Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Takeaways from the 2019 Iowa Tech Summit

More than 500 members of Iowa’s tech community spent Tuesday at the Iowa Technology Summit hearing from other Iowans on security, innovation and leadership in the tech industry.

Here are a few highlights from the event:

First ever High School Tech Summit

The first ever took Iowa High School Tech Summit took place on Sept. 30, one day before the Iowa Technology Summit.

The High School Summit exposed high school students from around the state to technology companies and careers throughout Iowa.

Three Iowa leaders—Eddie Etsey, Ben Milne and Antoinette Stevens—spoke at the event and gave presentations designed to challenge stereotypes, demystify the industry and inspire the next generation of Iowa’s high-tech workforce.

Anders Sörman-Nilsson delivers Keynote Address

Customer-led transformation isn’t about ditching the physical in favor of digital, but instead about using both to connect with the analog hearts and digital minds of customers.

That’s the view of Anders Sörman-Nilsson, who delivered the Keynote Address to kick off the Tech Summit on Tuesday morning.

Sörman-Nilsson, a Swedish-Australian futurist, talked about the need for more seamless customer experiences in a world where every industry and brand is being digitally hacked.

He discussed how leaders can cope with changes, enthusiastically embrace the future and turn research into foresight that will impact their business.

“The battle lines of workplaces have shifted in terms of what defines work,” said Sörman-Nilsson. “It’s often said the digital world is dehumanizing but I would argue that courtesy of technology, we can in fact code for more humanity.”

Brad Dwyer discusses new innovations in AI

Brad Dwyer, founder of, shared his thoughts and learnings on recent innovation in the field of artificial intelligence.

Dwyer demonstrated how AI programming is now entering into fields that were previously human-only creative endeavors such as writing, painting, musical compositions and generating entirely new ideas.

“The questions I get a lot is are we heading towards artificial general intelligence,” said Dwyer. “And the answer is I don’t know. I would say that that’s a long ways away and we’re not even close. But I would have said the same thing about the creative stuff that’s happening now five years ago.”

Building company culture for today’s workforce panel

One of the morning’s breakout sessions was a panel that discussed the importance of having more diverse, inclusive and open workplaces.

The panel was moderated by Gilmara Vila Nova-Mitchell, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant of Heartland Area Education Agency. The four panelists were:

  • Shea Daniels, Lead Software Engineer, Dwolla
  • Kirsten Bosch, Regional Delivery Manager, Accenture Industry X.0
  • Izaah JB Knox, Executive Director, Urban Dreams
  • Michele Palmer, HR Director, Microsoft

The panel addressed what the right policies are, how to implement them and how to communicate them to employees, providing attendees with tools and tips to help enable a more inclusive workplace.

“It’s important to realize that policies are hugely broad. The way I like to look at is the same way I look at our engineering problems,” said Shea Daniels. “We need to have an agile mindset. The people are more important than anything else and we need to try things as we go.”

Daniels recently started the Transition Forward Project, a project that helps organizations in developing guidance to support the gender expression of all employees, specifically those that are transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming and those who decide to transition in the workplace.

Takeaways from the 2019 Iowa Tech Summit | 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
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives
Purchase Now