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Middle Bit: Illinois STEM projects receive $2.6 million in STEM grants; Minnesota Venture Center launches 18 startups

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CME Group Foundation—of Chicago-based CME Group—announced grants totaling $2.6 million to fourteen Illinois organizations in support of STEM (Science, technology, engineering and Math) education initiatives, according to a story Monday in the Philanthropy News Digest.

Eight of the grants went to projects focusing on early math education; four are advancing computer science learning and two are using technology to personalize learning for students, according to the release.

According to the story Monday, LEAP Innovations received $1 million for its work on next-generation thinking in the classroom and Vision 20/20, who received $25,000 to support its 21st Century Learning Center.

The Northwestern University/Digital Youth Network received $125,000 to evaluate computer science programs for Chicago youth.

A full breakdown of the donation can be found here.

University of Minnesota Venture Center launches 18 startups

The University of Minnesota announced Tuesday that it launched 18 startup companies over the past year based on discoveries and inventions by its researchers, according to a release from the University of Minnesota.

According to the story, launching companies through the Office for Technology Commercialization’s Venture Center is one of the primary ways the University of Minnesota brings cutting-edge research from the lab to the marketplace.

Of the 18 startups, 16 are based in Minnesota; The release said the 18 startups is a record for a fiscal year.

A complete list of the startups can be found here. The Venture Center has helped launch 119 startups since 2006.

Indiana has an online butcher shop

In a response to locals wanting organic meat, an Indiana startup introduced an online butcher shop, according to a story on

The story says Tyner Pond Farm buys pasture-raised, antibiotic and hormone-free cattle, pigs and poultry from a network of regional farms, then processes and sells the meat to wholesalers and individual consumers in 18 central Indiana counties.

Consumers can buy their meat through an e-commerce platform and get free delivery to their doorstep.

What else happened…


Internet TV service Sling TV loses its CEO to Pandora – The Denver Post

Kansas City’s Red Nova Labs opens engineering office in Denver – SPN


Photos: Hy-Vee Inc.’s new Helpful Smiles Technology Center includes a replica of the show, “Big Bang Theory” – The Des Moines Register

Jethros BBQ expands to Ames – The Des Moines Register

28 Iowa companies make Inc.’s list of fasted growing firms – Business Record

Iowa City company iotaMotion raises $2 million –


GeoTix—a provider of SaaS solutions that generate non-advertising revenue streams for media companies—raised $1 million in funding from Boomerang-Catapult and Casey Cowell –


Target acquires delivery technology firm – Star Tribune


Active Capital—a St. Louis based venture capital firm—raised more than $13 million for its debut fund, according to an SEC filing. The fund’s target is $20 million.

EyeVerify rolls out new platform, company name –


Nationwide commits more than $100 million to the next generation of insurance and financial services –

3Bar Biologics—a Columbus, Ohio based—provider of a beneficial microbe delivery system, raised $2 million in funding.

Middle Bit: Illinois STEM projects receive $2.6 million in STEM grants; Minnesota Venture Center launches 18 startups | 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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