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NewBoCo, United Way announce nonprofit innovation program

NewBoCo will partner with United Way of East Central Iowa to form a nonprofit innovation program, according to a news release Friday afternoon.

According to the release, the intent is to improve the capability of the region’s nonprofits to launch new products and services, strengthen financial viability and make a bigger impact on communities.

NewBoCo (The New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative) operates the Iowa Startup Accelerator as well as several other entrepreneurial initiatives in Eastern Iowa.

The programs will be available to nonprofits in the Corridor and consists of four components:

  1. A series of educational workshops on innovation, strategy, execution and cultural change, intended to provide access to strategies and techniques used by for-profit companies and inspired by startups.
  2. Agile coaching to help existing nonprofits maximize flexibility and learning and to build strong organizational cultures.
  3. Nonprofit coworking, providing discounted office space and a community for small and early stage nonprofits, working alongside startups and small businesses in the Vault Coworking space.
  4. A social good accelerator for new nonprofit ideas to rapidly test them before launching. The accelerator will operate much like Iowa Startup Accelerator does: a time-boxed, highly selective program with grant funding available.

Organizational leaders from 16 nonprofits attended the pilot nonprofit innovation event last month, according to the release.


NewBoCo, United Way announce nonprofit innovation program | 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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