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Iowa Tech Summit connects tech community members from around the state

Members of Iowa’s tech community spent last Tuesday at the Iowa Technology Summit hearing from other Iowans on security, innovation and leadership in the tech industry.

“It’s very important for us to get our technology community together, to share ideas, to innovate together so that we build a greater whole technology industry across Iowa,” said Paul Hlivko, Vice President and CTO of Wellmark Blue Cross and Shield. “Because talent is as vitally important to our organization as well as many other organizations.”

It was the second time the Technology Association of Iowa (TAI) put on an event of this kind with 16 panels in four tracks: leadership, innovation, security and the cloud. 645 registered attendees signed up to attend the event.

“In 2018, The Iowa Technology Summit we focused on delivering better content in the sessions with a more technical deep dive into topics,” said Brian Waller, President of TAI.

The day-long event started with a 45-minute keynote and Q&A with Dr. Charlie Miller—Principal Autonomous Vehicle Security Architect at Cruise Automation—who talked about security, hacking vehicles and the internet of things.

“Events like these are a great opportunity to unite Iowa’s tech, to connect and share best practices,” Waller said. “This is very healthy for the ecosystem to have a highly connected group of industry professionals.”


Iowa Tech Summit connects tech community members from around the state | 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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