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Techstars Iowa Demo Day 2020 Showcases New Class of Startups

The first-ever Techstars Iowa cohort came to an end on Wednesday as the ten companies in the 2020 cohort pitched their businesses as part of Techstars Iowa 2020 Demo Day.

“Every single one of these founders is connected to the industry that they’re trying to solve a problem in,” said Kerty Levy, Managing Director of Techstars Iowa. “They’re passionate about it, they’ve experienced these problems themselves.”

Below, you can watch the full Demo Day event and find a brief rundown of each company’s presentations.

Civic Champs  (Bloomington, IN)

Civic Champ streamlines volunteer management for nonprofits and converts their volunteers to donors.

Since launching in May 2019, the company has grown to reach over $10,000 in monthly recurring revenue. The company is currently working with more than 60 nonprofits.

“Civic Champs leverages technology like geofencing to automate volunteer management, decreasing manual clerical work by 85%,” said Geng Wang, CEO and founder of Civic Champs.

deetz  (Cedar Rapids, IA)

deetz is an anonymous platform that features an interactive map that provides content about restaurants, bars and events in real-time.

“There are over 100 million people living in small to mid-size cities around the country that have no idea what they’re missing out on,” said Eastyn Fitzgibbon, COO of deetz. “People in cities of this size often fall into the misconception that their city is boring and nothing is ever going on.”

In Cedar Rapids, the app now has over 600 weekly active users and has partnered with more than 150 businesses.

Dhakai  (Cedar Falls, IA)

Dhakai is a premium B2B clothing sourcing marketplace that connects fashion brands directly to verified apparel manufacturers.

“Dhakai is the first-ever completely transparent marketplace, connecting clothing brands directly to manufacturers—enabling them to find the perfect fit with regards to clothing styles, materials used, minimum quantity requirements, sustainability, and social welfare practices—all the while, saving them at least 40% on the cost of goods,” said Russell Karim, CEO and founder of Dhakai.

Dhakai launched its supplier-end of its website in early October and since then has onboarded more than 300 factories onto its platform.

Lingco Language Labs (Lansing, MI)

Lingco is an all-in-one language learning platform that allows teachers to tailor language instruction to meet the individual needs of each student. Based on student responses, Lingco predicts what parts of a language students know and makes recommendations to instructors on what students should learn next.

“Over 93% of high schools offer a foreign language yet less than 1% of American adults are proficient in the language they studied in high school,” said Seth Killian, co-founder and CEO of Lingco. “And it’s not just high schools. Colleges and universities alike are failing at teaching foreign languages because they’re using a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Lingco was recently selected as the testing platform for the national French, Itazlian, and French exams taken by over 200,000 students each year. The company has raised $750,000 to date and will be looking to raise a seed round next spring.

Neolth (Walnut Creek, CA)

Neolth provides on-demand, individualized mental health support for high school and college students in the US.

“We’re on a mission to help students deal with pressure by providing access to care,” said Katherine Grill, Neolth CEO & co-founder. “Our technology makes it easy for students to manage stress by providing on-demand personalized support.”

Ohwow! (Stanford, CA)

Ohwow! is the world’s first file sharing & remote collaboration app which is mobile-first, easy-to-use and designed ground-up for media sharing.

“Our product is so desperately needed that we already have over 50,000 users and are growing by 15% week-over-week,” said Utkarsh Roy, CEO of Ohwow!

OpenLoop (Des Moines, IA)

OpenLoop is a health-tech solution that intelligently matches healthcare providers with practices or hospitals seeking a quick and efficient staffing solution.

“Our platform matches physicians with part-time availability directly into open-shifts and gaps in coverage at hospitals, clinics and telehealth platforms,” said Jon Lensing, CEO and co-founder of OpenLoop.

The company was founded just 11 months ago and now working with 93 different hospitals and five telehealth clients.

Solelife (Raleigh, NC)

SoleLife is the first tele-coaching and business automation platform for coaches.

“We are the engine for coaches to run their business by automating scheduling, billing, client management, marketing, business performance and more,” said Nichole Lowe, founder and CEO of Solelife. “People looking for a coach will be able to find a wide variety of service providers and use our matching algorithm to get matched to the right one.”

Tempore (Minneapolis, MN)

An artificially intelligent travel assistant, Tempore simplifies the complex act of booking business travel down to a single click.

“One of the best things about this program was how it makes us look at problems differently,” said Parker Schlank, CEO and co-founder of Tempore. “I think the program does an excellent job taking what seems impossible and framing it in a way that makes it very executable.”

WalletCard (Vancouver, British Columbia)

WalletCard is a collaborative compliance platform for issuing, tracking and managing verified occupational health & safety requirements.

“With WalletCard, training providers save time by issuing digital certificates and increasing renewal revenue with automated retraining reminders,” said Naveen Nand, co-founder and CEO of WalletCard.

Techstars Iowa Demo Day 2020 Showcases New Class of Startups | 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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