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The Middle Bit: Week of March 19

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.


Square One DSM is hosting a Raising Capital Seminar on Thursday, March 30, highlighting how to learn to successfully secure equity funding for a startup business’s growth. via Business Record

Digital Women, a student organization at Iowa State that encourages, supports and retains women in career fields related to electrical technology, will host its first event April 7. The event, dubbed Code Camp, will be the first female-focused hackathon in the Midwest. via Iowa State Daily

The New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative announced the launch of Corridor Angel Investors, a group for accredited investors in the area to put money into new Iowa businesses. via The Cedar Rapids Gazette

Iowa Startup Accelerator accepted two companies into the spring batch of its 2017 cohort, BluSolar and Global Healthcare Integrators (GHI). These teams are the first batch to participate in ISA’s new structure: a rigorous 12-month commitment where mandatory programming is condensed to Fridays to increase flexibility for entrepreneurs. via NewBoCo


Clinc, a fledgling fintech startup that enables banks to bring artificial intelligence (AI) to their products, has raised a $6.3 million funding round led by Drive Capital, with participation from Hyde Park Venture Partners, Cahoots Holding, and Stuart Porter. via VentureBeat

SpaceLab LLC plans to open its co-working space in The 607 building in Detroit’s Financial District next month, with plans to host Detroit’s first AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) Hackathon, an international, multicity design and tech event. via Crain’s Detroit Business


The Mayo Clinic has increased its venture investment stake in a Silicon Valley digital health startup touting a smartphone-based system that taps Mayo’s know-how in machine learning to detect and predict abnormal heart rhythms and the risk for stroke. via Twin Cities Business

TECHdotMN is hosting the fourth annual Midwest Capital Call in Minneapolis on March 31, 2017. via TechdotMN


Big Omaha recently announced Netflix Co-founder and MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe as a speaker in their 2017 lineup. via Silicon Prairie News

Tickets are now on sale for the Silicon Prairie Awards, held May 2. For 2017, the SPAwards will coincide with Omaha Startup Week, a five-day celebration of the entrepreneurial community and the people who drive it. via Silicon Prairie News


The Middle Bit: Week of March 19 | 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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