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Techstars Iowa announces the 10 startups in its first cohort

The inaugural cohort of Techstars Iowa officially kicked off its 3-month journey today at Gravitate Coworking in Downtown Des Moines.

The cohort will run for 13 weeks, from Sept. 8 to Dec. 2020. Startups accepted into the program will receive $20,000 in funding and will have the option of taking an additional $100,000 in convertible notes.

Techstars Iowa is partnering with universities across the state including Grinnell College, Iowa State University, and the University of Iowa. The investment office of Grinnell College is providing the initial funding for Techstars Iowa, committing enough money to support the program through its first three years.

The program will be lead by Techstars Iowa Managing Director, Kerty Levy. Prior to taking the Managing Director position, Levy served as the Interim Managing Director of the Iowa Agritech Accelerator. TJ Salyars is the accelerator’s Program Manager.

Demo Day of the accelerator will take place on Dec. 3.

Iowa’s ties to Techstars

Three Iowa companies—OpenLoop, Dhakai, and deetz—were accepted into the cohort.

Just three Iowa companies have landed spots in Techstar accelerators outside of the state in the past:, Bawte, and Speeko.

John Jackovin, founder of Bawte (which shut down in 2015), now runs BrokerTech Ventures, another accelerator based in Iowa. Nicole Gunderson was the COO for Speeko during their Tech Stars Chicago 2018 cohort. She is now the Managing Director of the Global Insurance Accelerator.

Meet the Techstars Iowa 2020 cohort:

Civic Champs  (Bloomington, IN)

Civic Champs enables nonprofits to do more of what matters most with the world’s easiest to use volunteer management platform that also converts volunteers into donors.  

deetz  (Cedar Rapids, IA)

deetz is a hyperlocal, anonymous app that helps you find what’s happening around you in real-time.  

Dhakai  (Cedar Falls, IA)

Dhakai is a premium B2B clothing sourcing marketplace that connects fashion brands directly to verified apparel manufacturers.

Lingco Language Labs (Lansing, MI)

Lingco is a platform for language instructors to create and deliver content. Based on student responses, Lingco predicts what parts of a language students know and makes recommendations to instructors on what students should learn next.

Neolth (Walnut Creek, CA)

Neolth de-escalates stress and health crises by using neuroscience to determine the most effective behavioral care for students.  

Ohwow! (Stanford, CA)

Ohwow! is the world’s first file sharing & remote collaboration app which is mobile-first, easy-to-use and designed ground-up for media sharing.  

OpenLoop (Iowa City, IA)

OpenLoop is a health-tech solution that intelligently matches healthcare providers with practices or hospitals seeking a quick and efficient staffing solution.  

Solelife (Raleigh, NC)

SoleLife is an AI-powered tele-coaching system built to accelerate Human Transformation. Designed to help coaches and their clients succeed.  

Tempore (Minneapolis, MN)

An artificially intelligent travel assistant, Tempore simplifies the complex act of booking business travel down to just a single click.  

WalletCard (Vancouver, British Columbia)

WalletCard is a collaborative compliance platform for issuing, tracking and managing verified occupational health & safety requirements.

Previous coverage

Techstars partners with Grinnell College to launch Techstars Iowa -Oct. 22, 2019

The descriptions of the companies listed above have been provided by Techstars Iowa.

1 Comment

  • Ben Milne
    Posted September 9, 2020 at 10:22 am

    👏👏👏👏👏👏 Awesome to see the first cohort! Look forward to meeting you all!

Comments are closed.

Techstars Iowa announces the 10 startups in its first cohort | 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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