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Wood: Iowa Startup Power Rankings for February

Iowa Startup Power Rankings

The time has come to officially debut the reconstituted Iowa Startup Power Rankings in their new home here at Clay & Milk.

I’m very excited and I’m sure you are, too, but before we begin, here’s a quick reminder of the rules straight from the League Office:

  1. The Power Rankings are completely subjective and don’t actually mean anything. I’m doing this for fun.
  2. I’m not picking winners. I want to see everyone succeed and this community grow. If you don’t agree with a particular pick or think I missed something, feel free to debate it in the comments.
  3. I’m pretty good at picking up startup news from across the state but I don’t catch everything. If your startup is doing something great this month, let me know about it.
  4. I’ll usually pick companies but I reserve the right to substitute in individuals, events, organizations, fun YouTube videos or anything else that makes sense to me at the time I’m putting them together.
  5. Standard “King of the Hill”-rules apply, you retain your ranking until someone unseats you.

This post recognizes the achievements of companies and related organizations within the orbit of the Iowa startup community in the month of January 2018. Everybody ready? Let’s go.

February Power Rankings

1. Hatchlings (Des Moines)

This is Hatchlings’ first appearance in the Iowa Startup Power Rankings

Hatchlings, a social gaming company, vaulted to the top spot in these rankings largely because they were named the Top AR App of 2017 by Product Hunt in their annual Golden Kitty Awards in January. Haven’t heard of the Golden Kitty Awards? Me either. However, that doesn’t diminish Hatchlings’ achievement in designing and marketing their Magic Sudoku app last year. The app, which will almost instantly solve any Soduku puzzle, was built to show off the AR possibilities available with Apple’s most recent mobile devices and was covered everywhere from The Verge to KCCI.

The company also just celebrated its 10 year anniversary, prompting some folks to question whether or not it was still considered a startup and therefore eligible for these rankings. The matter was referred to the League Office and since no official definition of “startup” exists the ruling on the field stands.

Congratulations Hatchlings.

2. SwineTech (Cedar Rapids)

This is SwineTech’s third appearance in the Iowa Startup Power Rankings

SwineTech, the team that is on a mission to save baby piglets from being crushed by their mothers, took the second spot in the Power Rankings this month after being named the national. “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the American Farm Bureau Federation at their recent meetings in Nashville, Tenn. SwineTech beat out 470 other applicants for this title and continues the winning tradition of Iowa AgTech startups seeking this particular recognition.

The $30,000 they netted in prize money (a/k/a “equity-free funding”) is a nice bonus.

3. Guzzle Buddy (Medford, Oregon)

This is Guzzle Buddy’s first appearance in the Iowa Startup Power Rankings

In a bit of an upset, the third place company in the Iowa Startup Power Rankings isn’t even based in Iowa. Guzzle Buddy—out of Medford, Oregon—is a large wine glass that you can attach to the end of a wine bottle. It’s on the list because its founders are originally from the Warren County community of Carlisle, just southeast of Des Moines. Randy Rothfus and Jennifer Brick-Sullivan, the two Iowa-expats who own the Guzzle Buddy, took their wares to Shark Tank and agreed to a $400,000 investment from reality show investor Daymond John in exchange for a 25% equity stake in the company. By the way, Guzzle Buddy profited $1.4MM in just 10 months of sales last year (according to the Des Moines Register).

In non-related Shark Tank news, Barbara Corcoran and Kevin O’Leary, two of the show’s other celebrity investors, were in the Des Moines area giving speeches at events last week.

Must’ve been Shark Week.

4. Iowa State University Startup Factory (Ames)

This is the Iowa State University Startup Factory’s first appearance in the Iowa Startup Power Rankings

Two accelerators in our state announced new cohorts in January and vied for the fourth spot in this month’s rankings. However, the Startup Factory ultimately edged out the other with style points added in since they also announced an expansion of the Ames-based the program with three remote sites: Sioux City, Spencer and Austin, Minn. All in, the program counts 27 companies in this cohort, but company names have yet to become public.

Why the secrecy? “Various confidentiality reasons” reported the Ames Tribune.

5. Global Insurance Accelerator (Des Moines)

This is the Global Insurance Accelerator’s second appearance in the Iowa Startup Power Rankings

Truly a “global” program, eight companies from three states, the District of Columbia, Canada, the United Kingdom and Mexico made the move to Des Moines last month to join the Global Insurance Accelerator for their fourth annual cohort. The size of the cohort is an expansion for the GIA program, too, which is currently serving two more startups than it did in each of its first three cohorts. Eight new companies in our startup community is noticeable growth, even if they’re only here for the required 100 days of the program.

Welcome new friends—you picked the perfect time of year to experience Des Moines.

Geoff Wood is the co-founder of Clay & Milk and the founder of Gravitate, a coworking community and entrepreneurial support organization in Des Moines. He’s been telling the story of the Iowa startup community since 2009.

Wood: Iowa Startup Power Rankings for February | 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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