Representatives from the ISU Startup Factory’s eighth cohort pose for a group photo during the program’s kick-off reception held Jan. 16 at the ISU Alumni Center.


AMES, Iowa (January 27, 2020) – The Iowa State University Startup Factory today announced its eighth cohort of entrepreneurs entering the Iowa State-based program.

Twelve teams joined the program, starting with an evening kick-off reception held January 16 at the ISU Alumni Center, followed by an afternoon of programming Tuesday at the Startup Factory’s space at the Iowa State University Research Park.

More than 100 individuals, including past and present cohort members, program mentors, advisors and investors, attended the reception held to celebrate program successes, honor past and graduating cohort members, and introduce the incoming cohort.

Interim Vice President for Economic Development and Business Engagement David Spalding and ISU Startup Factory President Bill Adamowski provided opening remarks.

“We’re here tonight to celebrate cohort member achievements and the contributions and impacts of this very special program,” Spalding said. “The Startup Factory is an important part of a vibrant ecosystem – a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship – we are building under President Wintersteen’s leadership at Iowa State. In this rich environment, companies are provided the resources and support to help them innovate and grow.”

Spalding detailed some of the program’s most recent successes.

“Since its June 2016 launch, with this new cohort, the ISU Startup Factory has accepted 114 startups into the program,” he said. “To-date, our companies have attracted more than $28.7 million in state and federal funding and private investment.”

Spalding announced startups that have achieved significant milestones, including two inductees to the “Two-Comma Club,” representing startups in the program that have reached over a $1 million valuation, and an “Eight-Digit Achievement” awardee would be recognized.

In his opening comments, Adamowski said the Startup Factory program is well on the way to achieving its goal to position Iowa State among the top five universities nationally in startups within five years.

“Initially, we said we wanted to accept 100 startups into the program and reach $25 million in venture funding by the program’s fifth year,” he said. “But as you heard tonight, we’ve exceeded those goals in just our first three and a half years. That’s huge momentum and progress, and we’re only getting started.”

The evening also included a presentation by Smart Ag Founder Colin Hurd. Smart Ag, a Startup Factory inaugural cohort member and Ag Startup Engine portfolio company, was recently acquired by Raven Industries. Hurd shared Smart Ag’s journey going from an idea to an exit, and provided personal insights and advice to the incoming cohort.

Startup Factory COO Dr. Kris Johansen led cohort introductions, which included graduating members of Cohort 6; Cohort 7 members transitioning to the second half of the program; and, incoming Cohort 8 members who were welcomed to the program.

Capping off the evening, Adamowski and Johansen presented special awards recognizing cohort member achievements and volunteer contributions:

  • Two-Comma Club
    • Haber Technologies, Inc.
    • ETALYC
  • Eight-Digit Achievement
    • Gross-Wen Technologies, Inc.
  • Dave Furbush Award
    • Presented to Jeff Paxhia for his dedication and commitment to the ISU Startup Factory program
  • I-Corps Champion Award
    • Presented to Carol Kersey and Craig Forney for their contributions to the ISU Innovation Ecosystem

For more information on mentoring, advising, and investment opportunities with the ISU Startup Factory, please email Kris Johansen at or visit

The following are the names of the participating startups in the eighth cohort:

AeroSeeder, LLC – Founded by Thomas Leitgen, is a drone system manufacturer for heavy lifting farming applications, concentrating on seeding of cover crops and spot spraying.

AgTech Innovations Labs – Led by Dr. A.S. Kuna and Dr. Dileepkumar Guntuku, develops innovations to modernize farmers’ production practices allowing access credit and quality inputs, reducing risk of crop failures, and increasing yields.

BrainSoft – Founded by Lotfi ben Othmane, specializes in developing technologies for interacting with the human brain including software using brain waves to control physical objects.

Citizen Scientist – Founded by Carolyn J. Lawrence-Dill, enables researchers to hire verified experts through a web-based platform that offers service agreements compatible with academic, federal, and industry partner requirements. Team Members: Darwin Campbell, Scott Zarecor, Doug Moore, Ian Braun, Aashutosh Mallik.

The FarmHand App – Founded by Michael Schaeffer, is a platform giving farmers the ability to connect with “Farmhands” for day-to-day or seasonal employment.

FoMA – FoMA is an online marketplace for peer-to-peer trading of perishable products like fruits and vegetables directly from consumers’ refrigerators. Team Members: Vishal Rao, Abinayaa Dhanagopal, Archana Venkatachalapathy, Ravikumar Selvam, Lokeshwaren Baskaran.

Legov Systems Group, LLC – Co-founded by Rick Zrotslik, Julie Slaughter, and Kelly Rowles, is developing scalable energy harvesting systems to convert thermal energy into electrical.

Quantum Control Works – Led by Charlie Bright, commercializes the fruits of prior research and development into uniquely capable actuators. Team Members: Ken Augustine and Scott Beckwith.

seedBiome – Co-founded by Rodrigo Pedrozo and Rafael Roldan, exists to explore and harness the microbiomes of commercial and wild seeds to design microbiological solutions to boost food production, quality, and safety. Team Members: Shatabdi Sen and Shivani Sharma.

Swarm Logistix – Led by Glenn Luckinbill and Isaac Meyerholtz, develops multi-robotic systems. Swarm Logistix is preparing to take its Mobile Autonomous Container Jack (MacJac), to market.

TdVib – Cofounded by Daniel Bina and Scott Roberts, designs and manufactures technology-driven, high-value systems based on electromagnetics including magnetostrictive smart materials Terfenol-D and Galfenol.

WashWright – Founded by Justin Wright, is developing a hands-free system to automate swine producers’ power washing and sanitation process.


About ISU Startup Factory
The Iowa State University (ISU) Startup Factory is a 52-week intensive program housed at the ISU Research Park (ISURP). Entrepreneurs in the Startup Factory receive formal training, resources, and access to a network of business mentors, advisors, counselors, and investors in two 26-week blocks: the first a formal curriculum centered on business validation, and the second, customized to their individual business needs. For more information on the ISU Startup Factory program, call 515-294-7444 or visit

About ISU Research Park
Established in 1987, The Iowa State University Research Park (ISURP) is a real estate development community closely affiliated with Iowa State University. ISURP assists both established and startup companies in connecting with Iowa State’s vast infrastructure to grow their enterprises; whether through students, research entities, equipment or a multitude of other resources. ISURP is currently home to 96 companies and research centers and 10 affiliates, employing 2,253 and 89 people, respectively, and occupies approximately 800,000 square feet of commercial real estate on 400 acres. For more information on ISURP, call 515-296-4204 or visit

Julie Lelonek, Iowa State University Startup Factory Communications

Iowa State University
Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations
1805 Collaboration Place
Ames, IA  50010