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A new Ames company is building life-size statues out of legos

Take your childhood lego creations, magnify them into life-size human figures, and you’ll have found the new Ames-based company, WeBuildU.

Founded by Chris Ihle, WeBuildU takes playing with legos to a new level by designing and creating life-size statues of human beings made entirely from lego bricks.

For the past four months, Ihle has sculpted life from thousands of plastic bricks to form lego human replicas, two of which can soon be found in Beverly Hills.

Since forming, WeBuildU has completed its first major build; a two-person statue of Matt and Josh Altman (stars of the Bravo network show “Million Dollar Listing LA”). The two statues will be unveiled during an episode of Million Dollar Listing on Aug. 31.

“All we’ve done the last three months is focus on making these statues the best that we could. The quality is higher than what anybody else has done,” said Ihle. “We’re so excited to see where being on national television is going to take our company.”

Two other clients include opera singer Simon Estes, whose state will be displayed at the newly constructed Simon Estes School of Fine Arts at DMACC, and Professor Harold Hill for Mason City’s 2020 Music Man revival.

“I feel like we’re in a spot where everything is in front of us,” said Ihle. “We’ve established that we can build these and at a high quality.”

Ihle says in the coming months he wants to scale up the company and start selling a lot more statues.

“We feel like we’re sitting on a gold mine of a product and we just need to figure out how we can get that to them,” said Ihle. “Right now, we’re aggressively reaching out to and trying to identify the right people to sell this to.”

A new Ames company is building life-size statues out of legos | 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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