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Middle Bit: University of Iowa hopes to turn former art building into innovation center

The University of Iowa recently announced plans to ask the state’s Board of Regents at its September 12 meeting for permission to convert the former Art Building into an innovation center.

“The Art Building will once again become a space for inspiration and collaboration,” said David Hensley, executive director of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center in a statement. “By bringing together inventors, creators and leaders from a variety of backgrounds and skills, we will significantly enhance the university’s ability to support the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.”

Programming for the innovation center still is under development and is being coordinated by Hensley and Sarah Gardial, dean of the Tippie College of Business.

dsmAgile set for September 28

The fifth annual dsmAgile is set to take place September 28 at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in Des Moines.

Covering a variety of topics, the one-day conference will feature industry experts in Agile Software Development and is packed full of information that you can use to become more successful at work.

Speakers and session information for the event are now available updates. Tickets for the event are $100 and be purchased here.

What else is happening?


With $40 million in new investments announced Thursday, Chicago-based e-commerce logistics company ShipBob is eyeing an expansion — starting with a new fulfillment warehouse in Cicero and a push to hire 100 people in the next year. The startup aims to help small to midsize e-commerce companies ship their products at speeds similar to Amazon. Shipping logistics tends to be the hardest part of launching an e-commerce brand, said Dhruv Saxena, ShipBob’s co-founder and CEO. –Chicago Tribune


Codelicious CEO and co-founder Christine McDonnell set out to raise $500,000 to help grow her company, which offers cloud-based software to schools that enables any educator to teach full semesters of computer science for grades 3-8. She nearly doubled her goal, announcing this week that her company raised $940,000 in its first round of funding. Until now, the Indianapolis-based company has been bootstrapped by McDonnell and the company’s co-founder, Erik Young. –Indianapolis Business Journal


Startup accelerators and incubators typically cater to digital businesses that don’t need much more than some tables, computers and Internet access to function. Blueprint, an incubator concept initiated by Kidwell, is helping startups in the trades launch and grow. –Silicon Prairie News

Middle Bit: University of Iowa hopes to turn former art building into innovation center | 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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