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ISU’s College-by-College Pitchoff returns next month

Starting next month, ISU students from all seven of the university’s colleges will have the chance to pitch their business ideas in the College-by-College Pitchoff.

Throughout the month of February, each college will hold a pitch competition where students will deliver a 90-second pitch about an idea or business they are working on to a panel of judges for cash prizes.

The first place winner from each college will win a $500 cash prize and automatically advance to the ISU Innovation Pitch Competition held March 7. Runner-up Winners (2 awarded per college) will each win a $250 cash prize.

The dates and locations for each college’s competition are:

  • College of Human Sciences – February 5 | 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., Lagomarcino Hall, Room 0142
  • College of VetMed – February 7 | 4:30 – 6:00 p.m., Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center, Room 2215
  • College of Engineering – February 12 | 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., Marston Hall, 3155
  • College of Liberal Arts & Sciences – February 13 | 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., Hach Hall
  • Ivy College of Business  – February 19 | 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., Gerdin Business Building, Room 3164
  • College of Design – February 21 | 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., College of Design, Gallery Room
  • College of Agriculture & Life Sciences – February 26 | 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., Curtiss Hall, Harl Commons

Each college’s competition is accepting the first 25 students who apply.

In addition to the pitch competitions, there will be a Pitch Workshop on January 30 from 5:15-6:30 p.m. at the Memorial Union.

ISU's College-by-College Pitchoff returns next month | 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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