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Principal announces Youth Can Innovation Program, awards $350,000 to four companies

Principal Financial Group, in partnership with the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), has announced the Youth Can Innovation Program, an initiative dedicated to furthering the work of organizations that help youth achieve economic opportunity and financial health.

The program will seek to identify and invest in promising companies that are attempting to help to improve the financial health of youth.

“Faced with challenges like rising education and housing costs, greater debt, and increased job insecurity, young adults are more likely to be financially insecure than previous generations,” said Mandi McReynolds, director of community relations and the Principal Foundation. “That’s why Principal is dedicated to investing in innovation that directly benefits the future of this community.”

Through the newly announced program, Principal has granted $350,000 to four companies focused on leveraging technology to address the financial insecurity many young adults experience today.

“The Principal Foundation is positioned to help 50,000 youth, aged 15-24, earn and save more within the next five years,” McReynolds said. “The organizations participating in our first-ever Youth Can Innovation Showcase represent some of the most promising solutions that can help us achieve that goal.”

The Showcase

On Tuesday, October 30, four organizations showcased their ideas to a panel of industry experts comprising financial and business executives, not-for-profit leaders, and journalists.

Each team presented pitched their organization for five minutes followed by a Q&A period with the panelists and the audience. Following the pitches, two teams received $150,000 grants each, with the other two teams each receiving $25,000 grants.

In addition to grant money, all four of the selected companies will receive strategic guidance, advisory assistance and collaboration opportunities with CFSI.

More than 300 local community members attended the showcase, including 130 students from 16 Iowa high schools in the non-profit Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates (iJAG) program to ask questions.

The four teams showcasing their ideas were:

  • A.M Money, a Chicago-based organization, developing a student loan repayment solution that allows borrowers’ payments to rise or fall along with their income.
  • Edquity, a financial services company in Brooklyn that plans to develop and test a first-of-its-kind financial success platform that provides college students with resources to help them weather financial stresses.
  • MyPath, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that seeks to provide young people enrolled in employment programs in Seattle and San Jose with a path to financial success through a combination of in-person and online financial tools.
  • MoneyThink would build a web-based tool that would help under-resourced high school seniors understand their post-secondary options; when paired with the nonprofit’s existing financial coaching program, it would help high school seniors in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco Bay area to navigate the financial aid process.

The top two teams, Edquity and MyPath, were awarded $150,000 each. The remaining two teams, MoneyThink and A.M. Money, received $25,000 each to advance their ideas.  The Audience Favorite, Edquity, received an additional $10,000.




Principal announces Youth Can Innovation Program, awards $350,000 to four companies | 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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