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Industrial startups see growth through Maple Ventures

Maple Ventures opened its doors last August with a mission to provide support to industrial technology startups, allowing them to focus on innovation and product advancement.

Since its launch last year, the startups involved have seen some major growth and changes. Initial startups, including FarrPro, MakuSafe and HartSmart Products, have either achieved their goal of opening a new facility on their own or have significantly grown their business within Maple Venture’s structure.

“The energy and excitement that startups and early-stage companies bring to Maple Ventures and our core business, Ramco Innovations, is electric,” said Hank Norem, CEO of Ramco Innovations and founder of Maple Ventures. “We thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to meet and work with innovators who are looking to bring high-tech products to the market.”

In addition to supporting industrial startups directly, Maple Ventures also serves as a training center and event space. Ag Manufacturing & Technology, the AgriTech Accelerator and 1 Million Cups have all used Maple Venture’s event space. Maple Ventures has also hosted events and workshops for area agencies such as CIRAS and the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

On Wednesday, July 17, Maple Ventures will be holding multiple events. 1 Million Cups Des Moines will be hosting its weekly event beginning at 7:30 am. Then, the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator will host its Manufacturing Panel at 10:30 am.

Here’s a look at the startups who’ve seen success with Maple Ventures so far:


FarrPro, an Iowa City-based agtech startup, began its relationship with Maple Ventures via remote administrative services. Before long the company grew into a Maple Ventures workspace and warehouse use.

FarrPro creates solutions for livestock producers who want to improve the health, welfare, and quality of life of their animals. Their flagship product focuses on keeping piglets warm and healthy as they grow.

“Maple Ventures and the Ramco team were exactly what we needed after we graduated from the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator program,” said Amos Peterson, co-founder of FarrPro. “As we look forward to moving into our new manufacturing facility, we do so with confidence that this transition is coming at the right time – confidence we gained by working with the Maple team to develop our product and scale our operations.”

Late last month, FarrPro won the 2019 National Hog Farmer New Product Tour “Producer’s Choice” Award with their Haven product.

“The support Hank and his team have given us has, in many ways, kept us on track and in line with our projections during a critical phase in our company’s development,” said Peterson. “Our partnership with Maple also facilitated fundraising by reassuring our investors that we had the operational support needed to bring a complex hardware product to market.”

HartSmart Products

HartSmart Products first connected with Maple Ventures by hosting a monthly meetup in the training center. The 3D-printing startup then progressed to utilizing Maple Ventures’ office space as well as its shipping receiving capabilities. Since then, HartSmart Products has moved on to its own facility after experiencing growth.

“Maple Ventures gave me the external visibility my business needed and helped me gain the perspective I needed to proceed,” said Brandon Hart, founder of HartSmart Products. “Being able to utilize the administrative services they provide was invaluable. I was able to start making decisions based on the numbers instead of just trusting my gut. I would not be moving HartSmart Products into its own shop without the support of Maple Ventures this past year.”


MakuSafe is an insurtech startup that uses a wearable device and a proprietary software program to help keep industrial workers safer on the job.

The company started working with Maple Ventures through administrative services, then moved into an office space that allowed them to expand their team.

In February, MakuSafe closed its seed round, raising nearly $3 million.

“One unexpected benefit of being inside of Maple Ventures is how much it has helped with our customer prospects and investors,” said Gabriel Glynn, CEO and co-founder of MakuSafe They see the resources that are at our disposal to help us grow and it provides instant credibility.”

Previous coverage

Maple Ventures: an entrepreneur center for industrial startups -Aug. 21, 2018

MākuSafe raises nearly $3 million seed round -Feb.14, 2019

HartSmart Products is providing 3D printing services to Iowans -Oct. 24, 2018

Startup Stories: FarrPro CEO Amos Peterson on saving baby pigs -March 22, 2018

Industrial startups see growth through Maple Ventures | 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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