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The Middle Bit: Week of March 12

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.


The first legislation in Colorado that would regulate driverless vehicles is headed to debate in the state Senate. Via The Denver Post

A new public-private partnership is creating an eight-week course to help visually-impaired jobseekers prepare for high-demand tech jobs. Via The Denver Post


Health-tech startup Livongo Health announced a new funding round of $52.5 million. The company provides a cloud-connected glucose meter to help manage diabetes. Via The Chicago Tribune/ChicagoInno

Five Chicago-area universities have joined forces for a program to host foreign-born entrepreneurs. The effort seems to be a way to get around restrictions limiting the issuance of H-1B visas. Via The Chicago Tribune.

Startup Aqualogue is taking a stab at making aquaponics systems suitable for apartments or homes. Via ChicagoInno


Clay & Milk is looking for a new managing editor. Via Clay & Milk

Warby Parker co-CEO Neil Blumenthal will keynote this year’s EntreFEST. Featured speakers also include UpCraft Club founder Elizabeth Caven and investor Paul Singh. Via press release

Iowa State University has software that allows students or developers to 3D print models of any location, such as planned development sites. Via The Business Record

Raygun founder Mike Draper indicated he wants to continue expanding his chain of t-shirt stores in a Q&A. Via The Cedar Rapids Gazette

The Middle, broadly

Colorado-based Level 3 Communications will cease to exist as its shareholders voted to sell the company to CenturyLink. The company’s history has ties to a number of Omaha investors. Via The Omaha World Herald

TaskRabbit expanded its home chore service to the Twin Cities, Cincinnati and Kansas City, among other locations. Via The Minneapolis Star Tribune


St. Louis startup Better Weekdays won the SXSWedu Launch competition. Via The St. Louis Business Journal

Cultivation Capital’s Bill Schmidt offered some advice for biotech and life sciences startups looking to raise money. Via EQStl

Kansas City VR company EON Sports signed a deal with a Japanese baseball team, making the team EON’s first international customer. Via Startland News


A fintech conference focused on “branded currency” is coming to Omaha in April. Via Silicon Prairie News

The Middle Bit: Week of March 12 | 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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