Applications now open for third cohort of Iowa City area residents to turn ideas into reality through idea accelerator program

December 13, 2022 |

Today, the Iowa City Area Development Group and its partners, Builders + Backers and Heartland Forward, announced the continuation of the Builders and Backers Idea Accelerator program in the Iowa City area. The Iowa City program — which aims to stimulate entrepreneurial thinking and action — has successfully launched 20 ideas through two previous Idea Accelerator cohorts.


“In 2022, ICAD partnered with Builders and Backers and Heartland Forward to bring the Idea Accelerator to Iowa City. In just 12 months, we’ve run two cohorts and have helped launch and grow 20 ideas in our community. From an EdTech app that makes music education more accessible in rural communities to a hyper-local initiative to better connect local makers to local shops, we’ve seen so many new and innovative ideas come to life. We’re looking forward to continuing this positive momentum and getting even more ideas off of the sidelines and into action in 2023,” said Liz Hubing, Director of Entrepreneurship and Community Engagement, Iowa City Area Development Group.


Anyone who has a creative and unexpected idea for a new venture or for solving a problem facing the Iowa City area can complete an application here. Iowa City residents must apply by December 30th, 2022. Residents with the most promising and innovative ideas will be selected to participate in a 90-day virtual program and receive $5,000 in Pebble Funds to put their idea into action starting in late January.


“The Idea Accelerator is designed around taking action and it eliminates the barriers — from fear to finances — that keep most of us from getting our ideas out into the world,” said Donna Harris, CEO of Builders + Backers. “Building a venture is more accessible today than ever given the digital tools available. We want to help anyone with a novel idea to get it off the sidelines and give it a go.” 


“We have seen exciting and innovative ventures come out of the Idea Accelerator’s first two Iowa City cohorts, and we are thrilled to be accepting applications for this next cohort in the community,” said Katie Milligan, Program Manager, Innovation and Entrepreneurship  for Heartland Forward. “We’re grateful to our partners Builders + Backers and the Iowa City Area Development Group for their continued commitment to spurring entrepreneurship in the heartland, and we look forward to seeing what this next group of Builders can accomplish in 2023.”

As Iowa City Builder Monique Washington shared: “I didn’t know anything about creating a prototype, I just knew this was something I wanted to do. Builders + Backers helped me manifest that goal.”

The Builders + Backers program is designed to find, equip, and fund Builders with new and novel ideas through:

  • Idea Accelerator: This cohort-based program combines a 45-day virtual Builder Bootcamp to introduce participants to the latest, most effective entrepreneurial approaches to building a venture, followed by 45 days of actively executing their ideas by running experiments. Participants are mentored by Master Builders throughout the program.
  • Pebble Fund: All of the Builders are supported by $5,000 non-dilutive Pebble Funds to test their ideas, build products, and launch new ventures. 
  • Cornerstone Fund: Builders (and other local entrepreneurs) whose ventures demonstrate scale potential have the opportunity to receive pre-seed, seed and Series A funding from the Builders + Backers Cornerstone Fund.

Of the Idea Accelerator Iowa City participants, 60% are individuals of color and 60% are female. This is particularly notable, as women-founded companies received less than two percent of capital invested in VC-backed startups in the US, and Black-owned startups received just over one percent. To learn more about the Iowa City program and its Builders, see the video here.