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Kauffman Foundation launches new funding opportunity for nonprofits

The Kauffman Foundation this week announced the Heartland Challenge, a new funding opportunity for nonprofits that support entrepreneurs.

The 2020 Heartland Challenge will fund entrepreneurship support organizations to pilot solutions for specific challenges faced by entrepreneurs in four states—Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas.  

The newly launched grant program will seek to fund projects focused on one of the following challenges:

Challenge 1: Co-creating objective, milestone-based entrepreneurship training programs to mitigate the impact of implicit bias faced by entrepreneurs from communities systemically left behind. 

Challenge 2:  Addressing rural business transfer opportunities by providing education on models of shared business ownership, including business cooperatives.

Challenge 3: Building cross-university programs that increase knowledge related to securing research and development funding, and commercializing available technology in order to start new businesses.

In addition to the funding, awarded organizations will participate in a regional community of practice intended to build stronger networks, share best practices and advance the work of supporting entrepreneurs across the region. Organizations that are not funded through this RFP, but interested in these initiatives, are invited to apply to participate in the regional community of practice.

Applicants may request funding up to $100,000 over 12 months. Award amounts will vary for individual projects but the average grant size is expected to be around $75,000. The initiative will give out up to $1.5 million in funding in total.

The application process will consist of two-stages. The first is a preliminary application and the second is a full proposal. Applications are now open and are due by March 9.

As part of the launch, Kauffman will be holding a Facebook Live session on Friday, Feb. 28 at 10 a.m. for any interested applicants.

Kauffman Foundation launches new funding opportunity for nonprofits | 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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