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Class Composer makes it easy for teachers to organize classes

This story is part of a series that will look at and profile each of the six startups in NewBoCo’s Fall 2018 accelerator programs.

An edtech startup has created a customizable platform that allows teachers to track and account for their own unique identifiers when creating classes.

Class Composer, based out of Boulder, Colorado, is a software-as-a-service company that helps teachers and schools make equitable classrooms. Class Composer’s flagship software helps automate the difficult task elementary school teachers have of determining what students are assigned to which class.

Mike Cronley, co-founder and CEO of Class Composer, said that it often falls on teachers to assign their students to the next year’s classes and making sure there is an equitable spread of students in each classroom.

“The learning management systems that schools use are not addressing this problem at all. They kind of leave it up for the schools to figure out,” Cronley said. “They’re very good at a district level,  but the ground level use of these systems isn’t benefitting teachers at all.”

Before starting Class Composer, Cronley taught third grade for twelve years. It was during his time teaching that he came up with the idea for Class Composer

“Then it just grew over time to a point where I could really envision it helping not just my school but all elementary schools,” Cronley said.

Cronley’s idea came to fruition when Class Composer launched in the spring of 2017. The company now has 25 paying schools using their platform.

Class Composer was recently accepted into the 2018 fall cohort of the Iowa Startup Accelerator.

“So far the program has been great,” Cronley said. “They’ve been pushing us to go out and do discover interviews. In our case, it’s going back and talking to existing customers to learn how they like the product and showing them our new planned features and getting feedback on that. So that’s been very, very valuable.”

Looking ahead, Cronley says he plans on expanding Class Composer into a platform that also contains data tracking and grouping functionality.

“We want to sell ourselves and be positioned as a way for a teacher to create a data profile on a student that has all the information they need and care about in one place,” Cronley said. “And then they can do those things that they simply can’t do right now.”

Class Composer makes it easy for teachers to organize classes | 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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