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The Middle Bit: Week of Jan. 22

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.


The Denver Post provided a rundown of some of the technology coming to Pena Station Next, a smart city project located south of Denver’s airport. Via The Denver Post

The Post also provided a look at Lockheed Martin’s new autonomous vehicle research hub, which the company recently moved to a Denver suburb. Via The Denver Post

Denverite profiled The Food Corridor, a Fort Collins-based “incubator for kitchen incubators.” Via Denverite


Jiobit, a Chicago company building wearable child-tracking devices, raised a $3 million seed round. Investors included Otto founder Lior Ron and MATH Ventures. Via TechCrunch/ChicagoInno

Chicago will install free Wi-Fi kiosks around its downtown that will feature 55-inch touchscreens. The installations are a part of a AT&T Smart Cities pilot. Via The Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovation


Three Iowa companies are working on websites and software to provide more detailed information on the state’s farmland values. Via The Des Moines Register


An errand service company in Bay City has purchased an online grocery delivery startup to expand its technology. Via MLive

The Middle, broadly

SXSW announced its finalists for the 2017 Interactive Innovation Awards. A few finalists hailed from the Middle, but none are from Iowa. Via SXSW

Business Insider reported that Lyft plans to expand to 100 more cities in 2017, including in cities in Tennessee, Utah, Missouri, Kansas, Indiana and others. Via Business Insider


EquipmentShare, which has a platform offering a peer-to-peer marketplace for construction equipment rentals, has raised $28.4 million in a Series B. The company is based in Columbia, Missouri but is expanding to Kansas City. Via Startland News

Missouri lawmakers are once again exploring statewide regulations for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft. Via The St. Louis Post-Dispatch


The Greater Omaha Chamber unveiled “The Startup Collaborative,” a combination of programs and resources to grow the area’s startup ecosystem. Via Silicon Prairie News

Big Omaha, the annual event for entrepreneurs started by Silicon Prairie News, is looking for speaker nominations. Via Big Omaha


A car test track in central Ohio has received $45 million in state grants to retool itself for autonomous vehicle testing. Via The Cincinnati Enquirer


Madison software company Redox raised a $9 million investment round led by RRE Ventures. Via Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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

The Middle Bit: Week of Jan. 22 | 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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