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Middle Bit: Applications open for Iowa Innovation Challenge

The second phase of the Iowa Innovation Challenge is now accepting applications. The university-wide competition will be awarding $169,000 in prizes to the most innovative projects on campus.

The challenge is open to all University of Iowa faculty, staff, graduate students, undergraduate students, incubator startups, as well as UI academic alumni.

There will be a pitch workshop held on Feb. 28 from 11:30 am-12:20 am in W107 PBB to help those interested prepare for the competition.

Applications are due March 27. After applications are submitted, a limited number of finalists in each category will advance and pitch to a panel of judges. Click here to learn more about the competition and to apply.

Bill Adamowski resigns from ISU Startup Factory, will lead entrepreneurship center at Drake

After nearly five years at Iowa State University, Bill Adamowsi is resigning from his post as ISU Startup Factory president to lead Drake University’s entrepreneurship center.

Adamowski joined ISU’s Economic Development and Industry Research team in March 2015 to focus on growing the network of innovation throughout campus. He crafted the framework for the Startup Factory using best practices from the likes of MIT, Stanford and other successful accelerators.

“We thank Bill for leading efforts to establish the new program, and for the work he has done on behalf of our students, faculty, and staff to help them create successful businesses,” Interim Vice President for Economic Development David Spalding said in an announcement. “To-date, 114 startups entered the program, and our companies have attracted more than $28.7 million in state and federal funding and private investment.”

Spalding said the work of the Startup Factory will proceed without interruption. 

Kris Johansen will lead the program on an interim basis, with a search to be held for a permanent replacement to be announced in the coming months.

“The center will focus on creating more connections between the university and Central Iowa companies that are looking to innovate,” Adamowski said. “I would like Drake to be the university of choice for them to work with,” he said. “I would like to create some more programming for entrepreneurs in general.”

Adamowski said he would like to see the center grow to eventually offer some degree programs.

DSM Web Geeks hosting ‘Becoming a Developer’ panel

DSM Web Geeks, on February 19th at 12pm, will host a panel on becoming a developer at We Write Code.

Learn where these developers came from, how they got where they are today, and what they’d recommend to someone looking to get into development.

The panelists for the event are:

  • Mike Clancy
  • Christa Dickinson
  • Uri Frazier
  • Elyse Segebart
  • Levi Rosol (Moderator)

Click here to RSVP to the event.

Middle Bit: Applications open for Iowa Innovation Challenge | 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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