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Insurance-backed VC firm launches in Iowa, hopes to raise $125M

(This story has been updated)

A new venture capital firm officially launched in Iowa this week.

David Miles and Matt Kinley, two Des Moines-based investment veterans, have started ManchesterStory Group and aim to raise $125 million.

ManchesterStory, which has closed on $31 million so far, will focus its investments on fintech, healthcare and insuretech startups.

“We want to go very deep in a couple of core categories,” Kinley said.

Investing in those sectors also builds on their past deals and networks. Miles is the owner of asset management firm Miles Capital while Kinley is the executive vice president at Pappajohn Capital Resources.

“In addition to ready-made deal flow from our past relationships, we’ve also got the (Global Insurance Accelerator) developing here … and a number of our backers, our financial backers, are insurance companies as well,” Miles said.

Although based in Des Moines, ManchesterStory will look for deals nationwide. The firm will mainly invest in companies that are post-product and post-revenue, but will evaluate earlier-stage deals.

Miles and Kinley declined to comment on ManchesterStory Group’s investors.

The Business Record reported, however, that six insurance companies have backed the firm.

ManchesterStory has 13 backers, according to filings with the SEC. It has yet to invest in any companies.

While they would not provide specific dollar amounts, Miles and Kinley said they intend to make Series A and Series B-sized investments.

“We don’t define it by the size of the checks going in, we define it by the development of the company,” Miles said.

The firm is likely looking to make 15 to 20 investments over a three to five-year period, Kinley said.

Miles said raising $125 million is necessary to truly make ManchesterStory an institutional fund.

“We intend to create an institutional capability to manage venture capital that sits in Des Moines, Iowa,” he said. “To do that you have to have resources, to have those resources…you’ve got to have a fund of appropriate size in order to attract and retain the talent.”

They are also considering applying for an Iowa tax credit program that would certify them as an “innovation fund” for investments made in Iowa. Investors in certified funds can receive tax credits worth 25 percent of their investment in Iowa companies.

If it received the certification, ManchesterStory would only be the third fund to do so.

While investing in Iowa companies is not the firm’s main motivation, Miles said there is a benefit to startup communities having more locally-based venture capital.

“I don’t know what we will invest in (and) what we won’t invest in, but we’re excited to be part of that growing ecosystem of folks who are willing to invest capital into startups that are based here,” he said.

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

Insurance-backed VC firm launches in Iowa, hopes to raise $125M | 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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