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NewBoCo’s Intrapreneur Academy announces second cohort

Five teams from across Iowa joined NewBoCo’s second Intrapreneur Academy cohort last Friday in hopes of sparking innovative change within their organizations.

Brucemore, Eco Lips, Grinnell Mutual, Rockwell Collins and Woodward Communications Inc. will spend the next year together focusing on the four competencies of innovative organizations: Culture, Strategy, Agile, and Methods.

“I thought the first cohort was an eclectic group, but we’ve almost duplicated the types of companies participating in this second cohort,” Mandy Webber, NewBoCo Director of Innovation said. “Rockwell is sending another team of engineers, and we have another ESOP and a nonprofit. The learning they will derive from each other is an invaluable benefit. It’s been interesting to see the first cohort learn that they all have similar struggles when it comes to innovation despite being in different types of organizations.”

Each quarter will focus on one of the four innovation competencies through workshops, networking groups, expert-led sessions, and immersive tours as well as access to other NewBoCo events.

“We have been thrilled to see the impact that Intrapreneur Academy has already had with the first cohort,” Aaron Horn, NewBoCo Chief Operating Officer said. “The teams have been doing amazing work, and we are super excited to see a new group of motivated intrapreneurs kick off their innovation experience within their companies.”

NewBoCo launched Intrapreneur Academy in January as a training program to help established companies build a culture that embraces experimentation from within. 

“The traction we’ve made in such a short amount of time with Intrapreneur Academy has been really exciting,” Webber said. “We have 10 companies, 11 teams, and 47 people participating – not to mention tour hosts and guest speakers – with organizations joining us from Coralville, Cedar Rapids, Marion, Dubuque, Grinnell, Des Moines, and Hiawatha. The reach we have both to people in and working with the program, as well as getting companies to join outside of the Corridor, is definitely aligned with our mission as a nonprofit.”

NewBoCo's Intrapreneur Academy announces second cohort | 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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