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Downtown Des Moines to host Young Entrepreneur Convention


A conference for young entrepreneurs is coming back to Des Moines in 2018.

The third annual Young Entrepreneur Convention will be held at the downtown Des Moines Marriott April 20-21. Tickets are offered at the early bird rate of $79.

In a news release, Co-founder Brandon T. Adams said that moving the convention to downtown Des Moines and offering a two-track format will allow entrepreneurs to learn from presenters with a career path that mirrors their own.

Clayton Mooney is an organizer and said the two tracks focus on tech/startups and influencer/brand.

Mooney said along with the two track focus, there’s a pitch competition that has awarded just shy of $100,000 in two years.

“That pitch competition is coming back for 2018,” Mooney says.

In its first two years, the Young Entrepreneur Convention was held at the Iowa State Fairgrounds and brought more than 1,000 entrepreneurs to central Iowa, according to the release.

Jason Calacanis, angel investor and host of the weekly podcast, “This Week in Startups” will be one of two keynote speakers; Brooke Mickelson, former Miss Iowa USA and owner of Brookies—a specialized home-based bakery—will also be a keynote speaker.

“This is the kind of event that can change the course of an entrepreneur’s journey,” Adams said. “We’ve seen it happen over the last two years. And we know it is going to happen again in 2018.”

Mooney said Miara Steir has attended the last two Young Entrepreneur Conventions with her mom and decided to write a book.

“She launched it on kickstarter,” Mooney says. “It was fully funded.”



Downtown Des Moines to host Young Entrepreneur Convention | 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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