Supporting Iowa Entrepreneurs During a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic and country-wide lockdown have pushed many Iowa startups to a grinding halt. Others have been focusing on adjusting their business models to cater to new consumer demands.

As a leader in supporting innovation and entrepreneurship across the state, Iowa JPEC wanted to do its part to help these startups grow and to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. To this effort, Iowa JPEC put aside a portion of its annual budget to distribute grants to some of the most promising early stage startups in the state.

Program leads from Iowa JPEC’s Venture School, UI Innovators Workshop, Founders Club, and Iowa’s Small Business Development Center nominated companies they have been working with over the last couple of years to be eligible for this grant opportunity. These businesses submitted a short application detailing milestones attained, goals for the year and a budget describing how the grant money will help them achieve their goals.

In June, $105,000 was distributed directly to thirteen of these Iowa-based startups. Many of these companies have used the funds to help improve the lives of those affected by COVID-19.

In addition to providing funding, Iowa JPEC offered educational webinars to give advice to small businesses on how to weather the financial challenges brought on by the nationwide shutdown. Experienced entrepreneurial faculty offered personalized consulting services to startups to assist them with questions and concerns they had with keeping their businesses going.

Many of our programs were redesigned to be delivered online including our summer Hawkeye Startup Accelerator for student businesses, the youth entrepreneur camps offered by the Jacobson Institute and consulting services through the regional Small Business Development Center.

Below highlights some of the businesses who received grants or significant guidance and support from Iowa JPEC as well as the work they are doing to make an impact during the time of COVID-19.


FBB Biomed | Coralville, IA  | SBDC Client

FBB Biomed is a startup international biotechnology firm that is taking on the challenge of defeating COVID-19 and future pandemics. With headquarters and manufacturing in Coralville, Iowa, and a business officer working in Frankfurt, Germany, the company was created to manufacture laboratory-developed tests to screen and index RNA found in the bloodstream. The tests are for the purpose of measuring severity in both infectious and chronic diseases. The company was co-founded by Howard Urnovitz, Ph.D. (shown left), Steven Urnovitz and Julien Rey in the summer of 2019. The Iowa Small Business Development Center and Iowa JPEC employee, Paul Heath, has been working closely with Dr. Urnovitz to identify potential funding and contracting opportunities and to connect him with valuable resources so that this important medical innovation gets into the hands of healthcare providers.

Visit FBB Biomed

jon lensing

OpenLoop | Iowa City, IA | Awarded $5,000 Grant

Dr. Jon Lensing (20MD) co-founded OpenLoop (formerly Apollo), a health-tech solution that intelligently matches healthcare providers with medical practices or hospitals seeking quick and efficient temporary staffing. During the pandemic, OpenLoop made their services free for an 8-week period in order to help place providers in areas where they were most needed. Prior to COVID, the company was focused solely on placing doctors, but they quickly developed new intakes and matching systems for all healthcare providers including everyone from assistants and technicians to nurses and physicians. The company grew by 800% over the course of a few weeks.

Visit OpenLoop


Germbot | Davenport, IA | Awarded $10,000 Grant

Germbot, founded by Venture School alumni Patrick and Conor Flaherty in 2017, improves the sanitation, health, and safety of floor surfaces by killing bacteria and disabling virus reproduction. The company is expanding its products and technology to help eliminate COVID-19. Germbot used the grant to finalize testing for the UV-Sweep product and building units for field testing. The UV-Sweep is targeted to help sanitize schools and childcare facilities and is effective against a wide range of bacteria and viral threats including COVID-19.

Visit Germbot


Rantizo | Iowa City, IA | Awarded $10,000 Grant

Rantizo, founded by Michael Ott (03MS) in 2018, uses a combination of autonomous hardware and user-friendly software to provide a drone spraying platform that identifies problem areas, diagnoses field issues, and sprays and applies required treatments. While originally developed to focus on agricultural spraying, the company is quickly adapting its sprayers to be used to sanitize stadiums, sports arenas, and other large venues in response to COVID-19. Rantizo was also awarded first place and $40,000 at the 2019 John Pappajohn Iowa Entrepreneurial Venture Competition.

Visit Rantizo