Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Artwork rental platform MoRA wins Startup Weekend Iowa City 2019

Over 25 people arrived at Merge last Friday, excited to participate in Startup Weekend Iowa City 2019.

Startup Weekend is a 54-hour event, during which groups of developers, startup enthusiasts, and more pitch ideas for new startups, form teams around those ideas, and work to develop a working prototype, demo or presentation by Sunday evening.

The weekend kicked off with dinner and introductions on Friday evening, followed by everyone give 60-second pitches of their startup ideas. Of those, six ideas were chosen to be worked on by teams throughout the weekend.

The final six teams were:

  • MoRA – an online platform that allows rent out their art to local businesses and homeowners
  • AgFinder – a sharing platform that connects farmers with the niche resources to more effectively operate their farms
  • Agble – trains and connects youth and young mothers with farmers who need skilled labors in Nigeria
  • Handshake – an online site that connects freelancers with clients and ensures that freelancers get paid for their work
  • MRI Solutions – an algorithm that increases MRI quality and identifies studies that are incorrectly protocoled
  • Food Fight – an app where users can vote for their favorite dish from local restaurants to receive coupons and deals

On Saturday, teams spent the bulk of the day discovering customer relationships and channels, developing value propositions and business models and beginning to prepare for their final pitches on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, teams frantically wrapped up their presentations and finalized their pitches. Final pitches began on Sunday at 4:00. Each pitch was five minutes long followed by a three-minute Q&A with a panel of judges.

This year’s three judges were: Mark Nolte, President of the Iowa City Area Development Group; Kimm Harris, Entrepreneur and Lecturer at the University of Iowa; Samantha Ferm, Government Contracting Specialist at CIRAS.

Following the pitches, the judges decided on the top three teams. First place was given to MoRA. Second Place was given to Handshake. And third place was given to Agble. In addition, a Crowd Choice Award was awarded to MoRA.

MoRA, an online platform that allows artists to rent out their art to local businesses and homeowners wins first place at the 2019 Startup Weekend in Iowa City. MoRA also won the Community Choice award.

“I really hope that everyone participated this weekend walks away having learned something,” said Jay Cooper, organizer of the event. “Thanks so much to all who participated, to the judges who are here, and to the coaches who were here all weekend, taking the time to make our entrepreneurial community better.”

After startup weekend was over, participants got together at the Mill to celebrate completing the weekend.

Artwork rental platform MoRA wins Startup Weekend Iowa City 2019 | 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
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives
Purchase Now