Guest post by Aaron Horn. Aaron is the Executive Director of NewBoCo, a nonprofit that created programs such as the Iowa Startup Accelerator, DeltaV Code School, Kiva Iowa, NewBoCo K-12, Intrapreneur Academy, and others supporting entrepreneurship, tech education, and innovation.
Our nonprofit has learned a thing or two over the past eight years as we’ve collaborated with partners to build and run accelerators, investor groups, K-12 computer science programs, adult tech education programs, innovation workshops, entrepreneurial events, and more. All of these things work together, as a unique and aggressive economic development strategy. For example, 67 companies have participated in our accelerator program; we’ve invested more than $6 million in them, and they’ve gone on to raise almost $100 million so far. They’ve created hundreds of jobs in Iowa – many of them high paying tech jobs. More than 100 students have completed DeltaV Code School, filling workforce gaps for our state’s key employers. Our computer science programs in Iowa schools have trained 1,200 teachers, who have in turn taught CS to over 45,000 students. We’ve never shied away from big ideas and audacious goals to make Iowa known, around the world, for making big things happen.
And now we’re aiming even bigger.
While our mission has always been “from Iowa”, our roots are in Cedar Rapids and therefore much of our focus has been in Eastern Iowa. But increasingly, economic developers from other Iowa communities have reached out to ask us about our experiences. Our diverse team of 25 is uniquely suited to help other communities find the right mix for their economic development strategies. We know what has worked and what hasn’t, and how those lessons learned might apply to the unique challenges other community leaders are seeing. We love these conversations because we’re passionate about addressing ecosystem gaps to ensure our communities are not just “surviving” our current economic challenges, but embracing opportunities to grow and thrive because of them.
Every community is different and we don’t pretend to have a “one size fits all” solution that can be applied equally to every area in Iowa. To be sure, we have great resources such as software developers and digital marketers on staff, access to capital, and curriculum for accelerators, IT training, innovation training, and more. The key is in working with partners in these communities to make sure the resources are right for them.
In 2022, NewBoCo will strategically align with at least four Community Partners across Iowa to pilot the launch of key programs in their communities. So far, leaders in the Quad Cities, Mason City, and Mount Pleasant are on board to bring local access to our Iowa Startup Accelerator, DeltaV Code School, K-12 Computer Science professional development, and capital for companies of all sizes with Kiva Iowa and ISA Ventures. If these are areas that would be impactful for where you live and work in Iowa, please reach out. I’d love to hear from you and talk about how we could collaborate!