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Middle Bit: The Weitz Company partners with MākuSafe to promote workplace safety

The Weitz Company announced this week that it is partnering with MākuSafe and will be using its new technology to help protect workers from hazards.

MākuSafe, a safety technology and data analytics company located in West Des Moines, is equipping workers with wearable safety devices that record data to help safety managers predict and correct potential hazardous issues—including implementing measures to help manage concerns related to COVID-19.

MākuSafe was founded in 2016 with a mission to improve workplace safety using actionable data. Since then, the company has continued to develop their workforce wearable technology and data dashboard, called MākuSmart, to meet evolving safety needs. 

“It’s incredibly important to keep workers safe on projects like these, especially as they continue their essential work during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gabe Glynn, co-founder and CEO of MākuSafe. “We understand the power of data and are happy to be part of such an important project in our community.” 

“The health and safety of our workers is our top priority on every project we complete,” said Aaron Anderson, Safety Director at The Weitz Company. “MākuSafe offers us a way to collect and use data to protect our workers every step of the way. Weitz is proud to be the first construction company to implement MākuSafe on a construction site.” 

Construction on the site is expected to continue through 2022. As workers wear their devices, additional health and safety measures will be taken—if needed—based on the data collected. 

M25 releases ‘2020 Best of the Midwest: Startup Cities Rankings’

On Thursday, Venture Capital Firm M25 released its 2020 ranking of 59 Midwest cities based on startup activity, access to resources, and business climate.

Des Moines was the highest ranked city from Iowa on the list at #18, moving up six spots from last year’s rankings.

“A highly educated workforce, strong accelerators/incubators (including the new Techstars Iowa), large companies, decent startup density and a relatively high number of VCs vaulted Des Moines higher,” M25 said in a press release announcing the ranking. “The intense focus on insurtech (with the Global Insurance Accelerator and numerous highly engaged corporates) and agtech (with the Iowa Agritech accelerator and statewide resources flowing in) should continue to benefit this ecosystem and create more startup activity — and ultimately big outcomes — in the future.”

Other cities in Iowa to make the list were Iowa City (#27), Ames (#31), Cedar Rapids (#42), and Quad Cities (#55).

Click here to check out the full 2020 Best of the Midwest: Startup City Rankings.

ManchesterStory leads $6 million investment round in Verikai

Insurance technology company Verikai announced that it has raised $6 million in Series A funding. The round of funding was led by Des Moines-based venture capital firm ManchesterStory.

Verikai is known for helping insurers close the gaps between underwriting and actuarial processes through a proprietary applied data platform. And data analysis and insight are directly served through a real time API into the underwriting workflow.

Verikai leverages alternative data on individual behaviors, along with the largest set of carrier-informed underwriting outcomes, then calibrates and trains it with their machine learning-informed modeling to create an ultra-accurate prediction of future claims,” said Matt Kinley, co-founder and Managing Partner of ManchesterStory. “Insurtech is our core focus and we are excited to back a company with such a strong product-market fit.” 

GIA announces 20 companies for InsurTech Week

The Global Insurance Accelerator has announced the 20 InsurTech companies and founders who will virtually headline the GIA’s sixth-annual InsurTech Week in October.

  • ClaimSpace – Aurora Voss
  • Atticus DQPro – Nick Mair
  • Corax – Gregory Shanks
  • Floatbot – Jimmy Hareshkumar Padia
  • Gait – Josh Bickett
  • Life Legacy – Spencer Cassidy
  • Fligoo – Juan Cruz Garzón
  • Dr. Opinion – Daniel Takabayashi
  • FIV Holdings – (Ramona Fellmy)
  • Marble – Stuart Winchester
  • Photocert – Pasquale Saviano UBNUM
  • GIS Hero App – Tom Mueller
  • Cognitive View – Dilip Mohapatra
  • Hosta Labs – Henriette Fleischmann
  • SimBlox / ThumbScore – David Thorne
  • – Paul Gaglioti III, CIC
  • – Wade Millward, CIC
  • Bubble Insurance – Avi Gupta
  • Alloy Claims – Dylan Whitehead
  • WETTERHELD – Nikolaus Haufler

InsurTech Week 2020 will be completely virtual and conducted using the Hopin event app. Features include live presentations, virtual booths, breakout room demos, and 1:1 and group video networking. The event will also feature more than 25 of the GIA’s alumni companies who have gone through the 100-day accelerator programs.

Middle Bit: The Weitz Company partners with MākuSafe to promote workplace safety | 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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