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54 Hours of Hustlin’​: What I learned from Startup Weekend

My first Techstars Startup Weekend is in the books! And boy, was it a whirlwind. After 54 hours of ideation, market research, business model creation, and pitch deck creation, my team, MoRA, went on to win first place for both People’s Choice and Judge’s Choice. However, we came a long way from day one. Since it was my first time, I thought i’d share a few takeaways from my first taste of entrepreneurship:

  1. Pivoting is okay! After settling on an idea Friday night, our team completely pivoted Saturday morning when we realized the market was already saturated with similar products. Pivoting seems to be a common theme, especially at Startup Weekend. So embrace this and keep going!
  2. Your team is everything. I attribute the majority of my teams success to our amazing team chemistry. Our skillsets complimented each other, and we knew when it was time to take a break and get some fresh air (Java House was a savior). Better yet, there was lots of laughter (and just a little bit of panicking).
  3. There WILL be highs and lows. Boy, was it a rollercoaster. It seemed like every half hour we’d go from “this is an amazing idea” to “why did we think this was a good idea??” This is normal, and you will make it though.
  4. It’s all about solving the problem. The Startup Weekend mentors were quick to remind us of this, especially when we were still stuck on our initial business idea, which wasn’t necessarily solving a dire problem. Once you have a problem, then it’s time to find a solution. Get to it!
  5. Entrepreneurship can be fun! While a lot of work, there’s something special about talking to people, learning about what their problems are, and working towards something that can help solve that problem.

While I don’t know how MoRA will turn out (we’re going to look more into the idea), I understand how people can easily become “serial entrepreneurs.” Once you get a taste of entrepreneurship, it’s hard to stop thinking about other problems you can tackle. I look forward to continuing my entrepreneurship state of mind, and seeing where things go!

Elizabeth Hubing is the Director of Communications for the Iowa City Area Development Group. This story was also published on LinkedIn.

54 Hours of Hustlin'​: What I learned from Startup Weekend | 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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