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Nebullam and LEAH Laboratories selected into Y Combinator

Two Iowa-based companies, Nebullam and LEAH Laboratories, were selected into Y Combinator’s winter cohort accelerator program.

Their acceptance into the program comes with a seed investment of $150,000 along with mentorship throughout the 90-day program that culminates this week with a demo day in San Francisco.

“One of the biggest takeaways that we’ve had from YC is the fact that the community is just as open when talking about failure as they are with talking about success,” said Clayton Mooney, CEO and co-founder of Nebullam “That openness to sharing what doesn’t or didn’t work is healthy and required for growing a technology startup ecosystem. I believe Ames has the potential to become a powerful technology startup hub over the coming years, but only if the community reaches the point where it wants to optimize for the upside, while not sweating the downside.”

Prior to the winter cohort, Nebullam went through Y Combinator’s Startup School, a 10-week online program that provides mentorship and a startup network.

“Coming into the program, we had been developing this idea for about a year and really needed a ton of flam to light all the gas that we had and Y Combinator really provided that for us,” said Wesley Wierson, co-founder and CEO of LEAH Laborotories.

Out of approximately 12,000 applicants, 205 were selected for the YC winter cohort. This is the first time that two Iowa-based startups have been selected for Y Combinator.

“This was the lowest acceptance rate by YC to date,” said Joel Harris, co-director of Ag Startup Engine. “In spite of that, two Iowa built and based companies, both from the Ag Startup Engine portfolio and with ties to Iowa State University, were selected. Recognition from a leading program like Y Combinator is terrific for Nebullam and LEAH Laboratories, but also an inspiration for other entrepreneurs about the quality of technology businesses being started in the Heartland.”

Both companies will be pitching to investors later today as part of Y Combinator’s Demo Day.

Previous coverage

Leah Laboratories receives seed investment from Ag Startup Engine -Jan. 16, 2019

Middlebit: Nebullam one of six finalists for inaugural IFT Next Food Disruption Challenge -July 20, 2018

Nebullam: Indoor farming -April 17, 2018

Nebullam and LEAH Laboratories selected into Y Combinator | 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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