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UNI’s first annual Iowa College Entrepreneurs Event set for Oct. 12

A new event for college entrepreneurs is coming to Cedar Falls next month.

The Iowa College Entrepreneurs Event (ICEE) is the first annual conference planned and organized by the UNI Entrepreneurs Club. The event, which will take place Saturday, Oct. 12 in the Curris Business Building at the University of Northern Iowa, will connect college students from around the state who are aspiring entrepreneurs or are just interested in learning more about entrepreneurship.

Brown says the event is specifically focusing on students at community colleges and smaller universities throughout the state that have limited entrepreneurial resources and opportunities.

“We found that there was a big gap for our students that are interested in entrepreneurship,” said Reagan Brown, former president of the UNI Entrepreneurs Club and organizer of the event. “We just wanted to close that gap and create an event where we can be the connection for these college entrepreneurs around Iowa.”

The two keynote speakers at the event will include Travis Steffen, CEO of GrowFlow and Trevor Carlson, creator and host of The Formula Podcast.

In addition to the two keynotes, the event will also have several breakout speakers throughout the day. These will include Russel Karim of Cedar Valley Food Runner, Sarah Helleso of Try Pie, Mikala Wilson of Poshly Picked Boutique and a UNI Entrepreneurs Club Panel.

“Our club has attended other conferences for college entrepreneurs around the country,” said Brown. “We want to bring that incredible opportunity to connect college entrepreneurs here in Iowa.”

50-100 students are expected to attend the event, Brown told Clay & Milk. Tickets to the event are available now for $15.

UNI's first annual Iowa College Entrepreneurs Event set for Oct. 12 | 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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