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New site aims to highlight Iowa startup investment raises

A website put together by a Des Moines startup mentor is aiming to show that there is a track record of startups raising money in Iowa.

Mike Colwell of Square One DSM has been putting together a “Raising Capital in Iowa” database that lists Iowa-based companies that have raised money, how much they raised and advice from their founders for other entrepreneurs. The team over at NewBoCo in Cedar Rapids also helped with the site.

The list includes companies from across the state like AgriSync, Banno, Bawte, BirdDogHR, Certintell, Gain Compliance, Igor, SwineTech, Telepharm and more.

The “Raising Capital in Iowa” website lists startups that have raised money in Iowa. This screenshot shows an example of the information. (Screenshot/Raising Capital In Iowa website)

A number of startup founders have cited the difficulty that can arise with trying to raise money in Iowa. Iowa isn’t also seen by many as a hotbed for startup investment.

The organizers and sponsors behind the “Raising Capital in Iowa” page said they put it together to show that raising money in Iowa is possible.

The list is not a comprehensive record of every investment raise by Iowa companies. Even so, it does offer one of the few roundups of Iowa fund raises (at least that this reporter is aware of). Gravitate founder Geoff Wood — also a Clay & Milk co-founder — put together this list last year of aggregate raises from 2010 to 2015.

Colwell said he has limited submissions to post-2008 recession raises. Submissions are also voluntary, so only companies that provide their information to Colwell are on the list.

The investments are also given as a range, and not specific amounts per company. Colwell said he used a dollar range to let more startups participate, since some companies may not be permitted to say the exact amount they have raised from investors.

A number of Iowa groups, such as Square One DSM, NewBoCo and the Iowa Venture Capital Association, have linked to the raising capital site.

Raising Capital seminar

On March 30, The Greater Des Moines Partnership will host a “Raising Capital Seminar” to run through the process for startups wanting to raise funds.

Speakers include Charise Flynn, the former COO of Dwolla, angel investors and startup mentors Mike Colwell and Sheldon Ohringer, JD Geneser of LWBJ Capital Advisors and BrownWinick attorney Chris Sackett.

Funnelwise founder Matt Ostanik will also give a talk on lessons learned from raising funds. His company raised $7 million last year.

Admission is $30 for the all-day event.

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

New site aims to highlight Iowa startup investment raises | 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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