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Rise of the Rest: How Des Moines can bring it back

Des Moines has an opportunity to showcase its startup ecosystem on a national level.

Steve Case—co-founder of AOL—is preparing to start the sixth, “Rise of the Rest” bus tour  that travels across the country to experience emerging startup ecosystems. The tour starts Oct. 10 in Pennsylvania and Iowa has an opportunity to be the sixth city the bus visits.

To vote for Des Moines click here. Des Moines was in third place as of Sept. 20. Voting ends Oct. 12 and the winning city will be announced Oct. 13.

Case—the current CEO of Washington D.C based investment firm Revolution—originally visited Des Moines with Rise of the Rest on Oct. 8 2014.

The leaderboard as of Sept. 20. Results courtesy of Rise of the Rest.

What happened last time

Tej Dhawan was an organizer in 2014 when the “Rise of the Rest” bus visited Des Moines.

He explained that the “Rise of the Rest” tour is an all day event that concludes with a pitch competition where Case invests $100,000 in a local startup.

Dhawan said the day starts with a meeting between Case and the Rise of the Rest team plus local CEO’s, investors and state officials—including then Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. Then a group visited local startups including Dwolla and Social Money.

“We weren’t really looking for external validation,” Dhawan said. “We weren’t trying to put on a show, we were trying to show the reality.”

During their visit, Dhawan said the Global Insurance Accelerator was launching and the coworking space Gravitate just launched.

“So there was already an excitement in the community,” Dhawan says. “We remained within the confines of lets showcase what we’re doing and the people supporting that ecosystem.”

A panel and pitch competition filled most of the afternoon with several local companies pitching.

John Jackovin and his company Bawte, won the pitch competition, kind of.

The Rise of the Rest logo. Courtesy of Rise of the Rest.

A crash course in pitching

In October of 2014 Jackovin was in the midst of TechStars—an accelerator program in Boulder—and was unable to make it back to pitch at Rise of the Rest.

And because the person pitching had to be an owner, he called his wife.

“My wife is part owner—of Bawte—so I asked her to pitch for me,” Jackovin explained. “She’s a wonderful speaker, has great stage presence, she can sell but she had no idea what she was selling.”

Jackovin said he spent a few hours on the phone with his wife and put together a pitch deck and script for her.

“I got notified that she had won, it was absolutely crazy,” Jackovin said.

But Jackovin said the company never actually used the funding and it instead went to the second place company, Pear Deck of Iowa City.

The winners of each stop would pitch against each other at a national pitch competition at SXSW in Austin in March of 2015.

Pear Deck won.

“The second place team in our area won the national pitch off,” Jackovin said.

Pear Deck would win an additional $150,000.

Des Moines has a chance

Anna Mason, Director of Rise of the Rest Investments, said she visited Iowa earlier this year for EntreFest in Iowa City and says she connected with great people from the region.

She says the bus has never returned to a city it has already visited.

“Des Moines has a chance and if everyone gets out and votes, I think you guys are definitely in the mix and in the running,” Mason said. “We’d love to see the bus back there.”



Rise of the Rest: How Des Moines can bring it back | 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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