Press Release: Applications Now Open For Iowa City Residents To Turn Ideas Into Reality Through Idea Accelerator Program


Led by Heartland Forward with partner Builders + Backers, the program is brought to the Iowa City community by the Iowa City Area Development Group

Iowa City, Iowa (Dec. 6, 2021) — Today, Heartland Forward and its partners, Builders + Backers and the Iowa City Area Development Group (ICAD), announced it’s bringing its groundbreaking Community Growth Program and Toolkit (CGPT), a first-of-its-kind idea accelerator, Pebble Fund and Buildership™ program, powered by Builders + Backers, to stimulate entrepreneurial thinking and action to Iowa City. This new cohort of 10 builders in Iowa City is part of Heartland Forward’s commitment to funding and supporting 1,000 builders across the heartland by 2023. The program was successfully piloted in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Oxford, Mississippi this summer. 

“Problem solving with an entrepreneurial mindset will be key to rebuilding our post-COVID local economies, and our Community Growth Program and Toolkit has already proven to be a successful, meaningful way to accelerate the entrepreneurial thinking needed to help our communities thrive,” said Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward. “We’re thrilled to be bringing this program to Iowa City as part of our commitment to support 1,000 builders across the heartland by 2023. We’re confident this next cohort of Builders will have the innovative thinking and ideas to create real change in their communities, and we look forward to seeing what they can accomplish in the months and years to come.” 

Anyone who has a creative and unexpected idea for solving a problem facing the Iowa City community can complete an application here. Iowa City residents must apply by December 19, 2021. Residents with the most promising and innovative ideas will be selected to participate in a two-month long virtual program starting on January 20, 2022. 

“Every community has potential game-changing ideas that are laying dormant,” said Donna Harris, CEO of Builders + Backers. “The key – and the economic urgency – is getting more people, in more places, to actually put these ideas into action. That’s the power of small experiments and the premise behind our Idea Accelerator program. For less than a single venture investment, we can unleash and fuel thousands of experiments across the country and see new ventures, initiatives and companies emerge.”

“The Iowa City Area is a community full of innovative thinkers who are passionate about developing solutions to problems in our community and beyond. We’re excited to work with Heartland Forward and Builders and Backers to provide a low-risk, experimental environment for people in our community to test their ideas and bring new businesses to life. We’re certain that this program will serve as a powerful conduit for our community’s existing entrepreneurial programming, such as the University of Iowa’s Venture School and INCubate, the Multicultural Development Center’s BIPOC Business Accelerator,” said Liz Hubing, Director of Marketing, Community Development, and Entrepreneurship, Iowa City Area Development Group.

At the heart of the CGPT are the Builders + Backers four program pillars, designed to mobilize and equip Builders through: 

  • Idea Accelerator: This cohort-based program combines a 45-day Builder Bootcamp to teach participants how to put ideas into action, followed by 45 days of actively executing their ideas through a single experiment.
  • Pebble Fund: All of the Builders are supported by a $5,000 Pebble Grant to test their ideas. Participants are mentored by Master Builders throughout the program. 
  • Storytelling: A comprehensive media program that curates, captures and distributes stories of Buildership™, both from within the programs and in communities everywhere. Through video, written stories, social media and media partnerships, the program inspires people to become Builders. 
  • Buildership Workshops: Workshops and other events introduce people to the ideas of Buildership™ and demonstrate that anyone can generate creative solutions through entrepreneurial experimentation that contribute to the sustainability of communities. 

The pilot program in Tulsa and Oxford included 15 Builders solving problems in their communities related to workforce development, volunteerism, increasing food awareness and more. CGPT secured 100% retention from Builders and the majority were women and people of color. To learn more about the Builders, see here


Lara Sisselman

About Heartland Forward:

Heartland Forward is a nonpartisan, 501c3 organization whose mission is to improve economic performance in the center of the United States by advocating for fact-based solutions to foster job creation, knowledge-based and inclusive growth and improved health outcomes. Heartland Forward conducts independent, data-driven research and programs to facilitate action-oriented discussion and impactful policy recommendations. To learn more, visit

About Builders + Backers:

Builders + Backers invests in exceptional entrepreneurs who are building global-scale ventures to power an entirely different future – one where technology creates value for many instead of capturing it for a few. Through proprietary programming, Builders + Backers also inspires and equips people to best seize the opportunities of our digital era – from experimentation and solving problems in their local communities to starting new ventures that could scale. By backing the most creative builders across the country, we can shape the digital future to be one in which more people participate and thrive.