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Next Level Ventures announces Dhawan as Senior Advisor

Tej Dhawan

Next Level Ventures – a Des Moines based venture capital firm – announced Tej Dhawan as a senior advisor Wednesday according to a news release.

Dhawan will assist in making investments and managing portfolio companies, according to the release.

Dhawan is a partner with the Urbandale-based Entrepreneurial Technologies and is involved with Plains Angels, the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator and the Global Insurance Accelerator.

He’s also a graduate and board member at Central College in Pella, Iowa.

Dhawan told Clay & Milk Wednesday afternoon his roles will not change with any of his current responsibilities, this just adds to them.

“This role will be advisory, so when somebody comes up for funding and the Next Level Venture team is doing due-diligence on it I would be one of the people providing input,” Dhawan said. “The way I look at it when you are doing due-diligence on an investment, the more diverse set of opinions you can get on that the better.”

Dhawan was coming from a company’s office Wednesday and said visiting existing companies in the workplace is a part of the job.

“That touch, feel and smell of the investment,” Dhawan says.

In May Dhawan wrote a guest commentary piece for Clay & Milk on diversity.

Craig Ibsen, Next Level Venture’s Managing Principal, said in the release Dhawan brings a unique skill set to the firm.

“We are excited to have Tej Dhawan advise us with making and managing investments around Iowa,” Ibsen said. “He has a unique set of skills as both an experienced executive and an investor, and we are thankful to have him work with our team.”

Next Level Ventures announces Dhawan as Senior Advisor | 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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