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Iowa Startup Accelerator announces its summer cohort

Three companies started in the Iowa Startup Accelerator Monday as its 2017 cohort, according to a news release issued Monday afternoon.

The three companies selected to participate in the 2017 summer cohort are:

• Agro Connected of Cedar Point, Iowa – Develops a network of low-cost, high impact farm management tools to help small family farmers keep pace with technology in agriculture

• Cargofy of Kiev, Ukraine – Develops AI powered technology automating manual work in the trucking industry

• GOVRED Technologies of Battle Creek, Mich. – Works directly with the Army, Navy and Air Force to design full immersive, real world virtual reality training simulations

The ISA is an intensive program that matches tech-based startups with mentors, seed funding and product development expertise to accelerate their business. The ISA is powered by NewBoCo (New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative), a nonprofit organization that focuses on accelerating world-changing ideas from Iowa.

The programming started Monday morning and will continue with a full week of orientation workshops hosted at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance. Then teams will be introduced to agile and strategic planning, according to the release.

The Iowa Startup Accelerator started in 2014 with ten teams in its first cohort. Up until 2016 the ISA used a traditional accelerator model with companies participating in a 90-day program that culminated in a demo day at the end. In total, 24 companies were invested in.

The entire program was changed this year, according to Accelerator Program Manager Molly Monk, to a year round format.

The ISA can now invest in companies during the spring, summer and fall and instead of it being a 90-day format, it’s a 12-month format.

“We realized that it takes longer than 90 days to build a business,” Monk told Clay & Milk. “And this way we’re more consistently working with teams. Because we were already working with some of our top teams for years after they went through our program, so we decided let’s be honest that we’re going to work with them anyway, so let’s make it a more clear commitment right off the top.”

Monk said when the companies apply, they look for founders who have grit, focus, agility and are coachable.

“Those characteristics apply regardless of what industry they’re in,” Monk explained. “We’re also looking for founders that are in industries that Iowa excels in. That’s not applicable every time but we want to make sure that we’re making investments that are going to be good for Iowa.”

Monk said the ISA is also looking for teams who are committed to Iowa.

“Whether that means they are from here or they have an interest in building their business here, those are things that are important to us,” Monk said. “We want them to become thriving, sustainable companies and since there is an investment piece to it we want to make sure in the end they do make a good return for our investors.”

But Monk said she hopes these companies can create jobs and new innovations.

“We’re just looking for the best of the best and we want to be helpful along the way,” Monk says.

ISA plans to invest in up to 10 companies in 2017 as part of its fourth cohort. Applications for the fall are currently open.

In total, ISA has invested in 27 companies.

To apply for the ISA 2017 cohort, visit

Iowa Startup Accelerator announces its summer cohort | 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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