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Meet Megan Vollstedt, the new Executive Director of the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator

A former communications intern is now leading the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator, the first of its kind in the Midwest.

It was announced Tuesday that Megan Vollstedt was becoming the Executive Director of the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator. Vollstedt comes from Workiva where she spent the last six years in their communication department.

Tej Dhawan served as the interim Executive Director for the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator during the search process for a full time director.

Dhawan says what stood out about Vollstedt was not only her experience, but what kind of experience she had.

“She was embedded inside a startup, working with the board yet she was not apart 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 council and feedback yet know from the inside what the company needs to know to succeed.

“That was an experience nobody else had.”

Starting from the bottom

A native of Manilla, Iowa – population 777 – Vollstedt graduated from Iowa State in 2012 with a bachelor of arts degree in English and minor in advertising. She started her professional career as a communications intern in 2011 for WebFilings, an Ames-based startup. She was asked to help grow the communications team and their intranet.

As the company grew, the position Vollstedt grew with it. She would be hired full-time after graduating in May of 2012 to manage the internal communications team and help support public and investor relations.

The Ames-based company changed its name in 2014 to Workiva and went public under the initials “WK.” The company raised more than $100 million during its initial public offering on Dec. 12, 2014.

“It’s not often you get to help a company go through a name change or an IPO (Initial Public Offering) process and grow a team,” Vollstedt said. “I was able to do that and I think that is something that will help me for what I will need to do here.”

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(Far Right) Megan Vollstedt moments before she was introduced Tuesday morning as the new Executive Director for the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator.

What did she get herself into?

Vollstedt says she first met some AgriTech Accelerator board members at the Innovation Iowa event earlier this year.

“I was ready to grow more and figured I’d be able to do that with something I could help grow myself,” Vollstedt explains. “And The Accelerator is so exciting. The fact that you can marry technology and agriculture to help little startups grow, I love that support angle.”

This is a full-time position for Vollstedt who will live in Ames and commute to the East Village in downtown Des Moines. Five companies California, Michigan, Minnesota and Missouri will converge on the East Village for a 100 day program that will potentially grow the size and value of a company.

Classes start July 10.

“This first year is what we are really going to grow off of,” Vollstedt explains. “Because we will extend our reach, getting more startups, more mentors and more help for startups. So this will be building for that too.”

She believes her communications background will help The Accelerator grow and ultimately be successful.

“It’ll be a lot of networking, being able to support and connect people, which is part of what I’ve done in the past,” Vollstedt explained. “Just getting our name out there and making sure we have a presence. We want a positive first year and first class, so we can share how great of an experience it is.”

She’s the boss

Vollstedt will be responsible for establishing and maintaining a collaborative learning environment for the startups who comes to Des Moines and participate in the program. With her help, the startups will receive mentorship from over 50 mentors and receive on-site experience to advance their innovations.

This isn’t her first leadership role but it is the first time in her career where she’s an executive director and the person everyone reports to.

“There’s more freedom but I still need to be reporting to my board and utilizing them to make the right decisions,” Vollstedt says. “It’s still going to be a balance between making decisions and utilizing the knowledge and experience of everybody on the board to do that.”

For the first year to be successful, Vollstedt hopes she can provide the support that is needed to the startups.

“Making sure the startups are getting what they need from the mentors,” Vollstedt explains. “And that the mentors are happy and able to provide the resources that they want.”

1 Comment

  • Glen and Chris Macumber
    Posted June 16, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    We are Megan’s aunt and uncle and so proud of her and her leadership skills. She will do amazing things for her company! You do get great skills in a small school and community!

Comments are closed.

Meet Megan Vollstedt, the new Executive Director of the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator | 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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