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Middle Bit: EntreFEST returns to Cedar Rapids June 4-5, 2020

EntreFEST will return to Cedar Rapids on June 4 and 5.  The two-day conference is designed to celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation, with professionals at every level coming together to share ideas. 

The event is expected to bring more than 500 attendees to Cedar Rapids.

 “EntreFEST is an incredibly valuable experience for members of the business community at all levels,” said Jill Wilkins, Events Director for NewBoCo. “On one hand, it’s a great opportunity to learn about and gather new ideas. But one of the really special things that happens is the conversations and connections that happen, too. Attendees make new contacts, get business referrals, and even find new investors while they are all in the space together.”

The new developer track from 2019 will return for its second year.

The first wave of speakers is now available, and tickets can be reserved now. EntreFEST tickets are $199 through February 14.

Iowa JPEC taking nominations for Iowa Innovation and Entrepreneurship Honors. 

The University of Iowa has opened up a call for nominations for the upcoming Iowa Innovation and Entrepreneurship Honors. 

The John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center is hosting the first Iowa Innovation and Entrepreneurship Honors on April 23, 2020. Awards will be presented at the Honors to recognize the outstanding entrepreneurial accomplishments of our alumni, students, faculty, staff, and Venture School participants. Recipients of these awards exhibit passion, devotion and innovation in planning and deploying their startup/business, and have made significant progress over the years as determined by metrics such as jobs created and revenue generated.

The university is currently seeking nominations for the following awards:

  • Student Startup of the Year Award
  • Faculty/Staff Startup of the Year Award
  • Young Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Award
  • Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Award
  • Venture School Business of the Year Award

Nominations will be accepted until February 21, 2020.

Pitchly Makes Latka’s list of 100 Fastest Growing SaaS Companies in 2019

Pitchly has been listed on the Latka 100: List of Fastest Growing SaaS Companies, coming in at number 18.

Out of 3,500 SaaS companies last year, Pitchly ranked in the Latka top 5% in terms of revenue growth rate.

According to the list, Pitchly saw $480,000 in revenue in 2019, a 344% increase from 2018.

Click here to see the full rankings.

Middle Bit: EntreFEST returns to Cedar Rapids June 4-5, 2020 | 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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