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Middle Bit: Entrepreneurs will share their career paths at upcoming Power Breakfast

The Des Moines Business Record’s next Power Breakfast titled, “How They Built It,” is set to take place on Thursday, February 14. The panel discussion will focus on successful entrepreneurs from Central Iowa as they share lessons they’ve learned from growing their businesses.

The five panelists speaking are:

  • Dr. Chris Nelson – President and CEO, Kemin Industries
  • Connie Wimer – Chairman, Business Publications Corporation
  • Casey Niemann – Founder, Agriync
  • Tiffany Johnson – Co-founder and producing artistic director, Pyramid Theater Company
  • Nancy Mwirotsi – Founder and executive director, Pursuit of Innovation

The event will take place from 7 – 9 a.m. at the Embassy Club – Ruan Center (34th Floor) Tickets to the breakfast are available now.

What else is happening?


On Tuesday, BenchPrep announced a $20 million Series C led by Jump Capital and San Francisco-based venture capital firm Owl Ventures. Existing investors NewView Capital and Revolution Ventures also participated in the round. The Series C follows a strong 2018 that saw the Chicago-based e-learning company increase revenue, grow headcount and bring on new partners. -Built in Chicago


RiskGenius, based in Overland Park, Kansas closed a $500k+ Series A-1 funding round from undisclosed investors on December 26, 2018. RiskGenius is an insurance policy automation engine that rose out of ClaimKit, Inc.  -Silicon Prairie News


Apruve Inc. — a Minneapolis fintech startup that helps businesses eliminate accounts receivable from their balance sheets — raised $6 million from investors to add more staff and accelerate sales. The company raised the money, a Series A round, from investors led by Cloud Apps Capital Partners of San Francisco and two firms that previously invested in it, TTV Capital of Atlanta and Allegis Capital of Palo Alto, Calif. -Star Tribune

Middle Bit: Entrepreneurs will share their career paths at upcoming Power Breakfast | 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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