A former corporate communications editor for Workiva was announced as the Executive Director of the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator Tuesday morning.
Megan Vollstedt was introduced Tuesday morning during a press conference at the World Food Prize in downtown Des Moines.
With six years of experience in the startup community, Vollstedt replaces Tej Dhawan who served as interim director. Vollstedt graduated from Iowa State University in 2012 with a degree in English and advertising.
Dhawan said a national search took place to find the next executive director. But in the end, Vollstedt was selected for the position because of her experience working with a startup.
“She was embedded inside a startup, working with the board yet she was not a part of the founding or the executive team,” Dhawan explained. “What an accelerator director needs is that ability to see both sides: Be an outsider enough to be pragmatic and give good counsel and feedback yet know from the inside what the company needs to know to succeed.
“That was an experience nobody else had.”
Vollstedt said technology and agriculture are key to the future.
“Coming to the Accelerator from a six-year tenure at Workiva I have developed an understanding of what it takes to manage and grow a startup from infancy,” Vollstedt said. “I have a profound respect for the entrepreneur who works tirelessly to get their innovation ready for the real world.”
Vollstedt said she plans to use her experience in the ecosystem to help startups in the program work with mentors, investors and advisors to advance innovations in AgTech.
Companies participating in The Accelerator receive intensive mentoring and $40,000 in seed funding, engagement with investor and mentor companies that compliment office time for holistic education, outreach, networking and presentation opportunities. Over 50 mentors will work with the startups.
This is the inaugural class for the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator.
Brent Willett, Executive Director of the Cultivation Corridor, said The Accelerator started as a germ of an idea two and a half years ago and has turned into the first ag-specific startup accelerator in the Midwest.
“Increasingly less land is available to feed exponentially more people,” Willett said. “More food will be needed in the next 40 years than in the last 10,000 years. That requires innovation on a scale none of us have seen before, and that is where the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator comes in.”
Classes being July 10 in Des Moines and graduation is set for Oct. 20 at the World Food Prize.
The five startups in this year’s class are:
- WISRAN – Sunnyvale, Calif.
– Developing a software as a service platform to increase agriculture operation efficiency initially targeting improving worker productivity and agricultural machinery logistics.
- Pyur Solutions – Los Angeles, Calif.
– Developed a variety of nontoxic, biodegradable, plant-based pesticides, herbicides and insecticides for agriculture and the home.
- Rabbit Tractors – Ann Arbor, Mich.
– Produces miniature farm equipment
- Hintech – St. Joseph, Mo
– Created a corn stock remover and crusher for facilitating no-till farming
- Phenomics Labs – Burnsville, Minn.
– Creates portable growing labs equipped with inexpensive data collection sensors and cameras that tests and captures results from experiments