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Young Entrepreneur Convention to be held in Ames on April 26-27

The Young Entrepreneur Convention (YEC) is set to take place at the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center on April 26-27, 2019, marking the first year the convention will be held in Ames.

“Almost 3/4 of our attendees in year two and three were from the Ames area and with Iowa State Universty promoting entrepreneurship campus-wide, it made sense to move everything here,” said Clayton Mooney, YEC co-founder.

In its first three years, the convention has drawn nearly 1,500 entrepreneurs to central Iowa. The majority of attendees are college students looking to gain inspiration, insight on building companies and an opportunity to network with others that share their passion for startups.

“We have a lot of alumni who end up coming back every year,” said YEC co-founder Ander Zalansky. “People who have been there since year one and come back to connect with people they’ve met at previous conventions.”

The event will feature an opening keynote and social the evening of Friday, April 26, and a full day of programming on Saturday, April 27. In addition to multiple keynotes, Saturday will include a panel discussion, exhibitors, time set aside specifically for networking, and an elevator pitch competition.

“The biggest thing I’m proud of is the elevator pitch competition,” Mooney said. We’ve been able to award over $150,000 in cash and prizes in just three years.”

“Over the last four years, we’ve evolved and I feel like we have a firm grasp on offering programming that is especially valuable to early-stage entrepreneurs, startups and college students who are pursuing that career path,” Zalansky said.

Speaker announcements will be made in the weeks to come and tickets will go on sale for $99 after the first of the year.

Young Entrepreneur Convention to be held in Ames on April 26-27 | 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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