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Failure: Why it can be helpful

Accelerate DSM

When you ask Brian Hemesath about failure he remembers a story about the company Catchwind.

Hemesath helped start this broadcast text messaging company. In 2008, the company faltered.

“We had a lot of our eggs in one basket, with one client,” Hemesath said.

Their team came to a point where that client didn’t renew with them.

“It put us in the red for the first time in our existence,” Hemesath said. “That lack of diversity in the client base darn near killed the company.”  

Hemesath is a keynote speaker at Accelerate DSM, a day-long event run by the Greater Des Moines Partnership. His keynote focuses on failing, called “FOL (Failing Out Loud) Lessons From Some of the Stupid Things I’ve Done.” He will start his keynote at 8:55 a.m. Thursday at the Science Center in downtown Des Moines. 

“The best lessons you learn are from failure,” Hemesath says. “It has been said over and over again that you can’t learn if you don’t fail.”

Hemesath said he feels sorry for people who succeed on the first try.

“They probably got really, really wealthy, but they missed all the fun of the journey,” Hemesath said. “It’s like teleporting to Disneyland. You get to miss the 18-hour drive that you get to take and all the fun that goes along with that.”

Failure to Hemesath is intriguing because everybody fails.

“Rarely did you hit that home run on the first try,” Hemesath said. “So if everybody fails, why do more people don’t talk about their failure?”

That is why Hemesath is focusing on failure in his keynote for Accelerate DSM because he thinks more people need to talk about failure. His talk will focus on his own failure, but coach attendees on lessons he learned.

Hemesath will discuss everything from roles over titles to accountability to communication. He will use his experience and background in the entrepreneur community to frame his presentation.

Working for himself

Hemesath moved to Des Moines in 1999 and after the telecom crash of 2001, joined the entrepreneur community.

“I found myself jobless, never wanting to work for anybody else again,” Hemesath said.

So he started building websites for a variety of companies. He ran a boutique web development company alongside his brother from 2001 to 2010.

“Along that ten-year journey, I started a few different ventures,” Hemsath said. “Some succeeded, some failed. Some are still going today.”

One of the most notable companies is Volunteer Local, a website used to help recruit, coordinate and communicate with volunteers.

In 2014, Hemesath was named the Managing Director of the Global Insurance Accelerator. This is their fourth year operating. Today, they have 26 companies in their portfolio.

What sets Global Insurance Accelerator apart from other accelerators is their mentorship program. All of the mentors are focused on the insurance community.

Hemesath sees a similar reflection to his mentor program at the Accelerate DSM event. A part of the event is roundtables, which allows participants to connect deeply with others in the community.

He sees two audiences Accelerate DSM can reach: An older more established entrepreneur and first-time founders.

“The older, more established commodities of Des Moines, it gives them a chance to get out and share their story,” Hemesath said. “But more importantly, all the early entrepreneurs, the first timers, the people who have never done this before, this is not a thousand person conference where you are going to get just lost in the context and the networking. This is a very intimate 200 person conference where everyone is approachable. The roundtables are just one more way to increase that.”

Previous coverage of the Global Insurance Accelerator

Global Insurance Accelerator: Eight companies in the 2018 cohort – Jan. 11, 2018

InsurTech Week: Introducing startup to insurance executives – Oct. 25, 2017

A fourth cohort is coming for the Global Insurance Accelerator – Aug. 3, 2017

Global Insurance Accelerator names newest cohort – Jan. 11, 2017

1 Comment

  • entrepreneurship1318
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:18 am

    quite inspiring!!

Comments are closed.

Failure: Why it can be helpful | 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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