Iowa State University Startup Factory
has operated for a little over a year and is already showing great promise. The 52-week super accelerator attempts to revolutionize the way technology and science are pulled from research and the classroom to create wealth. The program provides cohort teams with a curriculum to validate their business models, office space to operate at the Iowa State Research Park, mentors, advisors, and a network of services to ensure success.
Thirty-six companies have joined the program and 27 are still actively pursuing their businesses. Startup Factory companies have received $5.6 million in external funding since they started the program, including close to $2 million in private equity and including $3.2 million in Small Business Innovation Research awards. Companies in the program are already responsible for creating more than 50 jobs, and several graduate companies remain in operation as Research Park tenants.
To continue cultivating the ecosystem on campus the Startup Factory serves as the accelerator curriculum for companies spun from Iowa State's Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative. An additional feeder program was recently added, establishing a National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps) site at Iowa State - made possible by a partnership between Iowa State's Economic Development and Industry Relations and the Office of the Vice President for Research. I-Corps sites act as a training ground for university researchers to learn how to transition their ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace. Not only will the program strengthen the university's entrepreneurship programs, but the distinction as a newly selected I-Corps site will enhance the university's reputation as a leader in creating innovative solutions to address societal problems. The first round of programming is underway and will include 17 teams, with a goal of 30 teams completing the program annually.
Beyond increasing the volume of entrepreneurial activity from Iowa State, the Startup Factory has become an attractive fit for startups that need expertise or research from Iowa State. Startup Factory CEO Bill Adamowski says this has been a pleasant surprise.
"We knew we could increase the volume of startup activity coming out of the university, but we were a little surprised by how many people came to us with great ideas that needed some additional engineering expertise or some help in another aspect of their business," said Adamowski. "We selected a handful of these businesses to be part of an early cohort and it has led to some great synergies. This led to conversations with multiple people throughout the state and world that were interested in replicating our program, so we are actively working on implementing a model to take the Startup Factory to other locations."
To that end, the Startup Factory recently received a $200,000 grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority's Entrepreneurial Investment Awards to help expand the program throughout Iowa by partnering with regional Small Business Development Centers. The plan is to build a network of startup incubators across the state, pooling resources to support local startups in Iowa.
"Based on the success of the Startup Factory we've had here in Ames, we're sort of spreading the wealth and trying to leverage the things we've learned to drive economic development throughout the state," said Adamowski.
For additional information about programming, mentorship, and support, inquire
Members of Startup Factory team CrossOver meet with ISU Foundation Governors regarding data the team collected as part of a helmet test.