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Middle Bit: Pappajohn competition awards announced at Drake University

John Pappajohn

Winners of the 2017 Pappajohn Iowa Entrepreneurial Venture Competition were announced during a luncheon Thursday afternoon at Drake University.

Gross-Wen Technologies won the competition and received $25,000. They invented an algae-based wastewater treatment process that recovers nutrients from wastewater.

Financial software company finished in second place winning $15,000. Vacation rental travel insurance company Pablow finished in third place, winning $10,000.

Six other companies received $1,000 each. Three companies received $2,000 each.

The annual John Pappajohn Iowa Entrepreneurial Venture Competition encourages and promotes entrepreneurial activity. The competition is open to new businesses in Iowa that are not yet cash flow positive.

Iowa Ideas Conference takes place in Cedar Rapids

Over 200 speakers in 80 different events made up the Iowa Ideas Conference in Cedar Rapids this week.

In one hour sessions, panelists and speakers presented and took questions from the audience on topics ranging from health care, education, energy, agriculture and more.

Clay & Milk moderated the “Smart Cities” panel Thursday morning in the technology track.

Panelists from Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Dubuque presented how they were using data, sensors and mobile apps to improve the transportation in their cities. Discussion centered around how rural communities could best implement technology into their communities, on tight budgets.

The conference finishes today.

What else happened…


Farm-monitoring startup hitting new heights – The News Gazette

Raise—an online gift card marketplace—closed a $60 million Series C funding round led by Accel, with participation from PayPal, New Enterprise Associates and Bessemer Venture Partners. The total capital raised by the Chicago-based company is nearly $150 million.


Denver plans to provide Amazon with single proposal – The Denver Post


How a Midwestern City bounced back from its own Harvey – The Wall Street Journal

McDonald’s self ordering screens arrive in Iowa – The Des Moines Register

Apple deal debated during Iowa Ideas panel – The Gazette

What’s needed for autonomous cars to come to Iowa? – The Gazette


High-tech Top Golf coming to Twin Cities – Star Tribune


St. Louis accelerator invests in high potential AgTech startups –

LaunchKC winner Cambrian Tech taking simple idea to new reality –

Other newsworthy items…

Venture capital group sues Trump administration for delaying ‘startup visa’ –

Middle Bit: Pappajohn competition awards announced at Drake University | 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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