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After the Iowa Tech Summit, now what?

Members of Iowa’s tech community spent their Tuesday at the Iowa Technology Summit hearing from a former White House CIO and other Iowans on security, innovation and leadership in the tech industry.

It was the first time the Technology Association of Iowa put on an event of this kind with 16 panels in four tracks: leadership, innovation, security and the cloud. The day long event started with a 45 minute keynote and Q&A with Theresa Payton—former White House CIO and CEO of Fortalice Solutions—who told stories about the White House plus offered security tips.

But she asked that the conversation not stop after the day was over.

“This is an amazing group of people who came out on a rainy day, with an action packed agenda,” Payton said. “Don’t let it stop today.”

They want to be informed

Jason Thompson and Bryan Westphal are architects from Pioneer who came to the Iowa Technology Summit. They said they would be attending security and management panels.

“It’s always nice to see what others are doing in the same area,” Westphal said. “We can read online about companies doing things but it’s always interesting to hear what’s happening locally.”

Janelle McCreary—Vice President of Operations at JT Direct—said her company just recently joined the Technology Association of Iowa and went to one session from each of the four tracks.

“I’m looking to get more insight into current trends and how we can grow our business,” she said.

Over 150 students attended too

Along with over 100 local college students, another 10 high school students from the Des Moines School District attended the Iowa Technology Summit.

Sam Oppel is an Informational Technology Instructor with the Des Moines School District and the educator in residence for the Technology Association of Iowa. He said once students reach middle school, they can participate in a “hyperstream program” with clubs around the state who compete in robotics, cyber security and game design competitions.

He hopes to get young people excited about careers in IT.

“Keep feeding the work force with good, excited people,” Oppel says.

He assumed most of the students would go to security sessions.

“For young people it’s exciting,” Oppel explained. “They love the term hacker, and everything is vulnerable. It’s like a game for them to defend themselves from the bad guys.”

Disaster drills

Payton recommended companies identify their top two digital assets and practice digital disaster drills around those assets.

“You want to think about how you can be more creative on the back end,” Payton says. “Because the bad guys aren’t better than you or even smarter than you. They’re evil, lazy people with no day job other than to break into your company.

“Their thought process is do sophistacted spear fishing campaigns where they only need one person to click on a link.”


After the Iowa Tech Summit, now what? | 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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