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LadyDev exists to spread equality with knowledge

As a female software developer, Jesse Benson wanted to meet more ladies doing the same work she’s doing.

So Benson attempted to start a Des Moines chapter of Women Who Code earlier this year but was rejected.

“They got back to me saying Des Moines is too small and there’s not enough interest,” Benson explained Monday. “So I said, hmm, time to prove you wrong.”

After a post on the Des Moines Girl Gang Facebook page, she met Bailey Steinfadt and the duo founded LadyDev.

LadyDev is an organization focused on peer knowledge sharing by and for women developers and their supporters from peer-led study groups, courses and workshops.

“It’s knowledge sharing, that’s our main goal,” Benson says. “To share knowledge that we have and hopefully host classes, tutorials, whatever for women and women supporters. That can be anyone really, anyone who supports the goals of having more female equality in the development-sphere.”

The space inside the Gravitate at Valley Junction was full Saturday for the first LadyDev event. Over 20 people attended. Photo courtesy of Bailey Steinfadt

First event was Saturday

The Gravitate in Valley Junction hosted over 20 people Saturday during the first-ever event for LadyDev.

The event was known as PLIBMTTBHGATY—Programming Languages I’ve Been Meaning To Try But Haven’t Gotten Around To Yet.

Steinfadt—who works on Greenhouse automation and robotics at Pioneer—said the conversation Saturday centered around programming languages, system development and how to get a job in tech with various job strategies.

“We had several people ask to have essentially the same event again,” Steinfadt said.

Steinfadt said anyone can sign up for topics to talk about or teach to the group, from programming languages to learning strategies.

“It doesn’t matter, we are all here to learn,” Steinfadt says. “We walk in the door admitting there’s something we don’t know and everybody has something to teach as well, no matter how much of a beginner you are.”

Benson hopes more people—men and women—get together to share knowledge in development.

“If anyone has something that comes easy to them, it’s definitely hard for somebody else,” she says.

LadyDev exists to spread equality with knowledge | 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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