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The Middle Bit: Jan. 1 – Jan. 7

Each week, Clay & Milk will curate a rundown of startup, tech and innovation news from “the middle.” Check back every Friday for that week’s Middle Bit.


Chicago’s Networked Insights, which collects and analyzes social media posts for data, raised a $30 million Series E. Via Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovation

CloudCraze, a business-to-business commerce company also based in Chicago, took in a $20 million Series AVia Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovation


Erin Rollenhagen raised outside investment for her company, Entrepreneurial Technologies, from local angel investors Tej Dhawan and Sheldon Ohringer. Dhawan and Ohringer will serve as advisers and partners. Rollenhagen will stay on as CEO. Via The Business Record/press release.

Alec Whitters, founder and CEO of Coralville-based Higher Learning Technologies, made it on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list for education. Via Forbes

Mediacom, one of Iowa’s main Internet service providers, is raising its prices, but says it is giving customers speed boosts in exchange. Via The Des Moines Register

The Technology Association of Iowa is seeking nominations for the 2017 Prometheus Awards through Jan. 17.

dsmHack is accepting applications for the 2017 Des Moines Charity Hack, scheduled for March 2-4.


A co-founder of metal band Megadeth is turning coffee entrepreneur. Via The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Tech.Mn has a list of their most read stories from 2016, giving a summary of some innovation news in the state. Via Tech.Mn


Tesla briefly closed, and then reopened, its stores in Missouri due to an ongoing court battle about whether Missouri should renew Tesla’s license to sell vehicles in the state. Via The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Kauffman Foundation’s Victor Hwang detailed his vision for the organization in 2017 and announced some new hires, including Iowan Andy Stoll as Kauffman’s senior program office. Via Startland News/LinkedIn


Lincoln-based sports software company Hudl announced that U.S. Soccer will use two of Hudl’s video analysis products for all 18 U.S. National Teams. Via press release/Lincoln Journal Star

A report by the Nebraska Public Service Commission said the about 500 Uber and Lyft drivers in the state have not hurt the business of traditional taxi companies. Via The Omaha World-Herald


The Cleveland Plain-Dealer has a list of the local startups to watch in 2017. Via The Cleveland Plain-Dealer

Columbus Business First runs down the area’s top VC deals of 2016 and the funds that launched or raised new money last year. Via Columbus Business First


Wisconsin has a growing group of new and “younger” angel investors who are spending their time and money on the state’s startups, according to a report. Via The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at

The Middle Bit: Jan. 1 - Jan. 7 | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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