Applications are open for Cohort 11

Building a World Class Innovation Machine

One Startup at a Time


ISU Startup Factory

The ISU Startup Factory offers creative thinkers and inventors the opportunity to explore their innovative ideas for a product or service.  Our overall goal is for researchers and inventors to move from “tech speak to business speak” to gain investment in their business and sales of their unique products and services.  The 16-weeks of sessions coincide with the academic calendars of the ISU fall and spring semesters.  During those meetings, we focus on the foundational strategies of building a startup business.  The interactive presentations begin with founders’ leadership skills and end with a commercialization strategy plan to guide entrepreneurs to their first sale.  In addition, each cohort member receives valuable mentoring and networking introductions. 

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About the Factory

Who is the ISU Startup Factory recruiting?  

Primary Criteria: Technology or innovation with commercial potential and a founder(s) willing to see it through.   


Ideal participants have:  

  • Already been awarded funding for their research  
  • Completed a local ISU I-Corps program, or National NSF I-Corps program   
  • A baseline understanding of customer discovery, and have completed 20+ customer conversations.  
  • A willingness to put in the effort to work outside of your comfort zone 
  • A strong desire to be a part of an entrepreneurial community that seeks to change the world. 
  • *Special consideration offered to ISU faculty members, graduate students, or staff 



“With a renewed emphasis on bringing more of ISU’s research out of the labs and to the world, the Startup Factory’s focus is to move our cohort members from Tech Speak to Business Speak”

-Peter Hong

The Program

The ISU Startup Factory is a true startup incubator where business ideas are developed, examined, and validated; and where entrepreneurs learn, pivot if necessary, and grow.   

Entrepreneurs receive training, resources, guidance and access to our network of mentors, alumni and advisors. During the 16-week program, innovators will develop their business acumen, enhance their communication skills, and learn deeply about their customers. This curriculum will prepare them to pursue non-dilutive funding as they continue to develop both their technology and commercialization plans. Options to graduate on to one of Iowa’s accelerators or other startup programs are available, along with programming to sustain regular mentorship, supported through the ISU Startup Factory.  

The teaching team consists of experienced successful entrepreneurs with a broad range of skills and network connections who provide individualized focus to help you build a business model around your idea.  “Meeting you where you are at”, on your startup journey is at the core of ISU Startup Factory mentorship experience.  If you have an innovative idea for a product or service and have the passion and drive to realize its value to society and your financial well-being, the ISU Startup Factory invites you to join a cohort of like-minded people devoted to creating successful startups in Iowa.  

The curriculum includes workshops and group discussions on:  

        • The importance of self-awareness and strong communication skills as an innovator in team member selection and interaction   
        • How to protect intellectual property 
        • Talking to, and learning from, potential customers 
        • Appropriate business models to commercialize the technology  
        • The importance of a clear Vision, Mission, and Values 
        • How to create credible financial reports   
        • How to present your business for maximum impact  
        • How to identify critical elements of your business and create a commercialization plan 

Founder Expectations

Founders commit to attending:  

  • Two formal sessions each week (3.5 hours total), for 16 weeks  
  • 2-hour session on Tuesdays  
  • 1-hour workshop session on Thursdays  
  • A weekly 1:1 meeting with an assigned Teaching Team member  
  • Plus additional ad-hoc mentoring with external mentors 

Founders are expected to complete the program by pitching on Demo Day, and developing a commercialization plan that includes:  

  • Executive summary  
  • Competitive matrix  
  • Market summary  
  • Plans for addressing barriers to entry  
  • Simplified pro forma financials  
  • and an 18-month roadmap plan.  
The Process

The Startup Factory accepts applications twice per year for a program cycle each academic semester. Candidates with I-Corps graduations planned before program start will be given additional consideration. See I-Corps program schedule here.


Program Start: January 2022 

Applications Open: October 25, 2021  

Applications Close: December 10, 2021  

Decisions Announced on a rolling basis.   

Apply for Cohort 11


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