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NewBoCo: Launch day for the Iowa Startup Accelerator is here

Iowa Startup Accelerator

Launch Day for the Iowa Startup Accelerator is going to be a little different this year.

Traditionally, Launch Day serves as the capstone or final event of the Iowa Startup Accelerator. But this year it will include a focus on Iowa’s startup ecosystem.

David Tominsky—Iowa Startup Accelerator Managing Director—said the focus will be on education, entrepreneurship and innovation in Iowa.

“Really talking about those three areas and the impact the community has seen in those areas,” Tominsky says.

The five teams that will take the stage on Thursday night are:

Doors open at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Cedar Rapids for Launch Day at 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7. The program starts at 6. Anywhere from 800-900 people are expected to attend.

The Iowa Startup Accelerator is part of the Cedar Rapids-based nonprofit NewBoCo.

Forecasting the future

Tominsky said the teams will present first, then speakers on entrepreneurship, education and innovation will follow. Eric Engelmann—Executive Director of NewBoCo—will be the final speaker of the evening and forecast the future of NewBoCo.

“The thing that will be different this year is a longer-term plan,” Tominsky said. “Eric will talk about setting up the next big step we are going to take—and that we think the state needs to take—to promote those three initiatives.”

Tominsky uses NewBoCo as an example of how the Iowa startup ecosystem has grown.

“I started in 2014 and it was just Eric and I…Today there are 18 people on staff,” Tominsky says. “I think it’s great to celebrate the accelerator but now that we are a few years into this work and are starting to see the efforts paying dividends, we really want to call attention to why that all matters.

“We want to call attention to the pieces that matter and how they work together.”



NewBoCo: Launch day for the Iowa Startup Accelerator is here | 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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