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Assistance Tech wins Iowa Startup Games

Last week, the University of Iowa’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC) hosted its annual Iowa Startup Games Competition.

The Iowa Startup Games is a three-day event where students from all areas of study pitch their ideas to have an impact. After the student pitches, teams were formed and work together to bring the best ideas to life. At the end of the third day, each team had the opportunity to make their four-minute pitch to a group of panelists for a chance to win cash prizes.

The top three teams selected by the judges each received cash prizes. Teams were also honored as the “Judge’s Choice” (selected by the judges) and the “People’s Choice” (selected by the audience).

Below is a summary of the winning teams:

First Place ($2,000)

Assistance Tech – Passive RFIC bracelet key for assisted living communities

  • Myles Hebets (Health Science Entrepreneurial BA, Cedar Rapids, IA)
  • Zach Combs (Engineering, Newton, IA)
  • Michael Westphal (Human Physiology, Urbandale, IA)
  • John Tian (Enterprise Leadership, Bloomington, IL)
  • Kyle Lastine (Computer Science and Engineering, Urbandale, IL)

Second Place ($1,000)

Of Kings and Queens – Connect multicultural fashion designers to multicultural student organization

  • Elizabeth Dix (Business Direct Admit, Shell Rock, IA
  • Ayotoluwafunwi Ogunwasi (Journalism and Mass Communication, Grayson, Ga)
  • Jashan Gill (Pre Business, Oakbrook, IL)
  • Fansheng He (Enterprise Leadership, Anhui, China)

Third Place ($750) and People’s Choice Award ($500)

Get to Know Me – Platform reducing frustration with the beginning sessions of therapy

  • Mckenzie Paulsen (Communication Studie, West Des Moines, IA)
  • Souhit Varre (Enterprise Leadership, India)
  • Jacob Jones (Psychology, Council Bluffs, IA)
  • Karter Donahue (Business Direct Admit, Cedar Rapids, IA)
  • Sean Diehl (Enterprise Leadership, Orland Park, IL )

Judges Choice ($500.00)

Bee-A -Keeper – Online subscription service that enables people to do something about the disappearing bee phenomenon

  • Anthony Gamino (Enterprise Leadership, Addison, IL)
  • Brock Miller (Organizational Studies, Monmouth, IL)
  • Daniel Lunde ( Enterprise Leadership, Des Moines, IA)
Assistance Tech wins Iowa Startup Games | 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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