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Middle Bit: Businesses encouraged to complete IEDA Survey to better understand impact of COVID-19

The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) is asking Iowa businesses to complete this survey to tell them what your business is experiencing and how your business is handling the current crisis.

IEDA will use the information collected in this survey to inform its public policy in response to the crisis, as well as potential assistance to businesses.

The deadline to complete this survey is Monday, March 23 at 5 pm.

John Pappajohn Iowa Entrepreneurial Venture Competition to Once Again Award $100,000 in Cash Prizes

Applications for the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Venture Competition are now being accepted. The fifteenth annual statewide competition will be awarding $100,000 in cash prizes. The $100,000 in seed funding consists of a $50,000 contribution from John and Mary Pappajohn and a $50,000 match from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA). The goal of this competition is to support Iowa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

Iowa businesses that have been in operation for four years or less, or are not yet cash flow positive are eligible to apply. This competition is open to businesses including, but not limited to, technology, bio- technology, green technologies, medical, advanced manufacturing, agriculture, engineering, and education industries. 

Participants will be judged on written submissions, and, those who advance to the final round of the competition, will present to a panel of judges. First place will be awarded $40,000, second place $25,000, and third place $15,000. Awards for other categories will total $20,000. 

Applications for the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Venture Competition are due Monday, May 18, 2020. 

Secretary Pate pledges $1 million to assist counties with cybersecurity

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate announced a plan last week to provide $1 million to Iowa counties to assist them with cybersecurity resources ahead of the 2020 elections. Pate made the pledge today during an annual gathering of Iowa’s county auditors.

During the next few weeks, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Iowa’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) will conduct scans of all 99 counties’ websites and internal systems. Following those scans, the Secretary of State’s Office will make an initial investment of $1 million to help cover the expenses of recommended upgrades. Almost every Iowa county already receives at least three cyber-services from the OCIO, including training, intrusion detection, and malware prevention.

Secretary Pate is also helping counties transition their websites to .gov domains. This step will ensure the all 99 counties’ websites have top level security. The Secretary of State’s Office will cover the cost for counties to make the transition. The Department of Homeland Security recommends all government entities utilize the .gov domain for their websites, and the National Association of Secretaries of State adopted a similar resolution last month.

The funding to assist counties with cybersecurity services comes from a federal grant to Iowa through the Help America Vote Act.

b.well Connected Health raises $16M in Series A funding

Baltimore’s b.well Connected Health raised $16 million in its Series A investment round, and is looking to grow its team.

The round was led by Des Moines-based UnityPoint Health Ventures, which is the venture capital arm of Iowa-based hospital and clinic network UnityPoint Health. Participants also included Wisconsin-based community health system ThedaCare and Well Ventures, which is a subsidiary of Walgreens Boots Alliance. It brings the company’s total venture funding to more than $27 million.

b.well has worked with organizations such as employers, payers, health systems and providers — categories which are represented among the investors in the round and whom Valdes said are invested in population health as a result of shifts in healthcare. It allows them to offer a front-end mobile platform to consumers that manages all of their healthcare in one place. This provides the digital tools that provide access to data from many different sources in one place. And with a digitally-based mindset that prizes choice, it allows new tools to be added and subtracted without consumers needing to download a new app, as well.

Middle Bit: Businesses encouraged to complete IEDA Survey to better understand impact of COVID-19 | 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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