplace, with an eye on integrations to make placing shipments a one-click process. Additionally, Onward is focused on building out its sales team with the goal of entering a total of 15 markets by the end of 2022.


Techstars Iowa alum QuickHire raises $1.4 million investment round

Techstars Iowa Accelerator Announces 2021 Class

Techstars Iowa alum Onward Delivery Raises $4.7 million seed round | 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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