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Middle Bit: Trump approving Apprenticeship funding a positive for Iowa; O’Halleran joins ManchesterStory Group

President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week spending $200 million on apprenticeship programs aimed to fill some of the six million open jobs in the United States.

An apprenticeship is combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction that can take three to seven years and is commonly practice in the trades programs.

Debi Durham, Director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, has been a champion of apprenticeships because as she says, “It works” and not just for the trades programs.

“The thing I love about apprenticeships is there’s a defined path forward for both the employee and the employer,” Durham said. “Iowa doesn’t use apprenticeship training that often in manufacturing and I think that’s a huge area of opportunity for us. You see it a lot in the trades but it’s a very flexible, effective training tool that can be used in almost any industry.”

Durham said Iowa is the first state in the nation to do a brewing apprenticeship program.

“We have winemaking apprenticeship program we run in Iowa that we modeled after the Napa program,” Durham says. “But the brewers created their own.”

O’Halleran joins ManchesterStory Group

Michael O’Halleran joined ManchesterStory Group, a Des Moines based venture capital firm, according to the announcement on Thursday.

ManchesterStory Group is a venture capital firm targeting investments in FinTech and Healthcare, with an interest in technologies impacting the insurance industry.

O’Halleran will provide ongoing input on strategic issues and priorities in the insurance industry, according to the story. He also will act as a sounding board during and outside of Fund Advisory Board meetings.

According to the ManchesterStory Form D, the company has raised $31 million of their $125 million fund and is actively investing.

O’Halleran is an insurance industry veteran of 45 years and recently retired from his position as executive chairman of Aon Benfield, a large reinsurance brokerage and capital advisory firm.

He will also take a role in bringing industry leaders and executives to the Fund’s attention, along with identifying startups for potential investments.

St. Louis investor named to Kauffman Fellows Program

Scott Bernstein, a principal at St. Louis-based venture capital firm Lewis & Clark Ventures, has been named one of 51 fellows in the Kauffman Fellows Program, according to 

According to the story, the program is a two-year program that helps investors enhance entrepreneurial access to venture capital by improving understanding and relationships between venture capitalists and entrepreneurs.

Bernstein worked as director of operations for local tech startup accelerator Capital Innovators before joining Lewis & Clark in January of 2015 where he drives capital deployment, advises portfolio companies and develops larger fund strategy.

Other newsworthy happenings…


Sphero, a Boulder, Colo.-based maker connected play robot Sphero, spun out a newly-created company, Misty Robotics, which will build personal robots for the home and office. Misty Robotics raised $11.5 million in Series A funding. Investors include Venrock and Foundry Group.

CirrusMD, a Denver, Colo.-based healthcare communication platform, raised $7 million in Series A funding. Colorado Impact Fund led the round, and was joined by Bootstrap Incubation, Three Leaf Ventures, Rockies Venture Fund, Service Provider Capital, Sand Hill Angels, and New York Angels.

EIV Capital has made a “significant” investment in EcoVapor Recovery Systems, a Denver, Colo.-based provider of vapor recovery and oxygen removal solutions at hydrocarbon production facilities. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.


Prospect Partners recapitalized QMI Security Solutions, an Itasca, Ill.-based manufacturer of storm and security rolling shutters. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.


President Donald Trump visits Kirkwood Community College to tour ag programs – The Des Moines Register


University of Kansas to launch Rubrik Center for Excellence –


Ag Venture company TechAccel LLC expands to St. Louis – The St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Startup weekend Columbus begins June 23 –

Middle Bit: Trump approving Apprenticeship funding a positive for Iowa; O'Halleran joins ManchesterStory Group | 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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