Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Cedar Rapids, IA

Cedar Rapids Bridge, Iowa

Located on the banks of the Cedar River in the country’s “bread basket,” Cedar Rapids is a major city for the agricultural industry. That said, it’s not just waves of grain that fuel the Cedar Rapids economy: entrepreneurship has become an increasingly large part of the area’s business environment.

Cedar Rapids, IA, nicknamed the “City of Five Seasons,” is the state’s second-largest city. It’s also one of the primary cities of the metropolitan area known as the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids Corridor. Located on the banks of the Cedar River in the country’s “bread basket,” Cedar Rapids is a major city for the agricultural industry, particularly corn. That said, it’s not just waves of grain that fuel the Cedar Rapids economy: entrepreneurship has become an increasingly large part of the area’s business environment.

The Cedar Rapids metropolitan area ranked 39th overall in a study by Verizon of the most innovative metro areas in the country, while the city also appeared at number 15 in Silicon Prairie News’ 2018 State of the Silicon Prairie rankings of the best cities for tech innovation in the Midwest. That entrepreneurial atmosphere isn’t just limited to Cedar Rapids, either: nearby Iowa City ranked 238th on WalletHub’s 2019 list of the best small cities to start a business, with a rank of 25th in the “Access to Resources” category suggesting that entrepreneurs throughout the area have plenty of support as they launch and grow their startups.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Cedar Rapids’ entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

Just down the road in Iowa City, entrepreneurs can attend weekly Wednesday-morning Open Coffee networking meetings.

The Loft Startup Exchange Meetup hosts monthly events in which an entrepreneur will speak about their professional journey.

The New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative is a meetup group that supports local entrepreneurs by promoting events happening in the area.

Every two weeks, meetings are held at Roaster in Cedar Rapids’ New Bohemian district. The events allow entrepreneurs to meet one another and make connections to help grow their businesses.

 

Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

1 Million Cups hosts regular events for entrepreneurs in a number of cities across the nation.

EntreFEST is an annual two-day conference held in Cedar Rapids. They celebrate entrepreneurship and innovation and helps to grow the environment.

The John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa in Iowa City hosts a variety of entrepreneurial events for both students and the public as a whole.

 

Startup Competitions:

The University of Iowa’s Jacobson Institute hosts the Innovator Competition, a pitch competition with cash prizes for area high school students.

This competition is held on an annual basis and co-hosted by the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers and the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

The John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa hosts a variety of startup competitions for students, including IdeaStorm, the Iowa Startup Games and more.

 

Co-working Spaces:

The Dostal House is a co-working space specifically aimed at women. This includes The Showroom, a boutique with Dostal House merchandise and products made by female founders.

With locations around the Cedar Rapids area in Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty, MERGE offers a variety of membership plans at different price levels.

Cedar Rapids is home to one location of Office Evolution, a nationwide organization that offers shared workspace and private offices for rent.

Located in Cedar Rapids’ NewBo neighborhood, The Space is a co-working space that places a particular emphasis on building a community among its members.

NewBoCo organizes Vault Coworking. The organization offers its members a variety of amenities, including private phone rooms, kitchen access, showers and more.

 

Makerspaces:

The Iowa City Fab Lab is a makerspace that hosts classes based on the available equipment and general prototyping and maker strategies.

MERGE in Iowa City offers protostudios, a rapid prototyping facility open to all Iowa entrepreneurs with a particular focus on biomedical and electronic prototyping.

A program of NewBoCo, VaultLab is a 1,100 square foot prototyping lab with a wide range of equipment to support early-stage hardware prototyping.

 

Incubators:

Run by the Dostal House, The Academy is a 120-day program that works to support women in business both professionally and personally.

The Iowa Small Business Development Center has locations in both Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

Known as NewBoCo, the New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative is an organization that runs and supports a variety of programs to support entrepreneurship in the area.

Located in Coralville, the University of Iowa Research Park is a large facility that supports small businesses and entrepreneurs in a number of ways.

 

Accelerators:

The Hawkeye Startup Accelerator is a 12-week program specifically designed to support student entrepreneurship through workshops, mentoring, pitching opportunities and more.

A program run by NewBoCo, the Iowa Startup Accelerator invests in and supports up to 10 startups per year from the area.

The University of Iowa runs UI Ventures, a program that aims to accelerate ventures and startups based on university research.

 

Colleges/Universities:

Down the road in Mount Vernon, Cornell College supports student entrepreneurship with its Enactus team. They are a group that competes by performing social entrepreneurship.

Kirkwood Community College offers a certificate in entrepreneurship that also works as a part of the school’s associate’s degree in management.

The John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa offers a number of entrepreneurial resources, both inside and outside of the classroom.

 

Angel Groups/VCs:

Founded in 2017 by NewBoCo, the Corridor Angel Investors aims to invest in promising early-stage companies throughout Iowa.

Founded in 2012, Iowa Seed Fund II is a seed-stage venture capital firm. Typically, they invest between $100,000 and $250,000 in promising Iowa-based companies.

Next Level Ventures refers to itself as Iowa’s Venture Capital Firm as it invests in companies throughout the state.

 

Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

The Corridor Business Journal covers business news in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids Corridor region and offers a newsletter containing the biggest headlines.

Cedar Rapids’ daily newspaper, The Gazette, offers a daily email newsletter covering the area’s top news, including business headlines.

Iowa Business Daily covers business news throughout the state. They offer business news and updates delivered to straight to your inbox.

 

Are you familiar with an entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Cedar Rapids not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below, and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

Salt Lake City, UT, Ames, IA, Lincoln, NE,


Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at Funding$age where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.