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DBUG: A group for black Iowans interested in tech to share their interests

During his time at Iowa State University, Eric Cheatham became a part of a small, impactful group of peers who, like him, were black software engineers.

“The support group I had at Iowa State was incredibly valuable. But once I graduated, that group kind of scattered while I stayed in Iowa to take a job to work at Workiva,” Cheatham said. “I had a difficult time finding a community like that again and for the longest time I just brushed it off, not really understanding the impact that the group had. Eventually, it kind of clicked in my mind that I was doing myself a disservice by not seeking that community out.”

Cheatham recently started DBUG (Des Moines Black User Group), a group for black software engineers, InfoSec professionals, User Experience designers, students, and tech enthusiasts alike to come together and share things they are working on or learning about.

Cheatham says that all skill levels and focuses are welcome to join the group and that DBUG is not necessarily focused on just tech professionals.

“I’d like to create a community of people that don’t necessarily live, eat, and breathe tech all the time,” Cheatham said. “If someone has a passing interest in IoT devices or is a student in high school who thinks they might be interested, they should definitely join.”

DBUG will hold its first meetup on Tuesday, October 30 with plans to have the group meet once per month.

“For the first meetup, because I don’t necessarily know what the community itself is interested in, it’s just kind of a general meeting,” Cheatham said. “Moving forward, once I get a feel for what the community’s needs, I would like to have more tightly defined broad-level topics and in those have a couple of people who can speak to those topics.

Cheatham told Clay & Milk that he wants the meetups to be organized similarly to how Ted Talks operates, where there is one guiding concept with several people talking about what the topic means to them.

Click here to register for DBUG’s first meetup.

DBUG: A group for black Iowans interested in tech to share their interests | 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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