The Ag Startup Engine, a new initiative at the Iowa State University Research Park, continues to attract firms and organizations to join and invest in its future. The business incubator was created last year to help address two fundamental gaps that prevent ag business startups and entrepreneurs from being more successful in Iowa: a lack of early-stage investment funding and a need for organized mentorship from successful Iowa and Midwest entrepreneurs.
“The Ag Startup Engine gives valuable assistance to young Iowa entrepreneurs and startups focused on ag technologies by providing them access to networks and resources, including financial resources helpful to their growth,” says Kevin Kimle, director of ISU’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative, which helped launch the Ag Startup Engine in spring 2016.
Ag Startup Engine private entity
While ISU’s Ag Entrepreneurship Initiative assisted in creating and developing the Ag Startup Engine, the engine is a private-sector entity governed by its member-investors. The management prefers that the entrepreneurs be in Ames for a good part of the time they are getting help from the engine, although the services of this new business accelerator are also open to entrepreneurs outside of Iowa.
The recent announcement of Hertz Farm Management joining the Ag Startup Engine as a member-investor comes only one month after Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa program, a statewide economic development initiative, joined the Ag Startup Engine effort. Hertz joins the engine’s growing member base, which includes Renew Rural Iowa, Next Level Ventures, Summit Agricultural Group, Ag Leader Technologies, Ag Ventures Alliance and Peoples Co.
“Hertz Farm Management is a great example of an entrepreneurial agricultural business,” says Kimle. “Hertz is supportive of ag entrepreneurs across the industry, so its investment in the Ag Startup Engine is a natural extension of that support.”
Support includes mentoring, financial help
“The Iowa State Ag Engine Startup fosters an excellent opportunity to connect agribusiness, entrepreneurs and resources to create value for agriculture and make a difference,” says Randy Hertz, CEO of Hertz Farm Management. “We are pleased to be part of the initiative.”
The Ag Startup Engine aims to provide agricultural entrepreneurs a structured means of moving from a startup concept to a ready-to-go business. Working in partnership with ISU’s Startup Factory Accelerator, the program is implementing an infrastructure for mentoring, rapid prototyping, product development, financing and customer acquisition.
“I’ve been extremely pleased with the growing excitement around financing and mentoring support from each of our partners, as it brings so much to our entrepreneurs in their early days,” says Joel Harris, co-director of the Ag Startup Engine. “Each member brings something new to the table and brings a level of sophistication to our portfolio companies, which in turn sets the stage for the Ag Startup Engine to be truly successful.”