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Ankeny-based QA Graphics is three dimensional

QA Graphics

Technology inside the Ankeny offices of QA Graphics are used in projects for companies across the country.

So when Ankeny-native Dan McCarty got an opportunity to help his hometown, he jumped at it.

Ankeny-native Dan McCarty started QA Graphics—an interactive design studio that offers web development, energy dashboards, virtual reality, 3D design and animation—with one full-time employee in 2006. A decade later QA Graphics has 19 employees and has been profitable for the last five years.

“Companies like us, there are a few companies on the coast that do some of this but they can’t even compete with us,” McCarty says. “And we have the same high-end equipment that everyone else has.”

Working globally, and locally

McCarty says he could never imagine having his company based anywhere else but his hometown.

QA Graphics has worked with 500 clients ranging from technology and fast food companies to universities and common goods all across the country.

Then came the Prairie Trail project in Ankeny, an Urban development project on 1,031 acres.

McCarty said QA Graphics used 3D designs so potential tenants could view properties along the Prairie Trail with photo-realistic views to help in the decision-making process. YouTube videos can be paused and rotated to view different angles and perspectives.

The final products allowed anyone wanting to see The Prairie Trail project in a 3D perspective.

“They are out selling their space to national retailers, but for those people it’s hard for them to visualize and get here,” McCarty says. “So we did this entire site map, 3D of all of Prairie Trail.

“It’s great and we’ve done it for a ton of other companies. We just applied that locally.”

‘I wasn’t a good employee’

McCarty started his career in sales and in the food processing industry. He admits that he probably wasn’t the best employee and always had an interest in 3D and interactive software.

“There were a couple other companies doing it, I just thought I could do it better,” McCarty says. “I’ve applied some of what I learned and some of those things to this industry. They were ahead of the game in that industry and the building animation industry was way behind.”

McCarty says his 3D developers are versatile and that the developers don’t really care what the project is.

“It’s a pretty powerful thing to have,” he says. ”

Now that it’s been over a decade, McCarty says it’s challenging finding qualified people and keeping them. He says he’s thankful for Des Moines Area Community College and Iowa State University as a talent pool.

“It’s a grind,” McCarty says. “You are constantly finding new people, maintaining customers and keeping up with technology. We have no investors and sometimes it can weigh on you, but overall I would do it again in a second.”

Ankeny-based QA Graphics is three dimensional | 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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