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Innovation Expo presenters announced

Innovation EXPO is set to take place Wednesday, October 10th at the DoubleTree in  Cedar Rapids.

The expo is a statewide event that connects Iowa entrepreneurs with the resources and talent to scale their businesses.

Today, the presenters for the expo were announced.

The speakers will be split into two sessions, EDC’s PitchLab, and Iowa Venture Capital Association’s Seed & Venture Forum. During Pitchlab, five startups will pitch their businesses to a panel of business experts. Then, during the Seed & Venture Forum, five early-stage entrepreneurs will pitch to a panel of venture capital experts from across the state and receive valuable feedback to hone their pitches.

Here are the announced speakers:

PitchLab presenters:

Belle Du Chene, FixxStick

Isabel Reed, Comigo

Nick Jones, AgilOak

Mahdi Eghbali, VerdiLife

Philip Abangan & Adam Hoffman, Asonus Tech

Seed & Venture Forum presenters:

Dalton Shaull, HealthTech Solutions

Kevin Maher, VetMeasure

Zac Henrich, MZ Development


Dr. Frances Johnson, Viewpoint Molecular Targeting

After the pitches conclude, a winner from each session will be announced. To end the expo, EDC’s Curt Nelson and Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Director, Debi Durham, will take the stage to discuss the impact entrepreneurs have on Iowa’s economy.

Tickets for the expo are $35 for an all-day pass and free for students.








Innovation Expo presenters announced | 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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