Incubator with StartupCity Des Moines ties comes to northwest Iowa
StartupCity Spencer will be located on the bottom level of a restored church on the banks of the Little Sioux River. The building also houses a restaurant.
Leann Jacobsen hopes establishing StartupCity Spencer, an incubator using the same name and approach of a Des Moines incubator, can put the northwest Iowa town of less than 12,000 people on the entrepreneurial map.
"With the talented people that reside here, that type of innovation can definitely happen in this part of the state," Jacobsen, president of the Technology Association of Iowa and a Spencer resident, said in a phone interview Thursday. "We really hope this is a strong demonstration of rural innovation."
Jacobsen (right) said Spencer has a strong agricultural and manufacturing base, but needed something to attract young creatives. Her personal passion for the community and professional knowledge of technology are intertwined in the project.
Though the Des Moines and Spencer incubators are not legally linked in any way, Renaud said use of the StartupCity name was allowed based on the understanding that the Spencer incubator would have an entrepreneur-centric and mentor-centric approach (as opposed to an investor-driven approach) and that the two incubators would share their resources.
The space will house up to eight companies, which must apply for inclusion, and a coworking area for individuals. Though StartupCity Spencer won't be limited to any specific type of company, Jacobsen said she thinks technology startups will naturally be quick to adopt the space.
Renaud, who's been a part of welcoming software and IT companies into StartupCity Des Moines, said it wasn't necessarily important that StartupCity Spencer have the same focus.
"Startup City Des Moines is the way it is because there are a lot of software and tech companies around here," Renaud said. "Ultimately it's about the entrepreneurs, not an arbitrary business model."
A "magic window" will provide a 24/7 video link between the two StartupCities and other members of the Iowa Startup Alliance, allowing them to have virtual mentorship, shared events and, perhaps most importantly, the opportunity for spontaneous collaboration.
StartupCity Spencer is in the process of wrapping up fundraising, already drawing support from the City of Spencer, Clay County and banks and individuals. Jacobsen said it was encouraging to see civic leaders rally behind the project. She plans to reach out to communities within a 90-mile radius.
Jacobsen hopes the space will officially open in late September or early October, but events like a TAI Pitch & Grow today in Spencer are already kicking things off.
Credits: Photo of StartupCity Spencer courtesy of Jacobsen. Photo of Jacobsen from LinkedIn.