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Eight startups take home $21,000 at Venture School Launch Day

The University of Iowa’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC) held its Venture School Launch Day event in conjunction with EntreFEST last night.

Venture School Launch Day highlighted eight standout Venture School alumni from the 2018/2019 year. The eight startups each had six minutes to pitch their businesses to a panel of judges followed by a four-minute Q&A.

Here are the eight companies that presented:

Argrow’s House Bath and Body (Quad Cities)
Argrow’s House is a social enterprise where women survivors of violence create beautiful bath and body products that are natural, healthy, and smell wonderful.

BluJaket (Quad Cities)
BluJaket makes mobile marketing easy and affordable for small businesses and restaurants by connecting them with consumers in the right place, at the right time, for a mutually beneficial engagement.

Boundry (Dubuque)
Boundry helps dog owners keep their pets safe with a simple, humane, and portable dog fence solution built on positive reinforcement, superior training, and GPS perimeter technology.

Continuum Ag (Mason City)
Continuum Ag is the intel processor of agricultural data and the fully transparent link between the consumer and the soil. Their business works with farmers, ag companies, and food organizations, around the world, to quantify and improve soil health.

Grateful Graze (Quad Cities)
Grateful Graze stands out from the typical farm of corn and soybeans by raising grass-fed and finished beef in their crop rotation along with lamb and pastured chicken. Their mission is connecting farmers to families with food they can trust – raised in a way that is best for the animal, the environment and people.

Horse Auction Block (Dubuque)
Horse Auction Block is providing an online auction styled market place for horses. Their business assists in both the buying and selling process to ensure that both parties are honest and receive the horse that they paid for.

Immersive Development Reality (Iowa City)
Immersive Development Reality (IDR) teaches students the concepts of coding while in a virtual reality environment. As middle schools struggle with participation in computer science, IDR looks to garner student interest and create continuous engagement, while teaching valuable skills.

VerdiLife (Iowa City)
VerdiLife strives to make the Earth a healthier planet by replacing harmful agrochemicals with an all- natural solution. Their business focuses on recycling wood-waste into 100% organic fertilizers and pesticides in the form of wood vinegar and biochar.

Contest winners

First place was given to Immersive Development Reality who took home the $10,000 first place prize. Second Place was given to Boundry who took home $5,000. The six other startups that pitched each received $1,000.

Previous coverage

Shaking Earth Digital: the cutting edge of app development -Oct. 1, 2018

BluJaket: Providing a platform for companies to send you deals -April 9, 2018

Eight startups take home $21,000 at Venture School Launch Day | 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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