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Fifteen companies pitch their ideas at CYstarters demo day

This summer’s CYstarters program came to an end on Thursday as the fifteen companies in the 2019 cohort presented their ideas to an audience of over 100 people.

Inside the Iowa State University Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, each company presented about a problem they identified, their business idea, product, financial projections, marketing strategy and ability to scale.

CYstarters is an 11-week program that provides students with financial support, professional resources and educational workshops for startups.

The program, now in its fourth year, has now provided $365,000 in funding to 50 different student businesses.

Award winners

Awards were given at the end of the presentations. Five undercover investors sat among the audience and each of them awarded $1,000 to one of the presenting companies.  

The five selected winners from this year’s cohort were: Jensen Applied Sciences, The Modern Milkman, Curiosity, Impocket and Comic Sandwiches.

In addition, three alumni awards were given out to people who participated in previous cohorts of CYstarters and have seen continued success since then. The three Alumni Awards were given to Chris James, founder of True 360, Jacob McClarnon, co-founder of HomePainter and to Mikayla Sullivan, co-founder of Kinosol.

Lastly, was the CYstarter Alumni’s Breakfast Club Award, which was given to Lauren Gifford, founder of Flourish.

Previous coverage

CYstarters announces 15 student entrepreneurs for 2019 cohort -May 6, 2019

Fifteen companies pitch their ideas at CYstarters demo day | 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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