Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

New team wants to continue EntreFEST’s past momentum

The new team behind EntreFEST wants to pick up where the event left off, even after a one-year hiatus.

“We are really excited about being able to take the event, continue from right where it left off, (and) continue with that momentum (from 2015) to bring it back for 2017 to really continue to foster the ecosystem that we have here in Iowa,” said Jill Wilkins, events director for NewBoCo.

A Cedar Rapids nonprofit that acts as an umbrella for a number of entrepreneurial programs, NewBoCo took on EntreFEST as another one last year.

Tagged as the largest gathering of Iowa’s entrepreneurial community, the University of Northern Iowa previously led the organization of EntreFEST. The event hit a new high in 2015, bringing together about 1,000 people in Iowa City over three days for breakout sessions, a fashion show and multiple keynotes.

EntreFEST is slated to return to Iowa City on May 4 and 5.

“We want to be able to really come back strong. We know that people have missed this … it’s a shorter time frame for planning and promotion, so we don’t necessarily expect to get to (the 2015) number, but certainly (we are making) every effort to get to that level,” Wilkins said.

The 2015 event had so much to do, emcees at the time argued, that attendees had to set aside worries about FOMO, or “the fear of missing out.”

UNI cancelled the 2016 EntreFEST in part due to concern over the growing amount of resources needed to throw such a large event. NewBoCo and the Cedar Rapids Economic Alliance have joined forces to manage it this year.

Wilkins said organizers recognize the momentum behind EntreFEST may have been hindered by the one-year gap, but they’ve been encouraged by responses when seeking feedback.

Attendees, she said, should expect a similar format to the 2015 event, even if it’s a bit smaller due to a shorter time period and NewBoCo’s first time hosting EntreFEST. The event is still going after a core audience of business owners, startup founders, corporate innovators and community builders.

“We want them to certainly leave with energy …” Wilkins said. “We want them to have made really strong and significant connections with others who have attended that can help continue to learn or advance their business in one way, shape or form.”

NewBoCo is also hoping to attract those who may not have attended previously. For instance, EntreFEST will be held earlier in May compared to 2015. That, Wilkins said, may allow university students who otherwise would have finished the school year to attend.

The full details of EntreFEST 2017 have yet to be publicly announced, such as a formal schedule and keynote speakers. Wilkins said organizers want to bring attendees together two to three times for keynotes.

NewBoCo has released its first set of speakers, though. They include Immigrant Entrepreneurs Summit co-founder Ying Sa, Workhound co-founder Max Farrell, Emerging Prairie’s Annie Wood and Econic CEO Brian Ardinger (former NMotion managing director), among others.

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

1 Comment

  • Paul Greenwood
    Posted February 16, 2017 at 10:09 am

    Wow, that’s quite an event. Keep driving this stuff forward….

Comments are closed.

New team wants to continue EntreFEST's past momentum | 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
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives
Purchase Now