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The Middle Bit: Week of Jan. 16

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.


ProtectWise, a Denver cybersecurity startup, announced it had raised an additional $25 million, bringing its total funding to $67 million. Via The Denver Post

Denverite profiled York Space Systems, a startup trying to standardize the production of spacecraft. Via Denverite


Shiftgig, which has a platform to let larger companies hire temporary workers, has raised a $20 million Series C. Via The Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovation

Iowa (and Iowa-related)

Workiva, an 11-time winner at the Technology Association of Iowa’s Prometheus Awards, is taking itself out of the running for any additional awards. Instead, the Ames-based company will sponsor the Prometheus’ “Large Technology Company of the Year” award for five years. Via Workiva press release

Connected lighting software company Igor said it plans to double its staff this year. It currently has 13 full-time employees, according to The Business Record. Via press release/The Business Record

The Wall Street Journal recently profiled Pinterest and its CEO Ben Silbermann, who was raised in Iowa. Via The Wall Street Journal

On Friday, the Iowa Economic Development Authority awarded loans to four startups:

  • College Raptor (Iowa City) – $300,000 loan
  • Rent It From Owner (Des Moines) – $25,000 loan
  • WatchPoint Data (Cedar Rapids) – $100,000 loan
  • MakuSafe (Ankeny) – $25,000 loan


Minneapolis’ Metropolitan Economic Development Association is raising money to increase the number of loans it can provide to minority entrepreneurs. Via The Star Tribune

Tech.MN released its “Ultimate Guide to Coworking in Minnesota” for 2017. Via Tech.MN


St. Louis leaders are looking to startups, specifically in bioscience, to help rebuild the city’s image and economy, The Associated Press reports. The city will have to contend, however, with levels of inequality. Via The AP

EQ, a St. Louis media outlet for startup news, published an interactive map of the city’s technology and startup community. Via EQ

Firebrand Ventures is partnering with the University of Missouri-Kansas City to give entrepreneurship students a chance at receiving investment from the fund. Via Startland News

Hatchbuck, which has developed marketing software for small businesses, announced it raised a $4 million Series A. Via press release/The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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

The Middle Bit: Week of Jan. 16 | 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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