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Multi-tasking electric stove sparked in Cedar Valley

A new Cedar Valley-based company is hoping to bring sustainable, safe access to electricity to those who need it most.

The company, Terraoak, has created a patented smokeless cookstove that is able to convert heat energy into electricity and output it through a USB outlet.

The company’s CEO and co-founder, Max Chinnah grew up in Nigeria before receiving a scholarship allowing him to attend Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.

Before graduating from Wartburg, Chinnah attended the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and walked away inspired and with the drive to be an entrepreneur.

“When I attended the conference the one thing that was really eye opening for me was being exposed to a group of likeminded individuals, peers and students that were pursuing their own ideas,” Chinnah said.

Chinnah and his partner, Godwin Attigah, who is from Ghana, have already received a utility patent for their stove and have beta tested the product in Ghana, proving the technology works under harsh conditions.

Terraoak is one of two companies so far to have received funding from the Red Cedar Seed Fund, a new fund focused on early-stage companies in the Cedar Valley.

“That funding has been incredibly instrumental for getting us to this juncture,” Chinnah said. “It went towards figuring out the next iteration of our prototype and getting us to a manufacturable product.”

Before Terraoak enters the international market, the two plan to launch in the U.S. camping market to prove viability and start driving revenue.

Eventually, they plan to sell the product in their home countries and other third world countries.

Right now, they are looking to gather feedback from camping and outdoor enthusiasts before launching a Kickstarter campaign later this summer. 

Previous coverage

Red Cedar launches seed fund to invest in Cedar Valley startups -Feb. 6, 2019

1 Comment

  • Tobin
    Posted May 30, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    How does this differ from BioLite products? I’m a Des Moines based commercial photographer but also have a startup in the works and understand all that goes in to getting something off the ground. Happy to help you with some of your photo needs at no cost as I like the concept and your mission to help others.

Comments are closed.

Multi-tasking electric stove sparked in Cedar Valley | 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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