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Maple Ventures: an entrepreneur center for industrial startups

Ramco Innovations recently announced plans to launch an entrepreneur support center focused on industrial startups at its facility in the Valley Junction.

The center, known as Maple Ventures, is set to open this fall will provide workspace, infrastructure, knowledge and mentoring for early-stage companies with industrial hardware or software. Accepted companies will also be able lean on Ramco for a variety of things beyond the space, having the opportunity to tap into Ramco’s engineering and industrial technology experts, testing facilities, and marketing and distribution support.

“The idea is really based on getting people out of the garage and coffee shop and into a facility where they can be next to engineers and folks that have been through and are facing similar challenges and learn from each other,” said Hank Norem, President of Ramco Innovations.

Maple Ventures is currently supporting two companies, MākuSafe and FarrPro, with plans to accept three more companies into the center by this fall, after the build-out for Maple Ventures is completed.

“From a startup perspective, the most exciting thing is seeing they’re approach at Ramco where they’ll help as little or as much as you want,” said Gabe Glynn, CEO and co-founder of MākuSafe. “You’ve got startups and a 50-year old company working side by side and I think they’re going to compliment each other really well.”

Entrepreneurs interested in the space can now apply. The qualifications are specific, as Maple Ventures will be focused on fostering innovation in the industrial space. To work with Maple Ventures, companies must have a full-time founder and have an industrial product or solution in beta or beyond.

“Together, we can drive each other, make each other better and bounce things off each other. We’re going to create our own little micro-community here,” said Glynn.

Previous coverage

MākuSafe raises $1.25 million to make workers safer –Oct. 17, 2017

Startup Stories: FarrPro CEO Amos Peterson on saving baby pigs –March 22, 2018

Maple Ventures: an entrepreneur center for industrial startups | 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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