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Middle Bit: Principal launches $25 million COVID-19 relief program

Principal Financial Group has launched multiple community-based COVID-19 relief efforts to directly assist those experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic.

The two new programs—The Giving Chain and the Principal Foundation Relief Fund—build on previous support Principal has announced for customers accessing retirement funds, requesting payment extensions, and other adjustments to help manage financial challenges due to COVID-19.

The Giving Chain aims to provide thousands of meals and activity kits—sourced from and in collaboration with local businesses and nonprofits—to individuals and families in more than 30 communities globally.

Principal also established the Principal Foundation Relief Fund to provide grants to help Principal employees, employees of majority-owned member companies, and U.S. service staff providers (real estate, janitorial, wellness, childcare, food service, and security) who are experiencing financial hardship due to this crisis. 

The combined efforts of the two programs are expected to total more than $25 million.

ISU Startup Factory extends application deadline, moves program online

The Iowa State University Startup Factory is now accepting applications for their ninth cohort with an extended closing deadline of May 29, 2020.

The ISU Startup Factory is a 52-week intensive program housed at the ISU Research Park, which provides an avenue for students, faculty and staff to create businesses. The ninth Startup Factory cohort is slated to begin on June 23, 2020.

To be considered for admission in the cohort for the ISU Startup Factory, applicants are to apply through the online application form. First round finalists will present to a review panel, with a final decision notification being received in June. The start date is scheduled for June 23, 2020.

Corteva Agriscience and PowerPollen announce commercial agreement

Corteva Agriscience and PowerPollen have announced a commercial agreement expanding the use of pollination-on-demand technology, enabling increased flexibility and productivity for Corteva’s commercial corn seed production.

As part of the agreement, Corteva will license the on-demand pollination technology and gain access to PowerPollen’s prescriptive pollination expertise and algorithms that inform producers of the optimal pollination timing to increase seed yield, purity and quality.

PowerPollen will be responsible for collecting, preserving and applying pollen leveraging its patented technology, which uses custom designed tools and preservation methods built to scale for commercial operations.

Middle Bit: Principal launches $25 million COVID-19 relief program | 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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