Accelerators, Incubators, & Co-working Spaces, Oh My

February 16, 2018

If you’re new to entrepreneurship, all the jargon that gets tossed around can be confusing. One of our goals at the Pappajohn Center is to help you understand that jargon and find the right business resources for you. When starting a business, you’ll probably hear about business accelerators, business incubators, and co-working spaces. What are they, what’s the best for you and your business idea, and what’s available here in North Iowa?

Business Accelerator

A business accelerator takes you from 0 to 60 fast. Accelerators are usually structured programs ranging from 90 days to 1 year long. Business accelerators are usually targeted to startups with scalable ideas, especially ones that are technology or data driven in any field from agriculture to manufacturing to energy, and on. Business accelerators use in-depth coaching to guide startups through building a strong and sustainable foundation.

In North Iowa, the newest addition to the business accelerator scene is the Startup Factory Network. The NIACC Pappajohn Center and the SBDC have partnered with the ISU Startup Factory to bring this accelerator to rural North Iowa. The first North Iowa Startup Factory Network cohort began in January 2018; Five area entrepreneurs made it through the competitive application process. If you have a startup idea, particularly one that is tech or data driven, sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on when the next North Iowa cohort is being formed, led by Dan Winegarden, NIACC Pappajohn Business Accelerator Director.

Business Accelerators in Iowa:

Business Incubator

Here in rural Iowa, when we hear the word “incubator” we usually think of chickens first. But, a new business idea is a lot like an egg – it needs care and attention to hatch and then grow from baby chick to fully-fledged chicken, er, company. A business incubator is usually a good next step for a home-based business to expand into a professional space; a business incubator will usually provide not only office space and amenities, but also mentoring and access to professional specialists and sources of capital. A business incubator has a less formal structure than a business accelerator.

Legacy Logistics Freight has been a tenant of the Pappajohn Business Incubator for several years. Founded by Sarah and Brian Novacek, Legacy Logistics started as a home-based freight brokerage business. During its time in the incubator, Legacy Logistics has grown into a corporation with more than $2.5 million in annual revenue, and expanded to include Legacy Financial (serving independent truckers with back-office services to facilitate getting paid).

Business incubators are often (but not always!) associated with secondary educational institutions. The Pappajohn Center Business Incubator is hosted on the NIACC campus. Similar business incubators can be found at Iowa State University, the University of North Iowa, and the University of Iowa. If you’d like to find out more about North Iowa business incubators, get in touch.

Co-working Spaces

We’ve noticed the subject of co-working spaces has been coming up more and more often lately here in North Iowa.

Co-working spaces have evolved as the gig economy has grown and remote working is becoming more common. “Traditional” co-working spaces have been coffee shops, accommodating cafes or pubs, and libraries. But as more and more Americans work flexible hours with flexible locations, these traditional spaces haven’t been able to keep up. Why, they began to ask, should you need to buy a coffee you don’t really want every 1.5 hours to keep the café owner from asking you to leave? (Because it’s the right thing to do so the café doesn’t lose money on that table you’re occupying, but that still doesn’t make your overcaffeinated hands stop shaking.)

Co-working spaces are a good fit for a variety of users. Start-ups, freelancers, or remote workers typically have the option to either rent an office, a dedicated desk, or an empty seat on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Amenities usually range from the necessities (fast reliable wi-fi, comfortable seating, convenient location, free coffee) to the perks (beer on tap). Many co-working spaces also offer networking events, seminars, and classes for their members.

Co-working spaces are all over the big cities, and have been filtering into rural areas as well. As for co-working spaces in North Iowa, we’re still getting there. Right now, most of us still rely on the traditional coffee shops, cafes, and pubs. Co-working spaces in rural North Iowa are few and far between right now, but they’re sounding increasingly attractive to a lot of people as our area continues to create new startup companies, and embrace more freelancers and remote workers. Who knows what the future will bring? We’re definitely going to be keeping an eye out!

The Mason City and Clear Lake area may not boast a co-working space yet, but here’s a list of some of the co-working spaces in North Iowa:

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