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InsurTech Week: Introducing startups and insurance executives

The third annual InsurTech Week kicked off Tuesday morning with the goal of exposing 15 insurance-technology startup companies to Iowa’s vast insurance network.

Hosted by the Global Insurance Accelerator, companies from Iowa, California, Ohio, Texas, Washington and Canada traveled to Des Moines for the four days of events. A handful of startups will participate in a pitch competition at the Science Center Wednesday and a networking lunch will be Thursday.

Global Insurance Accelerator Program Manager Megan Brandt said startups also have individual meetings scheduled with insurance companies from Des Moines and around Iowa.

“Anyway we can make connections is significant,” Brandt said. “Hopefully they notice how cool Des Moines is.”

Brandt said she’s not sure if any startups will apply to be in the Global Insurance Accelerator but with over 160 mentors and 13 investors—many of which were in attendance Tuesday morning—she hopes it showcases their network.

“It’s mutually beneficial,” she says.

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen thanked the mentors for volunteering their time, both Tuesday and during the Global Insurance Accelerator.

“What you are doing is really important,” Omnen said. “It’s not just important because you have a business interest. It’s important to advance our business industry.”

Applications for the Global Insurance Accelerator are being accepted until Oct. 31.

Brandt said the selection committee will spend November interviewing startups and finalizing the 2018 cohort in December.

The program starts in January.


InsurTech Week: Introducing startups and insurance executives | 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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