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The Middle Bit: Week of Jan. 29

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.


Five Colorado startups raised a combined $49.5 million in funding in the first month of 2017. Via Denverite


Illinois has reached a settlement with HR startup Zenefits after investigators found the company allows unlicensed employees to sell insurance. Via The Associated Press

Chicago’s Uptake Technologies, a predictive analytics company, announced it raised $40 million. Uptake was valued at $2 billion, the Chicago Tribune reporter. Via The Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovation


Lawmakers in Indiana are trying to rework a bill that would otherwise bar Tesla from selling its vehicles directly in the state. Via The Associated Press


A group of students in Davenport is participating in the EON Innovation Academy, studying how to make virtual and augmented reality content and software. Via The Quad City Times

Des Moines-based Certintell has received $75,000 in investment from Village Capital after going through a mentorship and development program hosted by Village. Via Village Capital press release

EntreFest is slated to return to Iowa City in May. The Cedar Rapids Gazette has some details. Via The Cedar Rapids Gazette


Amazon announced this week that it will build a $1.5 billion air cargo hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport, the first hub Amazon has built. Via The Wall Street Journal/Cincinnati Enquirer

Ohio Gov. John Kasich had tried to get the hub for Wilmington Air Park, instead of the about 2,700 jobs going to Kentucky. Via The Cincinnati Enquirer

The $1.1 billion sale of Columbus healthcare technology company CoverMyMeds to McKesson Corp. is being hailed as a “pivotal moment” for central Ohio’s startup community. Via The Columbus Dispatch


Target is pulling back on its innovation initiatives after declining sales. The retailer has ended e-commerce startup Goldfish and shelved other projects. Via The Minneapolis Star Tribune


Budget cuts made by Missouri’s new governor, Eric Greitens, mean two organizations focused on entrepreneurship are taking a hit. Via Startland News

Kansas City-based health supplement company Life Equals has raised $780,000 and plans to open a larger office. Via Startland News


Madison-based EatStreet, a service that allows people to order meals via an app, will start delivering food. Via The Wisconsin State Journal

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

The Middle Bit: Week of Jan. 29 | 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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