116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / Business
In 2020, Alex Taylor took over the role of managing director of the Iowa Startup Accerator.
He was facing uncharted waters.
The world was in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. The idea of company leaders coming together for an intensive 14-week program such as the ISA simply wasn’t possible.
Yet the accelerator’s services still were needed. How to proceed?
Less than a year later, the ISA has graduated its first entirely virtual group of businesses. Six companies took part, including Steel Therapeutics of Iowa City; Presaj of Cedar Rapids; Lotus Razors of Ames; Stagerie of Clive; Curbicus of Clear Lake; and Sevelyn of Clive.
The six companies held a launch event during this month’s EntreFEST event in Cedar Rapids. That night marked the first time many of the participants met face to face, even though they’d been working together daily since February.
“If there was anything positive to come out of the pandemic, it would be ISA’s ability and flexibility to run the Startup Accelerator remotely,” Taylor said.
The ISA is an intensive full-time program that matches Iowa-based start-ups with world-class mentors, seed funding, and product development expertise.
Anna Gannon is the founder of Curbicus, which is launching a product that offers dog owners “a clean and convenient solution to dog waste.” Gannon said the company joined the Iowa Startup Accelerator as part of its plans to launch nationwide later this year.
Gannon is based in New York City, while her business partner is in Iowa.
“I would not have been able to attend this accelerator if it had to be in person,” Gannon said. “I'm grateful that I had the opportunity, because the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s network and mentorship are extremely valuable.”
The ISA program is a full-time commitment for participants. Capital for the program is provided through the $30 Million ISA Ventures Fund.
Participating companies receive seed capital, coaching sessions and educational workshops on budgeting, sales and marketing, and raising capital, among other skills.
Companies also receive access to an extensive mentor pool of industry experts, as well as software and technical support.
Matt Stahl, the co-founder of Steel Therapeutics, said the biggest impact of the Iowa Startup Accelerator is the added credibility that he believes his company now has.
“Because we went through this program, we now have an institutional investor,” he said. “And that gave us the credibility to bring other investors on board.”
Stahl said he didn’t mind not getting to work with coaches and fellow participants in person. In face, he believes the opportunity to work virtually actually helped Steel Therapeutics as he expects to be doing a lot of virtual pitches to investors moving forward.
“Being able to practice virtual presentations, and having virtual discussions within our cohort, really gives us an advantage for the changing world, because things are going to stay virtual for the most part,” he said.
In fact, Taylor said that, although many businesses are opening back up for in-person events, the majority of the ISA’s work will remain virtual going forward.
The next Accelerator group will kick-off in Cedar Rapids on Sept. 13 with three days of face-to-face instructional programs and orientation. The remainder of the 26-week program will mostly be remote — videoconference enabled — with a few scheduled cohort meetings in Des Moines and possibly Ames.
“By employing this hybrid model, we’ll be able to more easily provide programming and services to participating start-ups located from all corners of the State,” Taylor said.
“Iowa is a very lucky place to have all of the resources available to us for starting a business. And the Iowa Startup Accelerator is very proud to be part of that ecosystem.”
For more information on the Iowa Startup Accelerator, go to newbo.co/iowa-startup-accelerator.