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Middle Bit: NewBoCo announces changes in leadership

NewBoCo announced a change in leadership this week, as Eric Engelmann will step down from his role as Executive Director to focus exclusively on ISA Ventures, a $15 million venture fund that will invest in Iowa businesses.

His role will be filled by Aaron Horn, who currently serves as NewBoCo’s Chief Operating Officer. Horn joined the NewBoCo Board of Directors in 2014, serving as its chair in 2016. He then came on board with NewBoCo full-time as COO in 2017. A graduate of Iowa State University Horn worked for 12 years as the Global IT Manager for Becker Underwood before serving as Director of IT for the Iowa Interstate Railroad. Horn also serves on the Board of Directors for nonprofits Miracle Travel Works in Des Moines, Candlelighters NYC in New York City, and Beat Cancer Today in Cedar Rapids.

“I’m really excited to work with our amazing team on expanding our programs across Iowa,” said Horn in a release. “NewBoCo’s impact is growing, and it is really encouraging to work with talented people who are so passionate about making a difference.”

Horn’s COO role will be assumed by Jill Wilkins, who currently serves as NewBoCo’s Events Director.

“With the huge opportunities facing us in 2021, having two people responsible for working together across the entirety of this complex organization is critical,” said Engelmann. “To keep our teams aligned, and to foster communication and support HR and talent across the company, is even more important now. And Aaron and Jill are the ideal people to fill those roles.”

Iowa High School Tech Summit set for Nov. 17

This year’s Iowa High School Tech Summit will take place virtually on Tuesday, November 17th, and is free to all Iowa high school students and educators.

Young IT professionals will share presentations focused on their experiences with internships and career paths to inspire the next generation of Iowa’s high-tech workforce.  The Summit will also allow students the opportunity to connect and interact with Iowa companies and schools within virtual rooms. 

Registration for the event is still open.

Applications open for Brokertech Ventures 2021 cohort

Applications are now open to broker-focused startups for BrokerTech Ventures Accelerator’s 2021 program.

The accelerator offers more than $500,000 in seed funding, up to $50,000 each to accepted startups. 

Applications for the accelerator will close on Nov. 30 and selected startups will be notified in early February next year. The cohort will begin the five-week accelerator program in March 2021.

Middle Bit: NewBoCo announces changes in leadership | 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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