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Registration now open for YEC’s Elevator Pitch Competition

Registration is now open for the Elevator Pitch Competition at the fourth annual Young Entrepreneur Convention.

This year’s pitch competition will offer up to $50,000 in prizes.

The competition will run throughout the day on April 27, with the final round being held on the main stage at 4:15 p.m. Registration for the competition is limited to the first 30 participants that sign up and all participants in the pitch competition must have a ticket to attend YEC.

“The pitch competition has really grown to be our signature event. In terms of participation and prize value, there is not another single-day elevator pitch competition anywhere that is bigger than ours,” said Andrew Zalasky, co-founder of Young Entrepreneur Convention. “It takes a fair amount of resources to coordinate, but having the opportunity to hear the pitches–especially those in the final round–makes it all worth it. The innovation represented in our pitch competition is remarkable.”

The convention will kick off on the evening of Friday, April 26 with an opening keynote by Mike Draper followed by a social. Then will be a full day of programming on Saturday, April 27.

In addition to pitch competition, Saturday will include a panel discussion, exhibitors and time set aside specifically for networking. Other keynotes will include Robin Chase, founder of ZipCar; Ryan Gerhardy, founder of Pitchly; and Michael Lawrence, founder of BluJaket.

“We have worked really hard this year to narrow our focus on keynote speakers who our audience can relate to,” Zalasky said. “Each of our speakers has been where our audience members find themselves today. They have started from square one and built companies. We are excited to share this kind of insight with Iowa’s next generation of founders.”

The event is at the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center in Ames, making it the first year the convention will be held in Ames. Tickets are now available for $99.

Registration now open for YEC's Elevator Pitch Competition | 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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