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Here’s what central Iowa’s new vision plan says about entrepreneurship

The newest vision plan for Central Iowa calls more entrepreneurship-centric programming and bolstering ways to connect the area’s startups with funding.

“While much work is being done to seed new enterprises in Central Iowa, supporting them through the numerous phases leading to fiscal stability will be critical,” the plan reads.

Local business and civic leaders unveiled the plan, Capital Crossroads 2.0, Wednesday night. It builds on and continues planning laid out in the first Capital Crossroads from five years ago.

The plan covers a lot of ground and thoughts on how to improve central Iowa. There is a specific section, though, focused on entrepreneurship.

It’s worth noting that while Capital Crossroads lays out these ideas, none of them are certainty. Local leaders have used the plan to provide focus on future initiatives.

Here’s a brief breakdown of the ideas mentioned in Capital Crossroads 2.0 connected to entrepreneurship and technology:

Entrepreneurial programming

  • New industry-specific accelerators should only form if central Iowa has a “true competitive advantage in the industry.”
  • The report calls for a “startup commercialization program” to match the region’s larger companies with entrepreneurs, providing mentorship and connections. This is based off of a program in Atlanta.
  • Continuing support or boosting the area’s coworking spaces, makerspaces, startup efforts at Iowa State University, and regional events like 1 Million Cups and Celebrate! Innovation Week.

Funding and investment

  • Central Iowa should attempt to form new seed or “proof-of-concept” funds. The report notes that an earlier attempt, NestMint, shutdown due to insufficient investment.

Education and support

  • Constructing a physical “hub” to provide business resources for immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs.
  • Supporting efforts to boost diversity within central Iowa’s entrepreneurial community, such as the Invest in She pitch competitions.
  • Encouraging businesses to promote internal innovation and “intrapreneurship.”
  • Providing entrepreneurship education across all grade levels.
  • Developing a “Coding Academy.”

“Smart City” initiatives

  • Bolstering Internet speeds across central Iowa, namely providing access to gigabit-per-second broadband. The report noted Mediacom’s recent announcement that it is providing these speeds to its Iowa customers.
  • Develop and launch a “coordinated Smart City initiative” across central Iowa for integrating and testing new technology across the region. As an example, the report points to proposals in Kansas City to provide free Wi-Fi and develop smart streetlights, among other efforts.

The full report can be found here.

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

Here's what central Iowa's new vision plan says about entrepreneurship | 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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