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College partners with Techstars Iowa

College partners with Techstars Iowa

The College recently announced its new partnership with Techstars, a company that provides help to start-up tech companies. This collaboration, called Techstars Iowa, represents not only the College’s investment in tech start-ups but also its investment in entrepreneurship in Iowa.

Jainen Thayer, the Chief Investment Officer at Grinnell College, is very optimistic about this partnership and its benefits both for the College and for Iowa. In an email to The S&B, he explained that the College has “agreed to provide capital to support the operations of Techstars Iowa over the next three years.”

Techstars, which was founded in 2006 in Boulder, Colorado, is a “seed accelerator,” a term used to describe companies that invest in “seeds,” or start-up companies. In the case of Techstars, the seeds are tech company start-ups.

According to Managing Director for Techstars Iowa, Kerty Levy, Techstars sets itself apart from other seed accelerators in that it is more giving; Techstar’s hashtag, “givefirst,” underlines the company’s belief that it is important to “give advice, connections, and support to help people be successful without expecting anything in return,” wrote Levy in an email to The S&B. Techstars Iowa will become one of 49 accelerators run by Techstars.

Representatives from both the College and Techstars agree that the partnership on Techstars Iowa will bring benefits to the College and to Techstars that are more than just economic.

Kerty Levy emphasized the ideological importance of the company’s relationship with the College: “Grinnell College enjoys a strong national reputation as a selective liberal arts college and is known for being a place of innovation/creativity, especially when it comes to managing the Endowment. The support of Techstars Iowa is yet one more example of the College’s legacy of innovation/creativity.”

The partnership is also seen as being mutually beneficial to both Techstars and to the College in that Grinnell students will have access to the entrepreneurial experiences offered by Techstars. Levy wrote that students will have the opportunity to “engage in entrepreneurial activities as founders, interns and other affiliations.”

On the Grinnell side of things, Thayer also argues that the partnership will be beneficial to both parties. As he put it, “Techstars Iowa gives Grinnell College a leadership position in demonstrating what a liberal arts education means within the context of today’s global economy.”

More specifically, Thayer identifies the benefits to the College as falling into three categories: economic opportunity, development within the community and specific opportunities for Grinnell students and faculty.

Economically, the College will benefit from the partnership with Techstars in that it will have access to “attractive investment opportunities,” thus hopefully building upon the Grinnell College endowment.

Connection to the wider Iowa community, as Thayer points out, has always been “an important component of the College’s mission,” and Thayer sees the partnership with Techstars as a way to increase the College’s community presence and use the economic recourses that the College has to support other Iowans. Ideally, Thayer wrote, “Techstars Iowa will support the entrepreneurial ecosystem within Iowa by providing access to both resources (mentors, experts, training, etc.) and capital to fund additional growth.”

Finally, the College will benefit from this relationship via the many opportunities that Techstars will bring to Grinnell students and faculty. Thayer predicts that Techstars will become “the hub of the entrepreneurial ecosystem” in Iowa, and the College’s connection to that STEM hub will prove to be helpful for students and faculty as well as the general Grinnell community.

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