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The Middle Bit: Week of March 5

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.


Englewood is becoming home to coworking spaces as three have opened in the city within the last two years. Via The Denver Post

Google is leasing more space for an office in Boulder, but construction isn’t even complete on its initial plans. Via The Denver Post

Drone flyers in Colorado recently discussed the regulatory landscape and needed laws over UAV flights. Via The Denver Post


Illinois’ universities are seeing a surge in startup activity, including in fund raises by those companies. Via The Chicago Tribune/ChicagoInno

Blue Sky Innovation profiled Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code, which wants to teach 1 million girls of color to code by 2040. Via The Chicago Tribune

Chicago startup Keyo wants to create a future where consumers can pay with their palm through biometric identifiers. Via ChicagoInno


Rockwell Collins shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Cedar Rapids’ companies acquisition of B/E Aerospace. Via Reuters/Cedar Rapids Gazette

Tiffany O’Donnell will take over as CEO of Iowa Women Lead Change, the organization that has previously hosted the “Invest in She” pitch competitions. Via Cedar Rapids Gazette

Higher Learning Technologies announced late last month that it acquired mobile learning app developer gWhiz, including the company’s 150 learning apps and publishing agreements. Via press release

The Middle, broadly

SXSW starts this weekend and entrepreneurs from around the Midwest are likely headed down. Here’s the schedule: Via SXSW

Farmers Business Network, a California firm with operations in Sioux Falls and Davenport, raised a $40 million Series C. Via AgFunder News

Seventy-eight percent of Americans say they are afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle, according to a AAA survey. Via The Detroit Free Press


A pillow fight seems to be forming in Minnesota as two entrepreneurs are both trying to develop better pillows. Via The Minneapolis Star Tribune


Kansas City approved a ‘Digital Equity Strategic Plan’ to further boost its efforts to provide access to high-speed Internet to all of its residents. Via The Kansas City Star

Cerner Corp. opened up its new “Innovations Campus”, filled with nods to the company’s past developing software for the healthcare industry. Via The Kansas City Star

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch profiled a St. Louis job-matching startup that had to pivot after regulators started going after its key customer. Via The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Missouri regulators seem to be hinting that they can’t be involved in decisions about the placement of electric vehicle charging stations. Via The St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Omaha high school students competed to see which team could create the best 3D printed, prosthetic elbow joints at an annual Invent-a-thon. Via Omaha World Herald

A Lincoln entrepreneur will get nine minutes to pitch his product aimed at convincing younger users to save money at SXSW. Via The Lincoln Journal Star.


Bad Girl Ventures, a nonprofit that educates female entrepreneurs, named its Spring 2017 Launch class of five startups. Via The Cincinnati Enquirer

RESpring, a Cleveland company that provides construction debt for buildings used in the production of marijuana, closed on its first deal. Via The Cleveland Plain Dealer

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

The Middle Bit: Week of March 5 | 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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