CEDAR RAPIDS — The Iowa Startup Accelerator has begun its fifth year of fostering young businesses with an expansion of its program to organizations in the not-for-profit realm.
The Accelerator, a part of the New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative, welcomed the first set of start-ups into its 2018 class Monday. The class includes four businesses and one not-for-profit, GSI Works, which is the test participant in NewBoCo’s new Social Good Accelerator — an attempt to bolster the growth of not-for-profits.
While NewBoCo has worked with not-for-profits in the past, no such organizations have gone through the accelerator’s program, which puts participants through 13 weeks of education and a year of mentoring.
Iowa Startup Accelerator Managing Director David Tominsky likened not-for-profits to for-profit start-ups: some may start with the right intentions of fulfilling a mission, but don’t have the experience to keep the effort going.
“Lots of people get into it for all of the right reasons and then they’re missing the structure and the fundamentals they need to make a sustainable organization,” he said. “So you’re seeing nonprofits pop up everywhere and then they’re simply not succeeding. What can we do to help increase the probability of success?”
GSI Works’ Stacie Johnson said GSI wants to help reduce urban and flash flooding — such as ones caused by runoff during storms — through community education and working with residents on practices that can cut down on excessive water buildup.
For examples, downspouts from gutters should be pointed toward areas with vegetation and not pavement, she said.
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It’s “really taking a look at how can we empower ourselves to address those issues while waiting for the city to address the major flood work that needs to be done,” Johnson said.
Johnson applied to the accelerator, she said, to learn how to make GSI a long-term endeavor.
“Taking the business approach to the nonprofit world, I just think that’s a smart way to go. ... I want to see this long after I’m gone exist and even grow nationally, if possible,” Johnson said.
The Iowa Startup Accelerator will accept a second batch of start-ups into its 2018 program this fall.
Here’s more about the four other start-ups accepted into the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s 2018 cohort so far:
l ActWorthy, Iowa City — A social media platform to build social movements by connecting event organizers with activists.
ActWorthy is building “a platform for the people who want to activate you to build a relationship with you who wants to take action,” Chief Executive Officer Ross Katz said.
l Cedar Rapids Marketplace, Cedar Rapids — An online marketplace to buy products from locally owned stores and businesses.
“My best sales were on Amazon. My best sales were at a farmers market,” co-founder Cherie Edilson said of her time as a small-business owner. “It’s really trying to combine those two efforts together on one site to make it easier for everybody to sell.”
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l Kho Labs, Des Moines — A mobile app for athletes to ask health care providers about their injuries.
“The whole vision is to make health care a lot simpler for athletes,” founder Ian Warner said. “Right now, the way most people think about health care is, it focuses more on surgeries and diseases, but when you have a muscular injury, a lot of times there aren’t clear paths for what to do.”
l Codemoji.com, Chicago — An education platform to make it easier to bring the teaching of coding into a classroom.
“We just want to make it really quick and easy for a teacher to bring it into the classroom,” Co-founder Livio Bolzon said.
“We basically take away all the barriers. We do all the lesson plans, we do all the grading, we take attendance, we take as much away from them as we need to do.”
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