Iowa Startup Accelerator is the first time-boxed accelerator in the state.
Name of Accelerator: Iowa Startup Accelerator
Location: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Managing Director: David Tominsky
Program Manager: Molly Monk
This article is part of our Startup Accelerator Spotlight Series featuring accelerators from around the world. We hope these spotlights will assist the entrepreneur should they consider attending an accelerator program.
In two sentences or less, tell us about your accelerator and its objectives.
Iowa Startup Accelerator is the first time-boxed accelerator in the state. We match tech-based startups, especially those in ag, health, education, manufacturing and transportation technology, with world-class mentors, Midwestern work ethic, seed funding, and development expertise to take them from concept to successful launch in 90 days.
Why is your accelerator program unique? Please describe the benefits of participation in your program.
Our accelerator is bookended by programs that help our teams succeed. The pre-accelerator vets team for grit and execution and the post-accelerator continues to work with teams to help them reach $1M in revenue. Agile and focus shape the accelerator itself as a central themes. While in the accelerator, our teams take advantage of the culture of shared learning not only between members of the cohort, but also with our mentor-in-residence program. We’re also part of a larger nonprofit, the New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative, that energizes our community and draws a larger network for our teams.
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What is the most difficult part of working with startups?
A lot of the most difficult parts of working with startups relate directly to founders that latch prematurely onto a solution without doing their due diligence to discover a real problem. It prevents founders from accepting feedback and adapting when necessary. Another difficult thing about working with startups is helping them produce high quality work on a limited to non-existent budget. Limited funding can really help startups to be disciplined and scrappy, but it doesn’t make it easy.
What do you enjoy the most; what do you find most appealing about working with entrepreneurial startups?
Making a crucial introduction that changes the trajectory of an early stage company is incredibly rewarding. With the help of our extensive mentor and resource network, we help people accomplish things they otherwise would never have done. Startups are inspiring. Not only do we get to help them realize their dreams, but we also get to see them inspire our mentors and community.
Tell us about your success stories; Which are the most interesting companies to have participated in your program?
- LendEDU helps refinance student loan debt without hurting credit rates.
- HowFactory simplifies training materials and processes, turning old school know-how into digital show-how.
- Swinetech prevents crushing/lay-on deaths for piglets and acts as a “FitBit” for sows.
- GolfRz improves the golfing experience for users and increased revenue for clubs.
We have six teams going through our program right now with ideas ranging from e-sports to pencil skirts to smart bike technology. A great feature about this cohort – besides their ideas – is that half of the teams have female founders!
What are the three most important factors startup entrepreneurs should consider when contemplating attending an accelerator?
Before applying to an accelerator, founders need to do some serious self-reflection and be able to answer these questions:
- Do you have the grit for this?
Accelerators are hard and things only get harder once you finish the program.
- Are you solving a critical problem?
What will you do if your solution isn’t the answer?
- What do you actually want to get out of this?
What does success look like for you and your company, and when do you need to achieve it?
What else would you like to share?
Accepting you don’t have all the answers but that you are smart enough to ask for help and willing to adapt are pre-requisites of a program like ISA. Accelerators are time-boxed programs but the work goes well-beyond the program start and end dates. Having grit, focus and agility are essential for success before, during and after your accelerator experience.