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Middle Bit: UIowa honors seven leading business innovators

The University of Iowa has announced the 2020 recipients of the Iowa Innovation and Entrepreneurial Honors.

Recipients of the Honors were selected for their significant accomplishments in both entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as their impact on their communities.

Here are the recipients:

  • Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year | Scott Heiferman, Meetup
  • Young Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year | Roby Miller, TelePharm
  • Faculty/Staff Startup of the Year | Dr. Michael Abramoff, Digital Diagnostics (Formerly IDx – AI diagnostics)
  • Graduate Student Startup of the Year | Jaison Marks, CartilaGen
  • Undergraduate Student Startup of the Year | Andrew Austin & Nate Elsner, Peak3 Digital
  • Venture School Business of the Year | Todd Thompson, SmartScripts

A recognition dinner in April for the honors recipients was canceled because of COVID-19. Iowa JPEC hopes to host an event recognizing these individuals before the end of the year. Find out more about the Honors and their recipients here.

BrokerTech Ventures adds 4 new partners to accelerator program

BrokerTech Ventures has announced four new insurance firms as partners to support the broker-focused platform and accelerator program.

The four firms — Cincinnati Insurance Companies, RT Specialty, Amerisure Mutual Insurance Company and AmWINS Group Inc. — will all be featured during InsureTech Connect on July 16 as part of the Innovation Curve panel.

Applications for the BrokerTech Ventures 2021 Accelerator cohort will open in the fall.

GIA’s Insurtech Week goes completely virtual

The Global Insurance Accelerator (GIA) announced this week that its sixth annual InsurTech Week event (Oct. 12-16, 2020) will be a virtual event.

“This year’s InsurTech Week will look different than the last five years, but what won’t be different is the quality of curated conversations, the excitement and engagement in the insurtech solutions, insurance-specific workshops, and the opportunity to present,” stated a post made by GIA announcing the news.

Applications are now open to be a featured InsurTech company at this year’s InsurTech Week – October 12-16. Applications will close in two weeks on July 22.

Middle Bit: UIowa honors seven leading business innovators | 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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