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CO.STARTERS program coming to Cedar Valley

CO.STARTERS, a nine-week program entrepreneurial training program, is coming to the Cedar Valley area this fall.

During CO.STARTERS, participants will develop and fine-tune their business ideas while getting real-time feedback from people in the community. 

Danny Laudick, Executive Director of Red Cedar, says he expects the first cohort to launch sometime this August and is planning to have around fifteen participants.

“A big part of what we’ve noticed from working with founders and startups in the area is that so much of it is based on this culture of learning from other people, bouncing ideas off each other and talking to your customers.” said Laudick. “And that sense of community was something we need to do a much stronger job of helping create and build in our area.”

According to their website, CO.STARTERS supported 129 different communities in 2018. Cedar Valley will be the first community in Iowa to go through the program.

Laudick says he plans to have four cohorts per year go through the program.

“We want it to be something we’re committing to long-term,” said Laudick. “People knowing that this is going to keep going and that even if you’re ready now you can come to it at a later point. This is something we want to invest in to really build a culture and network around.”

Earlier this week, the community went through two days of community training to prepare for the program. CO.STARTERS facilitators who’ve implemented the program in other communities came in and worked with community members on how to best implement the program in the Cedar Valley.

“A lot of how CO.STARTERS is designed is meant to break down some of those barriers that keep people from participating in entrepreneurship,” said Laudick. “We were able to have SBDC, some of our Community Main Streets, colleges and universities come participate. We want to make sure we are doing this in a way that compliments what they’re doing.”

Previous coverage

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

Multi-tasking electric stove sparked in Cedar Valley -May 29, 2019

CO.STARTERS program coming to 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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