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Middle Bit: ACT announces change in leadership

Iowa City-based ACT announced a change in leadership on Thursday. CEO Marten Roorda will be leaving the organization, ACT said, with Chief Operating Officer Janet Godwin stepping into the role on an interim basis. 

Roorda took the helm at ACT in October 2015, replacing its previous CEO Jon Whitemore. Under his watch, the Iowa City, Iowa-based nonprofit invested heavily in education technology companies to expand its services beyond test prep.

According to its website, Janet Godwin is currently in charge as interim CEO. She is a veteran, having joined ACT in 1990 and served as its chief operating officer since August 2014.

“Janet has made tremendous contributions to ACT,” said Chad Wick, chair of the ACT Board of Directors. “The ACT Board of Directors knows Janet very well, appreciates her deep and abiding commitment to the many organizations and millions of people ACT serves each year, and has high confidence in her ability to step in and provide outstanding leadership in this role.”

BrokerTech Ventures partners with InsureTech Connect

BrokerTech Ventures (BTV) has announced a strategic alliance with InsureTech Connect (ITC), the largest insurtech conference and convening platform in the world.

BrokerTech Ventures will fuel ITC’s Agency Connect: Virtual, an insurtech event for the broker-centric community, on July 16, 2020.

“An alliance between BrokerTech Ventures and InsureTech Connect is a natural fit,” said Dan Keough, Holmes Murphy CEO and BTV co-CEO. “The InsureTech Connect platform brings together the greatest minds around insurtech trends, technologies, and applications. Our desire to engage in and fuel Agency Connect: Virtual comes from BTV’s industry position as the convener of broker-centric innovation, ideation, and communication for the global insurance ecosystem. We represent the brokerage community and the voice of the customer, and we believe there is significant value in the build out of ITC’s Agency Connect: Virtual platform in 2020.”

Agency Connect: Virtual will include a BrokerTech Ventures demo day featuring the 12 innovative companies which are a part of the 2020 cohort.

The BrokerTech Ventures Accelerator’s 2020 program is currently in progress, providing funding, curriculum, and intentional network exposure to the twelve selected startups.

Farm Journal announces new farm show

Farm Journal today announced the launch of new  “COVID-conscious” farm show experience called Farm Journal Field Days, set for Aug. 25-27, 2020, on farms in eastern Iowa and northwest Ohio.

The interactive Farm Journal Field Days includes a three-day Virtual Pavilion that runs concurrent with full-day on-farm demonstrations and programming. The on-farm sessions will be hosted Aug. 25 at Blue Diamond Farming Company in Jesup, Iowa, and Aug. 27 at Newcomer Farms in Bryan, Ohio.

Up to one hundred Top Producers will be voluntarily selected to participate in person on each farm with beyond-recommended social distancing rules, but in a highly personal, interactive experience.

The first annual Farm Journal Field Days will encompass equipment, crops, livestock and technology with a focus on bringing buyers and sellers together in different and unique ways.

The format will include one-on-one and group settings to observe innovations in practice, as well as interactive educational and sales methods.

Middle Bit: ACT announces change in leadership | 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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