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Pi515 receives $100,000 donation from John Pappajohn, partners with entrepreneurial centers throughout Iowa

Des Moines nonprofit Pi515 has received a $100,000 donation from entrepreneur and philanthropist John Pappajohn to help grow and expand the program.

Founded in 2014 by Nancy Mwirotsi, Pi515 is a Des Moines-based nonprofit organization that empowers disadvantaged youth to succeed by teaching them technology skills.

Along with the donation, Pi 515 will partner with the five John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers throughout the state. Through the partnership, Pi 515 students will be able to engage directly with the five Pappajohn Centers’ faculty, staff and students.

Mwirotsi says she hopes to refine Pi515’s curriculum so that students who participate can earn college credit.

“Right now when the students do these classes, they’re not earning any credit. I’m really excited about looking into that and seeing how we can make that happen,” said Mwirotsi. “Having this credit will be really good for them and would be some type of incentive.”

Mwirotsi says she also hopes to hire a new employee soon to help her manage the program.

Earlier this year, Mwirotsi was awarded a $10,000 Nation of Neighbors grant from Royal Neighbors of America, one of the first and largest women-led insurers in the country.

That grant money is being used to expand her Girls Entrepreneurial Summit program that focuses on educating young women on business basics including planning, financials, marketing, and digital promotion. The summit will continue Pi515’s work of introducing girls to careers in STEM fields.

Previous coverage

Nancy Mwirotsi: Rethinking STEM education & distance learning -May 26, 2020

Pi515 donates 30 laptops to low-income students during coronavirus -March 26, 2020

Pi515: Using technology to break the cycle of poverty -July 12, 2017

Pi515 receives $100,000 donation from John Pappajohn, partners with entrepreneurial centers throughout Iowa | 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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