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Middle Bit: Applications now accepted for 2019 Community Connect program

The Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute has announced that applications are currently being accepted for the 2019 Community Connect program, which begins in February.

The five-session program, facilitated by Dr. Christi Hegstad and program alumni, offers a dynamic learning environment and ensures interaction with each mentor as well as other program participants. Between sessions, participants meet in small groups to build relationships and to support momentum toward goals.

Thirty program participants will move through a five-session curriculum of self-discovery, while mentors provide guidance and connections that encourage community engagement.

“The most meaningful part of this program was connecting with my purpose and values. It gave me time to sit down and evaluate who I am, where I spend my time and how these two areas of my life interconnect. This program has given me the confidence to take more risks to find joy and to believe in myself because my purpose and values will always be a guide,” said Kaylie Hoyle, 2018 Community Connect participant.

Interested potential applicants are invited to learn more about the Community Connect program at an informational session on Monday, October 22nd, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Registrations for this free event.

What else is happening?


Startup Connection 2018, the St. Louis region’s largest event celebrating innovation and entrepreneurship, has announced the 64 Venture Showcase companies selected for 2018. Startup Connection showcases some of the top early-stage startup ventures in St. Louis across a variety of industry sectors including advanced manufacturing, biotech, consumer products, education, FinTech, and tech. –Silicon Prairie News


A home-grown tech company is the first announced tenant of a $300 million redevelopment project expected to bring new life and business back to an old industrial tract of north downtown Omaha. Flywheel, which helps customers build, launch and manage WordPress websites, is to move into 1½ floors of the cavernous Ashton warehouse at 1218 Nicholas St. by summer of 2020. –Omaha World Herald


Alternative lending provider Affirm is the latest tech company to look to Pittsburgh for talent, announcing plans to open an office in the Rust Belt city. The company said today that it expects to hire 100 employees by the end of 2019, and 500 employees within the next five years. –VentureBeat

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan announced the creation of the $2.25 million Comeback Capital Fund this morning at the Youngstown Business Incubator, which was spurred by the success of the Comeback Cities Tour, led by Ryan, D-13, Ohio, and U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-17, CA, and helped by Bloomberg Beta. –Business Journal


Middle Bit: Applications now accepted for 2019 Community Connect program | 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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