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ActWorthy: Social media for social change

In the midst of the 2016 election, Ross Katz found himself questioning what he had once felt were a shared sense of values and wanted to do something about it.

After looking around, Katz soon discovered that a lot of other people were asking the same questions: How can I get more involved? That is when he decided to start ActWorthy.

“I started thinking about how to get more involved myself and by extension how our community could be brought together and what I discovered is that it’s really hard to build relationships with the institutions that make up our civil society,” said Katz, the site’s founder and CEO. “The way that institutions like nonprofit organizations, advocacy groups and campaigns build relationships with people doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Launched in January, Iowa City-based ActWorthy is an online social media platform that allows nonprofits, activist organizations and political campaigns to connect with those who want to support their work.

“We want to be the site that helps people deepen their relationship with their community and help people take action together whether they’re in the same physical space or not,” said Kratz.

Connecting people with causes they care about

Katz began having conversations with people from nonprofits and advocacy groups about some of the challenges they face when organizing people.

“I discovered that there is this deep well of really good people who are silently doing great work and have no idea that other people in their community are silently doing similar or tangentially related great work in completely separate realms,” said Katz.

ActWorthy’s goal, then, is to provide a platform that increases the awareness of the work that social good organizations are doing. This will allow nonprofits, advocacy groups, and campaigns to coordinate their efforts together more effectively.

“If you want to make an impact on any issue in this community, there are leaders within the community who know what to do. I want to give them the tools to disseminate that information,” said Katz.

2018 plans

ActWorthy was one of the four companies selected to take part in the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s 2018 Spring Cohort.

“Because I’m focused on making a difference here, in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, as a proving ground for a platform that can be used in the rest of the country, the network and connections the Iowa Startup Accelerator bring to the table was a big selling point,” said Katz.

ActWorthy also is planning on releasing their mobile app sometime this summer.

“I want everyone to be using ActWorthy as a platform to discover and take action in their community and to make an impact on the issues that they care about,” said Katz. “That involves developing our website but it also involves developing our mobile app. We’re preparing to launch the app this summer and test it out in hopefully several events this summer.”

The website is currently available and is being tested in Iowa City and Eastern Iowa, but Katz said he plans to eventually expand to the rest of the U.S.

ActWorthy: Social media for social change | 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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