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Accelerator program for insurance agent-brokers launches in Des Moines

Six insurance agencies have partnered to form BrokerTech Ventures, a Des Moines-based investor group and accelerator program focused on delivering innovation to the insurance agent-broker industry.

The six agencies currently involved in the program are:

  • Holmes Murphy – Co-Founder (Des Moines, IA)
  • M3 Insurance – Co-Founder (Madison, WI)
  • PayneWest Insurance (Missoula, MT)
  • ABD Insurance & Financial Services (San Mateo, CA)
  • Conner Strong & Buckelew (Camden, NJ)
  • Assurance (Chicago, IL)

BrokerTech Ventures will consist of an accelerator program, a veteran mentoring network, seed funding for a portion of the chosen startups’ research and testing, and a distribution platform to help deploy new technologies.

Applications for the program’s first cohort will open Oct. 28, with the program launch planned for February 2020.

“There is an ongoing need for technology solutions specific to agents and brokers, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of this cutting-edge initiative,” said Dan Keough, Holmes Murphy chairman and CEO, in an announcement. “BrokerTech Ventures will alleviate some of these pain points by creating an ‘innovation hub’ for startups to test broker-centric ideas and products, while bringing new and innovative ideas and solutions to our customers.”

To further build the resources available through BrokerTech Ventures, the current agencies involved plan to partner with more insurance agencies and brokerages going forward.

“As the Midwest, and Iowa in particular, continue to see a surge in insurance-specific innovation, we could not be more thrilled to learn of Holmes Murphy’s new effort to enable and encourage start-up activity in this space,” said Debi Durham, Iowa Economic Development Authority director. “It is forward-thinking initiatives such as this that elevate Iowa as an attractive state for entrepreneurs, innovators, and top insurance industry talent.”

BrokerTech Ventures is currently in the process of looking for its first managing director. Brian Hemesath, former managing director of the Global Insurance Accelerator (GIA) will provide guidance and counseling to the program as the initial architecture and curriculum for BrokerTech Ventures are being developed.

The current schedule listed on the program’s website is as follows:

  • Feb 4-6: Program kickoff and selection process
  • March 2-13: Needs assessment period and educational curriculum
  • March 23-April-3: Primary 1:1 meeting period between brokers and startups
  • May-August: Onsite visits + co-working at brokers’ offices
  • September (TBD): Program finale including conference exposure and other marketing benefits
Accelerator program for insurance agent-brokers launches in Des Moines | 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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