Tech takeaway

Each quarter, the innovationIOWA newsletter will share a funding recap of the startup companies that received funding from the Iowa Economic Development Authority and a recap of the companies raising money according to Form D filings through the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. If there is other startup funding data you’re interested in seeing, send me an email:

The Iowa Economic Development Authority awards funding to startups in the form of low-interest loans through its Innovation Continuum, which includes five funds that are designed to offer companies non-dilutive funding at every stage of business growth. The funds are: Proof of Commercial Relevance (POCR), Demonstration Fund and the Innovation Acceleration Fund, which offers Launch, Propel and Innovation Expansion awards.

These financing options are geared toward companies operating in the fields of advanced manufacturing, biosciences or information technology. Each fund in the continuum also requires the company to supply matching funds, which could come from family and friends funding, outside investors or federal funding programs like the Small Business Innovation Research program.

Starting this year, IEDA has provided additional funding through the U.S. Treasury’s State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). Iowa received $96 million from SSBCI, and $22 million was allocated to increasing the amount of funding available through each of IEDA’s innovation funds. For example, before the SSBCI funding, companies could receive a POCR loan of up to $25,000; now POCR loans of up to $50,000 are available.

After the application process, which includes an interview with a panel of experts in the industry the company operates in, companies present to the IEDA Technology Commercialization Committee (TCC). The TCC then makes recommendations to the IEDA board for final approval of awards.

The SSBCI Review Committee also reviews and scores applications and makes recommendations to the executive director of IEDA for final approval of awards that are funded through the SSBCI allocation. Both committees meet every two months.

Below are the startups and organizations that received funding through IEDA programs in the second quarter of 2023.

IEDA Innovation Continuum Funds

SoilSerdem – Ames$32,000 Proof of Commercial Relevance loan. SoilSerdem provides scientific soil mapping to help with agronomic decision-making.

Varsity Music Inc. – Ames: 
$50,000 Proof of Commercial Relevance loan. Varsity Music produces illuminant instrument lights.

Zymosense Inc. – Ames: 
$100,000 Demonstration Fund loan. Zymosense created a platform to enable faster and more accurate high-throughput discovery of new enzymes for food, feed and pharmaceuticals.

Upvote – Des Moines: 
$50,000 Proof of Commercial Relevance loan. Upvote is a scalable communication platform where users can find summarized, objective information related to policy and current events in plain language.

State Small Business Credit Initiative

Nebullam Inc. – Ames: $250,000 Innovation Acceleration Launch Fund loan. Nebullam offers a full-service subscription service, selling produce directly to consumers.

Smart Scripts Holdings – Iowa City: 
$1 million Innovation Acceleration Expansion Fund loan. Smart Scripts is a data provider focused on patient outcomes.

Continuum Ag – Washington: 
$250,000 Innovation Acceleration Launch Fund loan. Continuum Ag offers farmers a digital roadmap to soil health.

Distynct Inc. – Ames: 
$250,000 Innovation Acceleration Launch Fund loan. Distynct provides a remote monitoring system that deploys reliable internet connectivity to rural areas and sensors that collect critical barn data to support precision livestock farming.

Haber Technologies Inc. – Ames
$250,000 Innovation Acceleration Launch Fund loan. Haber Technologies develops products through their Ag-Automations platform to help farmers dry, store and manage grain.

Pitchly Inc. – Des Moines
$1 million Innovation Acceleration Expansion Fund loan for key personnel and product refinement. Pitchly offers customers the ability to access, search, edit and share data among employees and connect the data to common work tasks.

SwineTech  Solon
$250,000 Innovation Acceleration Launch Fund loan. SwineTech offers software and services for pork producers to improve operational efficiencies, employee engagement and pig care.

Entrepreneurial Investment Awards Program

The Entrepreneurial Investment Awards (EIA) program supports resource providers that offer technical and financial assistance to entrepreneurs and startup companies seeking to create, locate or expand a business in Iowa. The entrepreneurial resource providers should offer services that include, but are not limited to, corporate development, business model development, business planning and marketing.

$200,000 EIA grant to support startup costs for the first year, including outreach, contract specialists and personnel. Coordinated by Carroll County Growth Partnership, Hub712 provides a centralized space to offer rural Iowans a variety of business services and resources in the west-central Iowa region.

Morningside University: 
$360,650 EIA grant to be used over two years. Morningside University is collaborating with Iowa’s West Coast Initiative, the Siouxland Economic Development Corporation and Drake University to support rural entrepreneurial growth in the Siouxland region through technical assistance, education and community-centered mentoring.

Landus Innovation Connector – Des Moines
$120,000 EIA grant for key personnel, promotion of technology to farmers, and venture events. The Landus Innovation Connector supports the growth of innovative agricultural technologies through mentorship and direct connections to the marketplace for entrepreneurs and scale-up companies.

Pi515 Girls Entrepreneurship Incubator – Des Moines: 
$200,000 EIA grant to facilitate community outreach, engage and involve young women, develop curriculum, and recruit key personnel. The incubator is an initiative focused on empowering and supporting aspiring young women entrepreneurs through mentorship, workshops, networking, market exposure and resources.