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Nerds rejoice: The Prairie Code Conference fits into your schedule

A coding conference to attract hobbyists and professionals alike is next week in downtown Des Moines.

The Prairie Code Conference is a two-day event with breakout sessions on anything from Javascript to machine learning, entrepreneurship, app development and mental health. The Prairie Code Conference will start at 8:30 a.m. on both Sept. 28 and 29 inside the Iowa Events Center.

“We have 100 breakout sessions with 50 different speakers,” Co-organizer Jon von Gillern said. “We don’t specialize on any one technology. It’s things that programmers—nerds—would be interested but the meat and potatoes is programming content.”

Each session is between an hour and 75 minutes long.

For longer sessions, an optional half-day workshop is Sept. 27.

“Those have been really popular and probably half of our attendees are doing the workshop and the full conference,” von Gillern said.

Last year, 350 people attended.

von Gillern is the Chief Technical Officer for the tech startup WebCareHealth and one of the organizers for the Iowa Code Camp. Organizers of the Prairie Code Conference also run the Nebraska Code Camp, a one-day workshop on a Saturday.

But von Gillern said they scheduled this conference during the week so coding professionals could make it and avoid conflicts with family activities on the weekend.

“So by having a conference on a Thursday and Friday gives programmers in Des Moines who don’t want to take that Saturday off an opportunity to learn,” he says.

“We saw a need.”

von Gillern says the demand for programmers has increased as Iowa has strengthened its tech community.

“There’s always a lot of recruiters that come to these events because they are trying to make contacts,” he said. “There’s a huge need.”

This is the second Prairie Code Conference but the 10th Amegala conference.

Amegala is the parent organization of Prairie.Code().

Nerds rejoice: The Prairie Code Conference fits into your schedule | 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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