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MākuSafe raises $1.25 million to make workers safer

The workplace is on its way to getting safer.

Ankeny-based MākuSafe has raised $1.25 million for continued development of wearable technology aimed at improving the safety for factory workers. The money was raised from private investors and was a convertible note round.

In total, MākuSafe has raised nearly $1.5 million, founder Gabe Glynn said.

MākuSafe is developing a wearable device for factory workers that goes on their arms to sense environmental conditions, such as noise levels and temperature. The hope is to provide up-to-date safety information and prevent fatal injuries.

Glynn said the company is going through beta testing through November and hopes to release a full product early in 2018.

Manufacturing, agriculture and logistics are the initial focus areas.

“I really feel like the technology we are exploring is something that’s never been done before,” Glynn said. “For the first time in human history we will be recording these types of environmental conditions and gathering this type of data on a human being for a length of time.”

The evolution of MakuSafe’s wearable devices on display over the last year. (Courtesy of Gabe Glynn)

2018 and beyond for MākuSafe

Glynn said MākuSafe will use the funds to hire additional software developers and continue developing relationships within the insurance industry.

“What we discovered is people in the insurance industry are really excited with what we’re doing, because they bare the burden of these accidents and claims that happen,” Glynn explained.

He said Des Moines-based insurance company EMC Insurance Co. invested in MākuSafe and is helping develop the technology. The Des Moines insurance firm has agreed to purchase about $340,000 of the wearable tech if MākuSafe has successful testing,

“We are seeing a bigger opportunity to expand our software platform to MakuSmart,” Glynn said. “We are eager to keep our company here and work with people locally. We’ve got great insurance companies here and over 6,000 manufactures in Iowa, so our goal is to stay right here.”

But raising the capital wasn’t easy

MākuSafe is the sixth startup Glynn has founded in 11 years. This was his first time raising capital and said he was thankful to have attended the “Raising Capital” seminar hosted by Square One and BrownWinick last year.

He suggests entrepreneurs avoid raising capital but for this company, he was forced to.

“For companies like ours in the hardware space and the costs of hardware engineering— which runs into the millions of dollars—it’s a requirement for somebody who doesn’t have the financial means,” Glynn said.

Glynn said the majority of the capital was raised in Iowa.

“During those months there were days where I had five or six phone pitches,” Glynn recalls. “And by the sixth one you’ve got to dunk your head in cold water and put a smile on your face and pick up the phone to call with the same enthusiasm and excitement you had in the previous five.”


MākuSafe raises $1.25 million to make workers safer | 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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