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Flywheel acquired by WP Engine

Omaha-based Flywheel, a WordPress hosting and management platform, has been acquired by Austin, Texas-based WP Engine.

WP Engine will absorb the Flywheel business and its more than 200 employees, integrating them into its operations, and allowing for more services surrounding its WordPress products.

Flywheel was founded in 2012 by Dusty Davidson, Tony Noecker and Rick Knudtson. Davidson, the CEO of Flywheel, is a Council Bluffs native and a graduate from Iowa State University.

Davidson says that while two companies have been competitors toeach other in many ways, they had always shared a respect and admiration for each other.

“We’ve known the folks at WP Engine for a long time,” said Davidson. “I’ve always had respect for the leadership at WP Engine. I think as one of the leaders in the space, they’re doing some really interesting things.”

WP Engine primarily focuses on mid-market and larger businesses, while Flywheel has largely focused on smaller businesses and agencies, making the two companies natural complements to each other.

Davidson says WP Engine reached out to Flywheel a few months back and the companies started talking seriously in May.

“It for us, kind of came out of the blue,” said Davidson. “We weren’t looking to sell. It just came about out of nowhere, but the more time we spent together, the more it made a ton of sense.”

Davidson says there will be no immediate changes to the Flywheel platform, plans or brand.

“Initially, everything is business as usual. Flywheel will continue to service our part of the market and WP Engine will continue to service its market and we’ll operate independently.”

Davidson says he looks forward to getting together and figuring out the best collective strengths between the two companies over the next few months.

“Over the course of the next two to three months, we’ll spend a lot of time together collaboratively deciding on what makes the most sense for the customers, for the communities and for our teams,” Davidson said.

Financial details surrounding the acquisition were not released. WP Engine claims the acquisition is “the largest acquisition to date in the WordPress industry.”

Flywheel acquired by WP Engine | 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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