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Middle Bit: Iowa JPEC releases 2020 Annual Report

The University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC) has released its 2020 Annual Report, sharing highlights and stories from University of Iowa entrepreneurs.

The report highlighted several new student ventures including Graze Analytics, founded by Daniel Machlab, and Fortius Accessories, founded by Shamira Rothmiller. According to the report, more than $480,000 was given out to Iowa entrepreneurs and more than 1,500 participated in Iowa JPEC programming.

“This past year challenged us all to innovate and adapt. In March, the University of Iowa moved to all online learning and programming. Our great team quickly modified classes and programs to continue our efforts to educate and inspire the net generation of entrepreneurial leaders,” said David Hensley, Executive Director of Iowa JPEC. “Additionally, we expanded programming to support existing Iowa and alumni-owned businesses who were facing unprecedented challenges. Iowa JPEC is committed to advancing entrepreneurial education, innovation, and economic development.

Techstars to host virtual event about Iowa’s startup ecosystem

Join the authors of The Startup Community Way, Brad Feld (Techstars CoFounder and Managing Partner at Foundry Group) and Ian Hathaway (Sr. Director of Ecosystem Development at Techstars) who will be hosting a conversation around the startup ecosystem in Iowa and how their learnings can be applied across the state.

The event will take place from 5-6 pm on Wednesday, Oct. 28. Sign up for the webinar here.

Agtech Unconference scheduled for Oct. 21

Iowa State University’s Agriculture Entrepreneur Initiative (AgEI) together with Ag Startup Engine will bring together individuals in Agtech Investing and Entrepreneurism to discuss current and future challenges to the industry.

Learn more about the Ag Startup ecosystem for early and growth stage companies. Learn from successful entrepreneurs, founders, and venture capitalists on what the future of agtech looks like and lessons learned.

Hear from:

  • Amanda Donohue-Hansen, Managing Director of Cultivian Sandbox Ventures
  • Steven Brockshus, Founder & CEO of FarmlandFinder
  • BJ Johnson, Founder & CEO of ClearFlame Engines Technologies
  • Aaron Rudberg, Managing Director and COO of S2G Ventures
  • Todd Krone, Co-founder and CEO of PowerPollen

The event will take place from 1-3 pm on Wednesday, Oct. 21. Register for the event here.

Middle Bit: Iowa JPEC releases 2020 Annual Report | 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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