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Middle Bit: Iowa State University hosting its own startup weekend event

Iowa State University

Iowa State University and its Pappajohn Center are co-hosting their version of a startup weekend.

The ISU Innovation Prize is an incentive competition at Iowa State University for anyone from a developer to problem-solver and its next weekend, March 30 and 31 at Research Park in Ames. The theme is “Innovation at Iowa State” and focuses on three areas to solve: AgTech, EdTech and Global Impact.

The ISU Innovation Prize will provide $1,500 in cash to the top team that solves each challenge. The event is free and open to the public.

To register, click here.

Iowa AgTech Accelerator hosting AgTech Day

The Iowa AgriTech Accelerator is hosting an “AgTech Day” at the Science Center in downtown Des Moines today to bring together local startup companies with mentors and investors in the accelerator.

“We are trying to support more AgTech startups in the ecosystem,” said Megan Vollstedt, director of the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator. “We have great resources and in a day we can see what we can do to help to provide more mentorship and guidance.”

Vollstedt said the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator is hosting AgTech Day because it’s part of the “give first” mentality that the mentors, supporters and investors have.

“Support founders and AgTech companies and the innovation that can happen,” Vollstedt said.

Vollstedt said programming will start at 8 a.m. on Friday and mentors will arrive for meetings with the startups at 9 a.m.

The deadline to submit applications to join the second cohort of the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator closes on April 2. The 100-day program starts May 29.

What else happened…


CaliberMind, a Boulder-based provider of B2B marketing intelligence software, raised $3.2 million in seed financing –

Rachio, a Denver-based smart sprinkler company delivering technology to improve residential irrigation efficiency, raised a $10 million in Series B funding – FinSMEs

ArcherDX, Inc., a Boulder-based developer of NGS-based gene fusion detection assays, closed a $35 million in Series A financing –

Vangst, a Denver and Los Angeles-based cannabis jobs marketplace, raised $2.5 million in funding – FinSMEs

HelloFresh is buying Green Chef Corporation, a Denver-based organic meal kit startup – Reuters


Meredith wants Iowa tax incentives to fund $20 million office renovation, expansion – The Des Moines Register

Meredith wants to sell Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune magazines – The Des Moines Register


Four entrepreneurs strike gold with unique mini golf course –


KC Shave Company cuts its own niche with blads of disruption –

Immigrant entrepreneurs need path to US now, says GOP Senator behind Startup Act –

SteadyMD, a St. Louis-based provider of an online concierge primary care platform raised $2.5 million in funding –

Middle Bit: Iowa State University hosting its own startup weekend event | 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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