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EntreFEST goes virtual

EntreFEST, a two-day conference traditionally held in Cedar Rapids for entrepreneurs and innovators, will shift the event to a digital format as a result of COVID-19.

EntreFEST will still take place June 4 and 5, but all speaker sessions, networking events and other activities will be held over the internet, NewBoCo announced last week.

“We’ve had a very positive response from all our speakers,” said Jill Wilkins, Events Director for NewBoCo. “All of the keynotes are very excited to still participate and actually have some new ideas, things they want to talk about in light of the current situation. We’re excited about that.”

Guests will be able to visit Zoom lounges for networking hot spots and chat with other virtual attendees. The event’s happy-hour gatherings, concerts and a live comedy session will also take place online this year.

“The interaction piece has always been a big part of EntreFEST,” said Wilkins. “That’s going to be one of the things we’re focusing on a lot over the next few weeks and months. Making sure we bring that to our attendees so they still have that opportunity to make meaningful connections and opportunities in that virtual setting.”

Attendees this year will also receive recordings of all sessions from the conference — even those you are not able to attend.

The full EntreFEST schedule for 2020 can be viewed here.

 At Clay & Milk, we want to tell stories about the many ways entrepreneurs and startups are adapting and stepping up to combat coronavirus. Fill out this form to tell us your story and we will be in touch.

EntreFEST goes virtual | 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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