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Denim Summit 2018 examines the InsurTech and FinTech industries

More than 100 marketing, technology, innovation, and business leaders from the insurance and financial services industry gathered in downtown Des Moines on October 24 and 25 for Denim Summit 2018.

In addition to the main day of events, Denim held an opening reception at their new headquarters in downtown Des Moines on the evening the of the 24th.

Below is an overview of the Denim Summit 2018 speakers and sessions.

The day kicked off with opening remarks by Lt. Governor Adam Gregg who shared multiple examples of Iowa successes and rankings from Forbes and US News.

“Iowa is, in terms of GDP from the insurance and financial services industry, number two in the nation,” Gregg said. “We are a hub for the insurance and financial services industry and we’re also a hub for innovation. I think that’s what makes Denim such a good fit for Des Moines. And I think that’s what makes Des Moines a great place for the conversations you’re having here today.”

Adam Gregg
Lt. Governor of Iowa Adam Gregg delivers the Welcome Remarks. (Photo courtesy of Denim).

Following the opening remarks, Denim’s CEO Gregory Bailey sat down with Tiffany TauscheckChief Strategy Officer Greater Des Moines Partnership, for the Denim Outlook. Bailey discussed Denim’s recent growth, the launch of Smart Campaigns, furthering their previously announced partnership with Majesco and plans to raise more capital in the future.

At the conclusion of the Denim Outlook, Tim Hoskins, President of Quester took the stage to talk about using artificial intelligence to capture the voice of the consumer. Hoskins discussed the future of AI, how different generations feel about AI, and shared multiple case studies of Quester using AI to help clients.

“It’s not a matter when we use artificial intelligence, it’s a matter of how,” Quester said. “We can’t use AI to just optimize how we run our businesses internally. We have to use AI to communicate with our consumers. I’m a big believer in combining AI data with human virtues so that when the consumer is ready to have a conversation, we know more about them and are better prepared to deliver to where they’re at.”

Following Hoskins speech were two back to back Fireside Chats.

In the first of the two, Bailey sat down with Lori Bochner, VP Marketing for Sammons Financial Group, Miguel Edwards, CIO for the Life and Health Division of Kemper, and Dustin Yoder, CEO of Sureify to discuss how to engage customers at the digital edge.

For the second fireside chat, Denim’s CTO Charlie Turri took the stage with Jason Andrew, CEO of Limelight Health, Bernard Gerwel, SVP of American National Insurance Company, and Derek Hyde, CTO of AscendIA Ventures to talk about the API economy.

The final keynote presentation was delivered by Scott Campbell, Senior Vice President & Chief Client Officer of American National.

Denim Summit 2018 examines the InsurTech and FinTech industries | 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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