InnoVenture Iowa invites the best and brightest early-stage entrepreneurs to participate in the first annual InnoVenture Challenge, a pitch competition that will bring together three startup companies to compete on-stage for a $100,000 award.

Attend the Pitch Event

Join us on December 7 from 5:00-7:00 pm at the Temple Theater in Des Moines for the inaugural InnoVenture Challenge, the state’s first winner-take-all $100k pitch competition for early-stage,high-growth startup companies in Iowa. Learn about InnoVenture Iowa, a $30M co-investment fund designed to support homegrown startup companies, and meet our Investment Committee.

Thank you to our 2023 Sponsors

What we’re looking for:

  • Can the founder(s) clearly demonstrate the problem their business solves?
  • Does the business have a clear value proposition?
  • Can this company scale? Is there an ambitious plan for growth?
  • Does this business have the ability to create social impact?


  • The opportunity to pitch your business at the InnoVenture Challenge pitch competition.
  • A chance to receive a $100,000 award from InnoVenture Iowa.
  • Exposure to mentors and advisors from the startup community in Des Moines, Iowa.
  • Potential partnership opportunities with corporate leaders in agtech, advanced manufacturing, insuretech, fintech, venture capital and beyond.

The Process


October 25 - November 15:

Submit your application before November 15, 2022.


November 15-28:

Your application will be reviewed and scored according to an objective set of criteria, which you can find in the FAQs below. All applicants will be notified of the status of their application by November 28. Three (3) semi-finalists will be asked to move forward into the PREPARE stage of the competition.


November 28 - December 6:

Semi-finalists will be matched with an InnoVenture mentor to help them get ready for the pitch competition on December 7. These mentors have been trained to support our finalists in crafting and polishing their pitch deck.


December 7:

Our top three startups will pitch to a panel of judges and an audience at the Temple Theatre in Des Moines, Iowa. This event is free and open to the public. Startups will each get five minutes on-stage to present, followed by 10 minutes of Q&A from the panel of judges.


Any early-stage startup company that meets the criteria below is eligible to apply for the InnoVenture Challenge:

  1. The startup must be located in Iowa.
  2. The startup must operate loosely within the categories of biosciences and/or information technology. This includes agritech, advanced manufacturing, health tech, medtech, insuretech, fintech, and . Startups can be hardware or software companies.

A startup is early-stage if it meets any or all of the following criteria:

  • The company can demonstrate a proof of concept.
  • The company has a functional prototype.
  • The company has some/any top-line revenue (e.g. paying customers).
  • The company has active free users or beta testers.
  • The company has established strategic partnerships for launch.
  • The company has a well-defined go-to-market strategy.

You may submit as many companies as you would like.

One winner will be selected to receive a $100,000 award.

You will be notified of your application status by November 28. If we feel our feedback can be helpful to you in further honing or improving your business plan, we may tell you why you were not selected.

We welcome applicants from across Iowa covering a number of industries, but we are not looking for long-standing organizations or mid- to late-stage startup companies seeking new funding. Preference will be given to innovative projects.

Our screening process will include a detailed evaluation of each application with a core focus on three key areas: feasibility, understanding of the underlying problem the applicant seeks to fix, and innovation.

Startups that move forward into the semi-finalist round will present to a panel of judges who will be looking for a clear articulation of the problem that is being solved and a demonstrated commitment to innovation.

Pitches will be technically evaluated according to the following categories:

  • Degree of overall innovation
  • Capacity, experience and potential of the individual and team
  • Demonstrated feasibility of business model and approach
  • Time to scalable growth
  • Resiliency and grit of the founding members
  • Understanding of core obstacles and risks
  • Funding model and sustainability plan
  • Degree of personal commitment

The Fund

InnoVenture Iowa is a $30 million co-investment fund designed to support early-stage startup companies in biosciences, advanced manufacturing, and information technology. Eligible companies must be headquartered (or have “significant operations”) in Iowa. We seek to represent up to 25% of fundraising rounds that span from $250k-$2M.

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