NewBoCo and Iowa Startup Accelerator are my first nonprofit adventure. Having founded Geonetric in 1999, I remember the thrill of building something new and the euphoria of finding traction and things that work. And then, the tug of the thing taking off as it grows and holding it together as you add staff to meet the demand for services.
It’s a lot of work, keeping up with the rapid change. But it’s also a ton of fun.
Much like my early experience at Geonetric, NewBoCo is a young organization, and it’s on a tear. We’re filling gaps in the ecosystem as quickly as we find them, and we’re growing quickly to meet those needs.
I should also point out that, in every case, we have partners helping financially or with other resources to make it possible.
A few big examples so far in 2016:
- Technical talent. It’s been a challenge for early stage startups to find technical talent. Unless they’re on board as a co-founder, finding a high-end software developer (or two!) to join your team, when the local unemployment rate is in the 3-4% range, is rough. Especially if you’re still in that volatile revenue stage, or even pre-revenue, and haven’t landed significant funding. So we built a small team of developers (affectionately known as “NewBoCode”) and hired coding wonks Keith Dahlby (who went through TechStars Cloud in San Antonio) and Jessica Bertling to provide technical services to our portfolio startups and corporate partners. A grant from our friends at the BlackStone Charitable Foundation helped us get this off the ground earlier this year, and it’s going very well so far.
- Legal help. We’ve worked closely with sponsor Shuttleworth & Ingersoll for most of our startups. They’ve been very generous in providing high-quality free support to portfolio startups as a way to give back to this community. We also hired an in-house General Counsel, Frank Camp, to assist with the flood of legal documents we’re dealing with as investments get made.
- A maker space, VR Lab, and code classroom. When the Science Center closed, the community lost a valuable resource – they had a wonderful maker space available there. With a grant from the Hall-Perrine Foundation, we are beginning construction shortly to create a bunch of new capabilities on our first floor: an electronics/engineering-focused maker space, a code classroom and a virtual reality lab. Startups need the ability to prototype new products and use emerging tools like VR, and we wanted to have as many possible resources as we can for them. Additionally, Rockwell Collins recently gave us the grant to equip the maker space. All of this should be up and be running before the end of the year.
- Code School for adults. We’re close to finalizing our plan to launch a Code School in Cedar Rapids, the first full-time, resident boot camp program in Iowa. More details will be announced soon, but that classroom mentioned above is designed specifically for this program. We hope to have it in place late this year.
- K-12 programming. When the Science Center closed, we announced that our Imagination Iowa arm would begin a new series of Summer Camps. We’re two weeks in, and will have more than 400 kids here this summer learning to code, doing electronics and Lego robotics, and getting a handle on what it takes to be an entrepreneur. A big shout out to Transamerica, GoDaddy and the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation for making the Summer Challenge Camps a reality.
- Female Investors. With our friends at Iowa Women Lead Change, we are kicking off a women-only angel investor network called Pipeline Angels.
- Iowa Girls Code Camp. The first code camp specifically for high school girls in Iowa was held earlier this year, with 52 attendees. We’ll be reprising the event later this year, and probably expanding it in new ways. A huge shoutout to sponsors Tradebot, Geonetric, Rockwell Collins, Pancheros, Maverick Software Consulting, Visionary Services, and Iowa Tech Chicks.
- EntreFEST. We’re excited to be the home of Iowa’s leading entrepreneur conference with support from the University of Northern Iowa, the University of Iowa, and Iowa State University.
And all of that is stuff from the first six months of 2016! So, needless to say, this little nonprofit has grown from 2 employees to 3 to 4 to 5 to 8, and soon to be 12 as we take on EntreFEST, the Code School, and more.
To that end, we have several open positions to help us grow this organization and make an even bigger impact:
- Accelerator Program Manager (for Iowa Startup Accelerator)
- Director of EntreFEST
- Software Development Instructor (for the forthcoming Code School for adults)
- Vault Community Manager (part-time, for the coworking space)
- A web developer/generalist (to join our DevTeam aka NewBoCode, building prototypes for startups and corporate partners)
- A couple of unpaid marketing internships (sorry, we’re a nonprofit, but it’ll be a hella resume builder)
If you think you might be a fit for one of those roles, and you have what it takes to help us build NewBoCo and accelerate even more world-changing ideas, from Iowa, let us know!