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Hello Benji: A new financial management platform for the self-employed

Most finance applications tend to offer one of two things — personal finance software for individuals or business accounting software for medium-to-large sized businesses. A new financial management platform is looking to change that.

hello benji, a new Des Moines-based startup is giving self-employed (sole proprietors, freelance workers, gig workers, independent contractors, etc.) the opportunity to better manage their finances and tax plans.

The startup, led by James Armstead, offers self-employed individuals a platform to manage their finances, keep track of their expenses, prepare for tax season, and set financial goals. The hello benji platform scans your accounts, suggest categorizations, and gives you everything you need to understand what you owe in taxes at any point in the year.

“When we started talking about what we wanted to do with hello benji, where we really saw value was in the ability to check in where you are with your finances, with your taxes and with your tax liabilities at any point throughout the year,” said Armstead. “That ability to understand what your tax liability looks like versus what you think it looks like is huge. It allows you to plan better and relieves a lot of stress come tax time.”

The hello benji platform officially launched in late September and is now available at two different tiers — a free plan and a business plan for $19.99 per month.

Going forward, Armstead says the company plans to add more features to the platform including tax calculators for specific projects and a platform that enables accountants to leverage and use the hello benji platform to make an offering of their own.

“We’re trying to sit somewhere in between personal finance applications and the business tax applications,” said Armstead.

Hello Benji: A new financial management platform for the self-employed | 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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