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Middle Bit: Iowa Colleges awarded $4.4 million to increase internet connectivity

The state of Iowa and the Iowa Department of Education have awarded 43 Iowa colleges and universities nearly $4.4 million to increase internet connectivity for students in the 2020-21 school year.  

The funding is part of the state’s $26.2 million in Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Funds, and is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The awards will help colleges and universities address barriers to online and remote learning opportunities for the 2020-21 school year and help ensure students have equitable access to technology needed to continue their education throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Expanding virtual education delivery methods and ensuring students have the technology needed to access them are some of the new challenges our higher education institutions are facing due to the pandemic,” Ann Lebo, director of the Iowa Department of Education, said in a release. “These awards will enable colleges and universities to seek reimbursements for investments made to increase access, whether that be devices and software needed for virtual education or hotspots and other ways to increase internet access.”  

Each college and university submitted an application indicating how it would use the funds to increase connectivity for students.   

Allocations were based on the financial need of undergraduate students at each of the educational institutions. Click here for a list of the recipients.

An additional $1.5 million in GEER funds will be available for professional development to aid effective online and remote instruction at Iowa’s colleges and universities. Applicants have till December 11th to apply.

Manchester Story participates in $24 million investment round in digital insurance agency Matic

Matic, a U.S.-based digital insurance agency, recently announced it secured $24 million through its latest investment round. ManchesterStory, a Des Moines-based investment firm, participated in the round with along participation from IA Capital. Cultivation Capital, Clocktower Technology Ventures, MTech Capital, The K Fund, Protection America, Nationwide Ventures, Anthemis Group, Franklin Madison, and Fenway Summer.

Founded in 2014, Matic describes itself as a technology-driven insurance agency that is focused on helping lenders and loan officers better integrate homeowner’s insurance into the lending process.

“I am excited to have our new investors on board and for our existing investors to continue to support our mission of simplifying insurance,” Matic CEO, Ben Madick said. “I am thrilled to have Andrew Lerner join our board of directors, bringing 25 years of financial services and insurance industry experience to our team of over 150.”

Applications open for Iowa Innovation Challenge

The Iowa Innovation Challenge will bring $225,000 in total funding during the 2020-2021 academic year across the University of Iowa’s campus. The Challenge is a university-wide competition with the goal to identify, advance and support the most innovative and entrepreneurial projects on campus.

There are two phases to the Challenge:

  • The first phase, an Elevator Pitch Competition, will be held in November 2020 and will award $75,000 in prizes.
  • The second phase, a Business Model Competition, will be held in spring 2021 and will award $150,000 in additional prizes.

Pitch workshops will be held prior to both competitions to help individuals/teams prepare. The Elevator Pitch Competition workshop will be on Friday, October 30 at 11:30 am on Zoom. RSVP here.

Middle Bit: Iowa Colleges awarded $4.4 million to increase internet connectivity | 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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