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NewBoCo Launch Day celebrates startups and 2018 accomplishments

The fifth NewBoCo Launch Day event on Tuesday night showcased many of the startups that have gone through the organization’s Iowa Startup Accelerator and Social Good Accelerator in the hopes of turning their innovative ideas into a reality.

“Over the years, 39 teams have presented and the companies have raised over $9.5 million,” said Eric Hanson, Host of Z102.9’s “The Morning Scramble” and emcee of the event.

This year, the seven startups that presented on stage included:

  • Rantizo, an agtech company using drone technology to spray crops, allowing farmers to more precisely deliver chemicals to their fields;
  • Class Composer, an edtech startup that has created a platform that allows teachers to track and account for their own unique identifiers when creating classes;
  • Member Marketplace, a company that creates e-commerce marketplace websites for member-based business organizations;
  • Cargofy, a company that has created an artificial intelligence virtual assistant the company describes as a “Siri for truck drivers.”;
  • GSI Works, a nonprofit organization looking to give home and business owners simple steps to protect themselves and their neighbors from sudden flooding and drainage problems;
  • Youth Peace Project, a nonprofit organization that uses restorative practices to resolve conflicts that arise between students;
  • Center for Active Seniors (Abbe Health),  a nonprofit organization that provides services and resources to help older adults remain independent;

Center for Active Seniors was one of the nonprofits to take part in the inaugural cohort of NewBoCo’s new Social Good Accelerator, an accelerator specifically designed for nonprofits.

“There are 8,000 people age 80 and up in Linn County. But there are also 38,000 baby boomers nearing or in the beginning stages of retirement,” said Lindsay Glynn, Executive Director of Abbe Health. “Many of them fear getting older and losing their sense of purpose.”

Glynn announced during the event that they are creating a new & innovate space for retirees called Ovation. 

The accelerators are only part of the programming that NewBoCo. The organization also provides training and support for existing businesses, trains teachers and provides camps and learning events to promote coding skills among Iowa students, has created Iowa’s only adult coding school, DeltaV, and organizes events such as EntreFEST, which celebrates entrepreneurial and innovative efforts in the Midwest.

NewBoCo’s K-12 Education Coordinator, Samantha Dahlby spoke during the event about NewBoCo’s efforts to bring coding education to K-12 students across the state.

So far, NewBoCo has provided help to 230 teachers, resulting in coding education for 6,200 students in the state.

“Every school in every school district has their own barriers and one of the things I take passion to is making sure we break down those barriers for them,” Dahlby said. “Maybe they need to hire the appropriate staff. Maybe they need more time in the schedule. Maybe it’s a funding issue. whatever those barriers are we want to help them so they can ultimately provide computer science to their students.”

Two participants of the Intrapreneur Academy—Leslie Wright from United Way and Adam Kaas from Collins Aerospace—took the stage to talk about what they took from their time in the program.

“For me, it was about working for a very large company like Collines Aerospace that values innovation and figuring out how I could best use my skills to help inspire that change on a daily basis,” Kaas said.

To end the event, NewBoCo founder and Executive Director Eric Engelmann took the stage to talk about NewBoCo’s larger purpose in a  constantly changing world.

“As we designed this plan, at first we thought ‘let’s do things that help Eastern Iowa withstand these changes.'” Engelmann said. “As we’ve talked about designing NewBoCo, it’s changed to not so much withstanding changes, but making it so this community thrives because of that disruption.”

NewBoCo Launch Day celebrates startups and 2018 accomplishments | 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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