Launch your business through innovative entrepreneurial training

Venture School

Bring your idea to life with Venture School

The NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center has partnered with the University of Iowa to bring Venture School to Mason City, Iowa. Venture School is the state of Iowa’s premiere entrepreneurial training program. Established in 2013, the eight-week Venture School program is built from a streamlined curriculum developed by the National Science Foundation I-Corps at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Since its inception, Venture School has helped guide over 250 teams across the state of Iowa, and is designed to benefit Iowa startups, small businesses, non-profits, and corporate innovation teams. While Venture School is designed primarily for start-ups, it also has value for non-profits and businesses looking to introduce a new product or to expand into new territories.

Participants will gain marketing and make valuable connections to help them take their innovative idea to the next level. Venture School is currently looking for hardworking teams and individuals throughout the North Iowa and Southern Minnesota regions to join the upcoming spring program.

Participating teams will also be eligible to compete for cash awards both locally and at the state level during the Venture School launch day at EntreFEST 2021. Last year’s Mason City graduates were awarded $13,000 in prize money during the 2020 EntreFEST pitch competition.

Hybrid Model for Spring 2021

The Spring 2021 Venture School classes will be held as a hybrid class with a combination of in-person and online weekly classes via Zoom. An online orientation session will be held on February 4th via Zoom. In-person classes will meet on the NIACC campus March 25th for the Launch Day Pitch Competition. In-person classes will adhere to CDC guidelines which require wearing masks and physical distancing. All other weekly classes will be held online via Zoom.


Venture School is an opportunity for North Iowa’s business leaders and experts in the field to connect with new entrepreneurs. Mentoring is a valuable experience for both mentors and mentees.

Each Venture School team will be assigned a local entrepreneur as their mentor.


  • Gain focus and clarity for your business idea and build your foundational business model
  • Test and prove your business idea through guided customer discovery interviews to find product-market fit
  • Learn from experienced entrepreneurs, mentors and instructions
  • Make valuable connections with local communities and other external groups that can help you define your key activities and get the resources you need to start and grow your business
  • Create a business model that becomes the core foundation of how you provide and deliver value to your customers and clients
  • Avoid wasting the time, energy, and money and create a sustainable business model that will deliver your customers what they need, want and are willing to pay for


Cost: A team of up to two members will cost $299. Every additional team member that joins the cohort will be an additional $99.

When: Thursdays, February 4th - March 25th, 2021

Time: 5:30 - 9:00pm

Application Deadline: Venture School is now accepting applications to participate in the Spring 2021 program. Apply by January 25, 2021.

Contact Candi Karsjens at with questions, or if you are a local entrepreneur interested in becoming a Venture School mentor.

Find out more and apply at