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Middle Bit: Dwolla to hire new CEO as Ben Milne steps away from position

Dwolla will be seeking a new CEO after founder Ben Milne announced plans to step away from the position earlier this week.

“I told the Dwolla team this morning that we are hiring a new CEO, whom I and the rest of the board are going to recruit,” said Milne a blog post announcing the change. “I’ve replaced myself in every role I’ve ever had in this company and this will be no different.”

Milne will remain a board member and staff in another capacity while seeking a CEO to lead Dwolla through upcoming changes.

Since founding in 2008, Dwolla has grown to have a $10M+ revenue run rate support and more than $10B a year in gross payment volume, wrote Milne.

“I’m so proud of what we’ve done and anyone new coming into the CEO role will have a powerful platform to enable the next 10X+ jump. There is so much talent, ambition, product, board support, and drive already in place. The future is ours to create and the right things are in place to create it.”

SBDC Iowa announces 2020 entrepreneur award winners

Dr. Martin Gross, President and co-founder, Gross-Wen Technologies, was named the winner of the 2020 Neal Smith Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

The Neal Smith Entrepreneur of the Year Award honors an Iowa entrepreneur who has been in business a minimum of three years and has been significantly assisted by an Iowa Small Business Development Center.

Sue Tyrrell, CEO and owner of Hands Up Communications, is the 2020 Deb Dalziel Woman Entrepreneur Achievement Award winner.

The Deb Dalziel Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award honors an Iowa woman entrepreneur who has significantly changed or improved her life and the lives of others.

Iowa State’s C-CHANGE to host conference exploring opportunities in biogas

Iowa State University’s Consortium for Cultivating Human and Naturally reGenerative Enterprises (C-CHANGE) is hosting its inaugural Conference on Agriculture, Technology and Innovation March 25-27, 2020, in Des Moines.

The conference—themed “Why are we missing the boat on biogas?”—is designed to bring together experts from agriculture, energy, government, science and society to share new thinking and new ideas to expand the value chain for Renewable Natural Gas, a component of biogas.

Taking place at the Hilton Des Moines Downtown Hotel, the conference is structured to share information and generate discussion regarding feedstocks, anaerobic digestion, co-products, distribution, financing, policy, market opportunities, and societal impact.

The conference kicks off with a pre-dinner mixer starting at 5 pm, Wednesday, March 25. The next day-and-a-half will feature a diverse panel of speakers representing science, practice and policy aspects of developing the value chain. 

Registration is available now.

Middle Bit: Dwolla to hire new CEO as Ben Milne steps away from position | 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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