State of the Fund – Summer 2024

This spring, our team embarked on a statewide tour to educate founders on the topic of raising venture capital to catalyze their startup dreams. We called it the “Heartland Hustle” – and we meant it. I logged nearly 1,000 miles of travel as I gridded the state to meet with early-stage founders across 15 Iowa cities and municipalities.

We presented on college campuses, in coffee shops, classrooms and breweries, to retirees and high school students alike. From the rolling hills of Dubuque to the sparkling waters of Spirit Lake, the industrial center of Sioux City, all the way to the charming town square in Creston. Our goal was simple: meet Iowans where they’re at – especially in rural parts of the state – and expose them to the process (and purpose) of exchanging equity for cash as they build their ventures.

We engaged nearly 100 registrants for these workshops, including founders in medtech, climate innovations, foodtech and even ghost hunting gear – and we couldn’t have done it without the gracious support of our partners at the Iowa Small Business Development Centers.

We presented the "Heartland Hustle" across the state of Iowa this spring.

It’s relevant to note we launched these workshops amidst a backdrop of declining activity in venture capital investments on a national scale. According to Pitchbook, investment activity in the first quarter of 2024 represented a decline from previous years and was considered the lowest in nearly five years. While we know some of this is the result of political unrest globally, an upcoming presidential election, inflation and high interest rates – I believe it’s also indicative of a changing entrepreneurial landscape.

Investors need to think differently about how we engage founders, seek out world-class innovations, and deploy capital into targeted markets. This spring’s Heartland Hustle was something new, an initiative intended to re-center the people in the deal-making process – to create on-ramps for founders who are often overlooked in this industry (women, minorities, rural residents) and to build early relationships that we hope will culminate in commercially viable (and venture-backable) businesses in Iowa.

The Heartland Hustle demonstrated for us and those who attended these workshops that innovation can happen anywhere.

Indeed, it is happening everywhere.


Kaylee Williams

Investment Director
InnoVenture Iowa Fund