The top Iowa innovation community news for 2016

The following is a look back at the things that really stood out in the Iowa innovation community in 2016. To create it, I combed through the past 51 issues of The Pull and grouped the highlights into three pretty handy categories: Acquisitions, Accelerators and Investment. Of course, there were several other items that I wanted to include that didn't fit as neatly into one of the categories so you'll find them at the end in the "The Year in Other Stuff" section.

Putting together a post like this really makes one appreciate how much ground we cover as a community in the course of a year. You're all pretty great. 


The Year in Acquisitions

Two Iowa startups were acquired this year and each by a large out-of-state enterprise. The founders of both companies remain involved in their new companies post-aquisition working from newly established Iowa offices. Tourney Machine, a sports tech startup in Ames, was acquired by Sports Illustrated Play in April and TelePharm, a telepharmacy startup in Iowa City, was acquired by Cardinal Health in August.

The Year in Accelerators

Three accelerators hosted programs in our state this year, including the Global Insurance Accelerator in Des Moines (second cohort, six companies), the ISU Startup Factory/Ag Startup Engine in Ames (first cohort, thirteen companies) and the Iowa Startup Accelerator in Cedar Rapids (third cohort, six companies). ISU also launched CyStarters, a student-accelerator program joining its established peers the Venture School Student Accelerator at UI and the Lorentzen Hatchery at Drake.

Additionally, planning is in the works for three additional accelerator programs which have been announced but not yet launched: the Kitchen Council, a new restaurant accelerator, in Council Bluffs, an un-named ag-tech accelerator to based in Des Moines and the Rural Ventures Accelerator to be based in Boone.

Four startups with Iowa ties joined accelerators in other states: UpCraft Club and WorkHound, both of Des Moines, joined 500 Startups and Dynamo, respectively, LendEdu, a graduate of the Iowa Startup Accelerator, joined Y Combinator and Drive Spotter, a graduate of the Global Insurance Accelerator, joined Techstars Mobile.

The Year in Investment Capital

Four Iowa companies announced investment rounds north of $1MM this year. Topping that list is marketing automation company FunnelWise of West Des Moines who announced a $7MM raise in February. Medical software company Vida Diagnostics of Coralville raised $5.1MM in December, TV-over-IP company Syncbak of Cedar Rapids raised $3MM in April and power over ethernet lighting startup Igor of Johnston announced a $2MM series B in August. Four companies announced smaller rounds as well: Drive Spotter $750,000, Serious Social Media $700,000, AgriSync $450,000 and Gross-Wen's $225,000.  

In related news, River Glen Private Capital (West Des Moines) announced they were raising a fund in February and Prairie Crest Capital (Des Moines) did the same in October. Also, two female-focused angel investor groups were formed throughout the year: FIN Capital (Clive) and Pipeline Angels (Cedar Rapids). 

The Year in Other Stuff

The Cedar Rapids-based non-profit parent entity to the Iowa Startup Accelerator, Vault Coworking & Collaboration Space and several other programs was re-branded as the New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative or "NewBoCo". EntreFEST, one of our state's largest entrepreneurial gatherings, was cancelled, then acquired by NewBoCo, and is set to return in May 2017. They also launched DeltaV, Iowa's first adult code school, earlier this month.

As a state, we jumped from 51st (last) to 30th in the American Express OPEN's 2016 "The State of Women-Owned Businesses" rankings. While the climate for women-owned businesses has definitely improved, there's an asterisk to 30th place since some of the criteria for the rankings changed this year.

The Iowa City-area was recognized by the Technology Association of Iowa as their first ever "Technology Community of the Year" at the annual Prometheus Awards in March.

Iowa BIG, an initiative-based high school in Cedar Rapids, received a $1MM grant from XQ: The Super School Project.

In July, we pulled together a heck of a week of Iowa stop's on Paul Singh's national "Tech Tour". Based on attendance estimates, we gathered about 445 members of the community at various locations in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Ames.

PHOTO CREDIT: DeltaV Code School on Facebook