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Twelve student companies prepared for CYstarters demo day

CYStarters Iowa State University

Twelve student-led startup companies will pitch their businesses Friday during the 2017 demo day for CYstarters, at Iowa State University.

This is the second cohort for the CYstarters program; Demo day starts at 10 a.m. Friday at Research Park (1805 Collaboration Place) in Ames.

The CYstarters program is ten weeks and started in May.

Diana Wright, Marketing and Program Coordinator for the Iowa State University Pappajohn Center, said each startup will pitch for three to five minutes to the crowd that she expects to be between 50 and 60 people.

The event is free and open to the public.

Wright said there are companies representing the agriculture and medical technology industries along with a company doing forensic science, forensic evidence and three or four for retail.

“They will be sharing to the community what they’ve been working on, their business and what they do,” Wright said. “I’m really excited, they’ve done a lot over the summer and it’s been a great ten week program. So I’m excited to see where they go.”

Wright said Friday is not a competition but a chance for the companies to share with the community what they are working on.

But it is competitive to get into the program and Wright said 40 applicants applied to be in the 2017 cohort.

“They have been at this for ten weeks and all are very different and at different stages,” Wright says.

Twelve student companies prepared for CYstarters demo day | 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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