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Middle Bit: Facebook announces $100 million program to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19

Facebook announced last week that it’s creating grant program for small businesses and is offering $100 million in grants to 30,000 companies in over 30 countries.

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, announced last week that the social media giant wants to “do our part” to help with the “enormous challenge in front of us.”

Applications will be available soon and additional details will be forthcoming. People can sign up for update alerts.

Greater Des Moines Partnership releases COVID-19 survey results

The Greater Des Moines Partnership has released the results of a feedback survey from local businesses and community members to determine how they are being affected by the coronavirus pandemic, how they are addressing the situation and what The Partnership can do to help.

In total, just over 600 businesses responded to the survey. 62% of businesses said they were changing the way they operated during the pandemic. 47% of business said they were beginning to restrict spending because of uncertainty.

“Our region is continuing to react to the evolving challenges associated with COVID-19, and so many businesses and organizations are pivoting quickly to come up with innovative solutions and offer help to others in the community,” said Jay Byers, CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership in an announcement. “Although these survey results underscore the challenges so many in our region face, we are also encouraged by the countless examples of people in our community coming together, supporting each other, supporting local businesses and keeping a positive attitude in the face of uncertainty.”

Click here to see the full survey results

UNI launching Webinar about creative solutions for your business during COVID-19

The University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Business Growth and Innovation (CBGI) program seeks to support the business community during the COVID-19 outbreak by launching a new video series, titled Coping with COVID-19, Creative Solutions for your Business.

Topics will include resources available, workforce issues such as managing a virtual staff, unemployment law changes, flexibility and productivity, finance and strategy, marketing, mental health and more.

This series will be available live through the Advance Iowa and Center for Business Growth and Innovation Facebook pages twice a day; 10am and again at 2pm. Each live stream will contain different information that will adapt to the rapidly changing environment.

Videos will be archived and available online.

Middle Bit: Facebook announces $100 million program to help small businesses impacted by 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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