State of the Fund

Entrepreneurship is hard. Founders are required to wear many hats, especially in those first precious, foundation-building years – from sales to marketing, recruiting to customer support, product development to cashflow management. For better or worse, these startup leaders rarely have an opportunity to reflect on their own accomplishments, let alone the successes of their growing startups.

When we launched the very first InnoVenture Challenge one year ago, we decided it would be a celebration of Iowa’s brightest and boldest innovators. We wanted to create a way for these founders to be recognized for their important work. Now in our second year, we’ve come to realize that this event is about so much more than the innovators themselves – it’s grown to become a gathering of our resource providers, mentors and community builders, program directors and corporate leaders who influence and contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Iowa. 

The InnoVenture Challenge brings together these enthusiasts and experts with the optimists, the dreamers and the doers who dare to make our world a better place. Our attendance this year has doubled: 400+ registrants have claimed their seats to watch three (3) Iowa startup finalists compete on-stage for the $100,000 cash prize. I would hazard a guess, however, that this spectacular check pales in comparison to the outcomes that are possible when such a room comes together to talk about the future of our state.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our sponsors for making this competition a reality. NewBoCo and Ag Ventures Alliance have sponsored buses to shuttle in attendees from Cedar Rapids and Clear Lake (respectively), Nyemaster Goode has generously sponsored this year’s People’s Choice Award, our partners at Momentum Studios and BrownWinick single-handedly enabled our team to double the size of this event, and the Goldfinch Sponsors, including the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at The University of Iowa, America’s Cultivation CorridorDentons Davis Brown and the Business Publications Corporation all played a role in shaping the production and development of the 2023 InnoVenture Challenge.

It’s been a pleasure getting to work with Jonathon Horne and Garrett Lauderdale of Idea Fund of La Crosse, Matt Sexton at Google, Jill Feilmeier at Delta Dental and of course Dan Israel and Jess Louis at the Global Insurance Accelerator. And who can forget our “Field of Dreamers”? Colleen Kinsey from Softvoya, Kate Wagner at Roboflow and Craig Ibsen and Curt Nelson with Iowa Venture Capital Association.

We look forward to seeing all of you tomorrow night at Curate Des Moines.