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Full schedule announced for YEC19

The full schedule is now available for the Fourth Annual Young Entrepreneur Convention, set to take April 26-27 in Ames.

The featured talk will be delivered by Monika Black and Tomer Yogev. A married couple and co-founders of the executive coaching firm Tandem Spring, the duo will offer a fireside chat hosted by Des Moines entrepreneur Ben McDougal.

“The fireside will focus on the things founders don’t want to talk about – but absolutely need to—including mental health, dealing with failure, and overcoming the challenges common in the startup scene,” said YEC co-founder Andrew Zalasky. “Monika is dynamic and Tomer is a little more reserved. Together, they offer a totally unique dynamic that pushes the audience out of their comfort zone. I am excited to offer a forum for our attendees to think about more than the next milestone in the development of their product or service. I want them to gain insight on the importance of taking care of themselves and not focus only on the process of building.”

The opening keynote will be delivered by Mike Draper, founder of Iowa-based apparel retailer Raygun. Other keynotes include Robin Chase, founder of ZipCar; Ryan Gerhardy, founder of Pitchly; and Michael Lawrence, founder of BluJaket.

“This year’s event is focused on delivering information and motivation for college-aged and early-stage startup founders and entrepreneurs,” said co-founder Clayton Mooney. “All of the keynote presentations will be delivered by startup founders who have found commercial success. We want attendees to learn from someone who has walked the journey they are currently on. We want them to see themselves in those on stage.”

There are still a few spots open for the Pitch Competition, which will run throughout the day on April 27, with the final round being held on the main stage.

Registration requires the purchase of a ticket to the event. A waiting list will be compiled once the 30 spots have been filled. All participants in the pitch competition must have a ticket to attend YEC.

This year’s prize purse will exceed $50,000 in cash and prizes.

Full schedule announced for YEC19 | 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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