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Startup Pitch Day at Jefferson Forge will award $25k to a local startup

Local entrepreneurs and investors will gather together at the Forge in Jefferson for a Startup Pitch Day on Oct. 8. The winner of the event will receive a cash prize of $25,000.

“I came out for the announcement of The Forge back in December and was excited about all the energy I saw,” said Greg Sands, Managing Director of Costanoa Ventures and organizer of the event. “Linc had asked me if there was some way that I could get involved and we just brainstormed on what we thought could be impactful from a venture capitalist perspective. In the end, felt like the best thing we could do was catalyze some of the existing entrepreneurial energy in Iowa and in rural areas.”

Those interested in participating must submit an application by Sept. 20. From the applications, judges will choose four finalists to present in person at the Jefferson Forge Tech Center on October 8.

The four finalists will be notified on September 30.

Some of the eligibility requirements listed on the event website include having raised less than $1 million, having an existing product or prototype and having a scalable business model.

Ben Milne, Greg Sands and Ryan Broshar will serve as the three judges for the event.

“It’s an exciting time in and around Jefferson with the Forge and what it represents for other rural communities and other communities in Iowa.”

The Forge Grand Opening

On Sept. 7, Accenture will be hosting the Grand Opening of The Forge in Jefferson from 4 – 7 pm.

California Congressman Ro Khanna and Gov. Kim Reynolds will both be speaking at the event to celebrate the opening of the first rural Forge.

The Welcome Center, Thomas Jefferson Gardens and Mahanay Bell Tower will have extended hours along with other stores in Jefferson to welcome visitors.

Previous coverage

Pillar Technology connects with Silicon Valley leaders to bring tech jobs to Jefferson -Dec. 10, 2018

Corteva partners with Accenture to provide scholarships in rural Iowa -June 6, 2019

Startup Pitch Day at Jefferson Forge will award $25k to a local startup | 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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