Speed up your Success this summer!

CYstarters is an 11-week summer accelerator for Iowa State students or recent graduates to focus on their startup or business idea. Students will receive $6,500 for individual or up to $13,000 per student team for the opportunity to spend their summer dedicated to achieving their startup goals and pursuing entrepreneurial aspirations. The selection process is competitive, with only a limited number of spots for the summer accelerator. 

Interested in learning more about CYstarters before you apply? Have questions about the application process? Register to attend a CYstarters Info Session!

Apply Now!

Who is eligible for CYstarters?

  • Currently-enrolled Iowa State University undergraduate and graduate students
  • Iowa State University students who have graduated within the last 6 months
  • Students of any major or classification
  • Part-time or full-time students at Iowa State University
  • Individuals or student teams
  • All ventures are welcome regardless of industry or stage

What can you expect?

  • Learn and grow from educational sessions on topics including customer discovery, marketing, entrepreneurial finance and more
  • Opportunities to practice and refine your business pitch in front of the right audience to further your startup’s momentum
  • Engage with the Ames entrepreneurial ecosystem through specially-hosted networking events
  • Weekly accountability meetings with Pappajohn Center staff, advisors, and mentors
  • Funding for your startup, $6,500 for individuals or $13,000 per student team.

When does it start/end?

CYstarters is an 11-week program that normally runs from mid-May to the end of July. In 2024, the program will run from Wednesday, May 15 through Wednesday, July 31.

Apply Now!

Who’s talking about it…

CYstarters is the ultimate experience. If you have an idea that you want to pursue as a business, definitely take on this program. The connections and resources that you are exposed to are amazing, and you won’t regret taking on the venture. This program does not require you to have previous experience in business. Just come with passion and determination, and you’ll leave the program with great results!

— D’essence Morris, founder of HUSTLR.ESSENCE

Apparel, Merchandising, and Design ’22


CYstarters was amazing! I loved the community and the help that I got during this program. I learned so many valuable topics and lessons. I felt so supported throughout the whole process and really appreciate this program!

— Miranda Ekern, co-founder of Ekern Designs

Biochemistry, ’22

Apply to be a part of the 2023 summer cohort of CYstarters.

CYstarters Alumni Network

The CYstarters Alumni Network starts right when the summer cohort experience ends for CYstarters entrepreneurs. Once a CYstarter, always a CYstarter.

What does that mean? There is a rich community that has been built for CYstarters over the last eight years. The CYstarters experience has helped over 120 ISU students and graduates start 92 businesses since the program began. Over 70% of the CYstarters are actively working on their business today, in another startup, or have started a different business.

What can you expect? Following the formal summer program, tap the circle of support and continue to access mentors, training, funding, and networking.

  • CYstarters Alumni Lunches are an informal gathering every month for CYstarter alumni to stay accountable, engaged, and to continue to offer founder insights to peers
  • 1:1 business assistance from CYstarters staff and partners
  • Opportunities for funding, including the CYstarters Alumni Awards
  • Access to CYstarters past educators and mentors, including teaching materials
  • Networking opportunities with ISU donors, successful alumni, leaders in innovation, and local community builders
  • Affiliate network of professional services including legal, insurance, intellectual property, and accounting
  • Support to enter national competitions or to apply for state funding

When does it end? Here’s the best part – it doesn’t! Whether you are two years down the road or ten, the Pappajohn Center team is always available as a resource as you grow personally and professionally.

Looking to contribute? CYstarters are encouraged to give back by being a mentor to future CYstarter cohorts. The best learning comes from people who have been in similar shoes. We rely on CYstarters to share advice with each other as well as newcomers.

CYstarters Mentor Network

At the heart of the CYstarters program is connection. The program helps to connect people bottom-up, top-down, outside in. We help to bridge connections to where people will find value and can make meaningful contributions. The mentorship program is team-based. Mentor matching is based on rapport, background, and mentor preferences.

To learn more about the program, join the CYstarters Mentor Network below.

Join the CYstarters Mentor Network!


For questions about the program or how you can get involved, reach out to Megan Graettinger at