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ManchesterStory: An update for 2018


Iowa’s largest venture fund added five companies to its portfolio in 2017 while raising additional capital towards its $125 million target.

After launching in February of 2017 ManchesterStory invested in five startups and was the lead investor in each deal. The fund also raised $10 million, raising its total to $41 million.

Dave Miles, a Managing Partner of ManchesterStory, said along with his partner Matt Kinley, they saw over 550 deals last year and anticipate a similar 2018. He said to expect the portfolio to grow to anywhere between 15-20 companies over the next five years.

The fund focuses on the InsurTech, FinTech and healthcare industries.

The five companies ManchesterStory invested in are:

“There are few things that are more fun then helping,” Miles said. “We don’t make these companies successful, the founders and the team that they built makes it successful. But we give them a lift.”

Investing in those sectors also builds on their past deals and networks. Miles is the owner of asset management firm Miles Capital while Kinley is the executive vice president at Pappajohn Capital Resources.

“We are networked across the country, we can’t just set up shop and line everybody up where they drive five miles from their startup,” Miles said. “So we have this nationwide network and fortunately for us, insurance startups are all over the country.”

Last week they were in London for six days.

“Even though we have a lot of relationships and a lot of our deal flow comes from people we already know, you constantly have to be working to go to the accelerators, the incubators, innovation labs and industry meetings to continue to broaden that network,” Miles said.

Trusting the process

While each investment stands on its own, Miles said each company in the ManchesterStory portfolio contain consistent elements in terms of strength of the team, market size and product/service.

“Then we try to catch it when they’ve got a handful of customers and now they want to get from a handful out to a much larger market,” Miles explained. “That takes a bunch of money and we help fund that growth.”

During a meeting with a prospective company, Miles said his favorite question to ask the entrepreneur is about the size of their target market.

“A seasoned entrepreneur will have a really thoughtful answer to that and shows they understand a $6 trillion insurance industry is not the market,” Miles explained. “It’s a subset, with this need or these customers who buy, but a specific need with a specific profile and here is how we get to them. When people have a good idea, they are often not as good about answering that question about the market.”

What surprised Miles was how fast InsurTech exploded and how much money is flowing throughout the industry.

“The good side of it is FinTech is the most advanced, HealthTech is second and InsurTech is the furthest behind,” Miles explained. “The good news about all of this is I think InsurTech is going to make up that growth.”

The story behind the name

The name is a nod to their hometowns.

“Matt was born in Manchester, Iowa and I was born in Story City,” Miles says. “We were talking about name and we ended up saying, we want to create a firm that’s bigger than either of us so that each new person that joins doesn’t look at as here are the two guys on the door and I’m not one of those.

“We want to build something that is of lasting significance, however one defines that.”

Previous coverage

Insurance-based startup VC firm launches in Iowa, hopes to raise $125 million – Feb. 8, 2017


ManchesterStory: An update for 2018 | 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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