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Working remotely: Where the office is doesn’t matter

Sam Schmidt can’t walk into his bosses office but his bosses can still see him.

Schmidt works remotely as a Technical Consultant for MagGrow—an AgTech company—with bosses headquartered in Dublin, Ireland.

He lives in Clive.

“It’s made me a more efficient employee and more focused on accomplishing tasks quickly,” Schmidt says about working remotely.

And it’s becoming a trend.

According to a story a story on earlier this year, 50 percent of the U.S workforce work remotely. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of workers who do at least half of their work outside of the traditional office setting, grew by 115 percent.

In Iowa, nearly five percent of the workforce 16 years old and older work from home. That’s roughly 74,425 people, according to the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Schmidt says MagGrow has employees throughout North America, Europe and Africa so they use technologies like Skype for Business, WhatsApp, Facebook, Google Hangouts and WeTransfer to stay in constant contact.

“It allows a small, yet global company to function as an aligned team,” Schmidt says. “It takes a specific person to be able to be productive in a remote working environment. There aren’t people huddled around keeping you accountable daily.”

Vault Coworking
Nick Longbucco rents a desk at Vault Coworking in Cedar Rapids. Longbucco works as a Cedar Basin Freshwater Manager for The Nature Convervancy.

The business of remote working

According to a story in the New York Times earlier this year, 43 percent of workers say they spent time working remotely in 2016.

A four percent increase since 2012.

To serve that audience, coworking spaces like Gravitate in Des Moines, Mill Race in Cedar Falls, the CoLab in Fairfield and Vault Coworking in Cedar Rapids are companies designed to provide entrepreneurs and remote workers with office space to rent.

Vault Coworking in Cedar Rapids provides all members access to podcasting equipment and a prototyping lab with 3D printers, virtual reality equipment lab and laser cutters.

“We don’t push anyone, anywhere. We just want to provide as many resources as we can to entrepreneurial people,” John Foster, Vault Community Manager, said.

As a software engineer for bay area-based PayPal, Derek Brooks has says he rents a desk at Gravitate.

“You can be flexible about where you live in the world, what your personal office environment is like,” Brooks explains. “Who you work—and don’t work—around and often time, even what your schedule is.”

He’s worked remotely for nearly seven years.

“Often times coworking spaces have other remote employees building awesome things that you never knew were being built right in your own neighborhood,” he says.” “It’s fun chatting with those folks”

Be sure to unplug

Elizabeth Adams works as a Client Communications Manager for California-based Cornerstone on Demand from her house in Omaha.

Adams says working remotely has made her a more efficient employee, but she schedules times to be away from her computer.

“It’s easy to spend too much time working because there aren’t any natural bookends where the day starts and stops,” Adams said. “You have to figure out where your boundaries are and work to maintain them.”

She started working remotely in 2008 and said she would mask her phone number so people didn’t see the Nebraska phone number and start asking questions.

“I felt I had to prove I was working just as hard as those in the office,” Adams says. “Now it’s much more common practice and I know lots of people in more traditional roles that work from home at least a couple days a week. It’s become one of the perks that organizations use to be competitive when recruiting talent.”


Working remotely: Where the office is doesn't matter | 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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