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Middle Bit: Future Ready Iowa Employer Innovation Fund awards 14 recipients

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced 14 recipients of the Future Ready Iowa Employer Innovation Fund, a matching grant that helps employers provide postsecondary training and education opportunities for their employees.

The third round of grants will distribute $244,100 to the recipients. The three rounds of Employer Innovation Fund grants have, in total, allocated $1.2 million in funds to 49 awardees across the state.

“Through the Employer Innovation Fund, Future Ready Iowa is working to spur innovation among employers and communities,” said Gov. Reynolds. “We have thousands of open jobs and rewarding careers and that is why we launched Future Ready Iowa. The Employer Innovation Fund is just one way we can help remove the barriers to postsecondary training and education and help Iowans achieve their goals.”

Funding for the grant was passed by the Iowa Legislature in 2019, making this the first year for the Future Ready Iowa Employer Innovation Fund.

“The Employer Innovation Fund has quickly become an important tool for employers investing in growing their skilled workforce and nonprofits and community groups looking to help those with the most barriers complete skills training,”  Director Beth Townsend, Iowa Workforce Development. “The Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship takes care of tuition and fees but that is not often the barrier for individuals to receive training. The programs proposed through the Employer Innovation Fund address those barriers in creative and innovative ways and not only will help Iowa meet the Future Ready Iowa goal, but also provide hope and inspiration to those who may have been left behind in our economic success.”

Click here to see the all of the Employer Innovation Fund Round 3 recipients.

Bay Area Entrepreneur Speaking in Iowa City

Bay Area entrepreneur, Jon Fisher, will be in Iowa City giving a speech on the topic of “Being Human in Silicon Valley.”

Jon Fisher is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, author, and CEO and co-founder of augmented reality streaming startup, CrowdOptic. As co-inventor and co-founding CEO, Fisher built three companies including Bharosa – which produced the Oracle Adaptive Access Manager product used in online banking processes.

Fisher was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Emerging Category in 2007 and his first book Strategic Entrepreneurism: Shattering Start-Up Entrepreneurial Myths is required reading for the MBA program at several prestigious schools. He is dedicated to spreading the message that it is possible to achieve financial success without sacrificing family values.

The first 300 attendees will go home with a free copy of Fisher’s book Strategic Entrepreneurialism: Shattering Start-Up Entrepreneurial Myths.


The Global Insurance Symposium has opened registration for the 2020 event and is officially open to the public.

This year, approximately 700 insurance and technology leaders from around the globe will gather in Des Moines, Iowa for the 2020 Global Insurance Symposium on April 21-23.

The annual symposium provides a venue for the insurance industry to address important issues impacting the marketplace with a primary focus on technology, policy, and innovation.

Additional event details will be released in the weeks leading up to this year’s symposium.

Middle Bit: Future Ready Iowa Employer Innovation Fund awards 14 recipients | 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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