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Middle Bit: Peter Hong named new director of ISU Startup Factory program

 The Iowa State University Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship announced this a week that Peter Hong has been named as director of the ISU Startup Factory program, effective Feb. 1.

Hong will succeed Bill Adamowski, the Startup Factory’s inaugural president who resigned his post in February 2020, and Kris Johansen, who assumed the role as interim director until a permanent hire was made.

The Startup Factory operates as part of the ISU Pappajohn Center within the university’s Economic Development and Industry Relations (EDIR) organization, under Iowa State’s Office of the President.

“We are so fortunate to have someone of Peter’s caliber lead the Startup Factory program,” said Interim Vice President for EDIR David Spalding in an announcement. “Peter’s years of experience and skills as a business leader and mentor, Iowa economic policy influencer, and federal SBIR program consultant will help us to further develop, expand and strengthen our venture creation initiatives and partnerships. We look forward to Peter’s new vision and direction for the Startup Factory program and the invaluable support and guidance he will provide for the innovators and entrepreneurs we serve.”

Additionally, Hong will manage the development of and run the new Iowa Go-To-Market (G2M) Accelerator. G2M is part of a $1.29M program funded by the US Economic Development Administration as part of a Build-To-Scale grant to BioConnect Iowa in partnership with ISU Startup Factory and VentureNet Iowa. Set to launch in early 2021, G2M will offer structured support and advanced training for companies developing technology-driven innovative products and services.

“I feel so fortunate to be part of the robust innovation ecosystem that ISU has built in support of Iowa’s technology-driven startup companies,” Hong said. “The Startup Factory, ISU I-Corps and the new Iowa G2M Accelerator provide entrepreneurs access to some of the best programming, resources and business support services available in the state. I can’t wait to get started — to take my experience, connect that to the firm foundation that has been built here, and work to add value in order to take the Startup Factory to the next level.”

TAI launches new podcasts focused on Iowa tech policy

The Technology Association of Iowa recently launched the theThe Iowa Tech Policy Podcast which will provide an exclusive look into technology-focused legislation during the 2021 session at the Iowa Statehouse.

The first episode of the podcast launched yesterday featuring Representative Brian Lohse, who discusses the newly-formed Iowa House Information Technology Committee and the investment in expanding statewide broadband internet access. Also joining the podcast is Paul Hlivko, Chief Experience Officer and Chief Technology Officer at Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, and 2021 TAI Board Chair. Paul shared his insights on the Iowa tech industry and how the Information Technology Committee’s work could impact tech companies across Iowa. 

NewBoCo to hold ‘Diversity for Startups’ webinar

On February 4th, at 12pm, NewBoCo will be hosting a webinar with Aleria Research to help answer questions about how diversity and inclusion can benefit startups.

Attendees will learn how diversity and inclusion can help you build a more successful company with happier employees. Over one interactive hour, the ARC team will introduce you to actionable frameworks and provide tools and resources to empower your team.

Key takeaways will include: How diversity and inclusion will have a measurable impact on your startup’s growth and ability to succeed; Why it is important to embrace diversity and inclusion from the start, rather than try to “fix it later”; and policies, benefits and initiatives that will make your company more inclusive, increasing the satisfaction and retention of your team

Admission to the webinar is free, but advance registration is required.

Middle Bit: Peter Hong named new director of ISU Startup Factory program | 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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