Cedar Rapids’ New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative, known as NewBoCo, last week unveiled several new initiatives including the expansion of its Iowa Startup Accelerator (ISA) program to Iowa City and a new $30 million venture fund to help propel those companies as they grow, reports the Corridor Business Journal.
NewBoCo leaders shared their big plans for the future at the nonprofit’s annual meeting Sept. 19 at The Hotel at Kirkwood. Among a raft of ambitious goals was a pledge to boost the number of jobs created by ISA companies to 1,000 by 2024 – up from 91 in 2014, and a projected 200 next year.
“I personally think we’re going to blow this number away,” said NewBoCo Executive Director Eric Engelmann, pointing to past ISA members like Iowa City-based Rantizo, which has won approval for agricultural drone spraying in five Midwestern states since July. “But this is our sort of conservative way of capturing what we’re doing here. And these are the companies that ultimately will become the ones that have hundreds or thousands of employees in the next 10 years.”
Part of that effort involves developing industry-specific programs, including establishing an edtech-specific accelerator program in Iowa City. The new accelerator program, called the Iowa EdTech Accelerator, will be a collaboration between regional business resources and education industry leaders, including Iowa City Area Development Group, the University of Iowa, Higher Learning Technologies, ACT and the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
Modeled on the current ISA, the Iowa City accelerator will focus only on educational technology, providing mentoring, coaching and prototyping support. The program will begin accepting applications this fall and will launch in early 2020.
“One of the weaknesses we saw in the program the way it has been designed so far was we weren’t able to coalesce resources around a single industry for a given company,” Engelmann said. “This is our experiment. We’re running next year with a lot of partners to help decide whether that works.”
Assuming that approach is successful, NewBoCo plans to expand it to five other industries, including agriculture technology, transportation, technology and others that “help build on the strengths of Eastern Iowa’s existing ecosystem,” he added.
Mr. Engelmann and Steve Gray, of Gray Venture Partners, also introduced the ISA Ventures Fund, a $30 million fund focused on providing capital for early-stage startups and fast-growing companies in Eastern Iowa. The fund will be the key part of a “venture studio,” which provides a wide array of resources in addition to capital, including technology, sales and marketing support to selected startups.
“That next layer of financing is oftentimes missing, and it’s very much missing in Eastern Iowa. I don’t want the people that live here to think that they have to go to the west coast or Austin, Texas, or Boston or New York, to pursue their dreams,” said Mr. Gray, who noted that his own fund invested $25 million in several young companies from 2005-2010, including Security Coverage, Involta, Higher Learning Technologies and Ready Wireless.
“Today, those companies employ close to 1,000 people and have the cumulative enterprise value of close to $500 billion,” he said. “So when you think about the economic impact that one person can have, think about the economic impact that all of us can have.”
Other goals announced by NewBoCo leaders include:
· Launching four Intrapreneur Academy cohorts in 2020, one each quarter.
· Offering a DeltaV Code 201 nights and weekends course in 2020, and launching a digital marketing developer curriculum.
· Training Iowa’s teachers until 100 percent of schools offer computer science. Today, that number is 45 percent, up from 40 percent when NewBoCo’s initiative began two years ago.
· Expanding its partnership with Iowa BIG, including growing its AgileEDU training program for teachers.