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Taking place March 23-25, 2021, will match Midwest startup founders with a pool of VCs and angel investors interested in investing in the Midwest.

The three-day virtual summit, hosted by Sandalphon Capital, will facilitate one-on-one meetings between founders, VCs and angel investors based on mutual opt-in.

Beginning on February 23, attendees will be able to set up private meetings directly on the events platform. The summit’s new platform features a discovery algorithm that helps attendees find the best matches for your meetings, real-time meeting requests, the ability for attendees to self-manage their profile and availability, private integrated meeting rooms, and more.

Following feedback from the pilot event in September 2020, the 2021 summit will include more angel investors, pre-seed investors, advisors and mentors for startups in the earliest stage.

Last year’s summit facilitated over 3,300 connections between approximately 280 investors and 850 startups and raised $1,500 for Feeding America. For this event, at least 10% of revenue will be donated to Girls Who Code, an international non-profit organization working to close the gender gap in technology.

This year’s summit will also feature a series of webinars covering topics from a cross section of startups and investors including pitching, product management, remote teams, exits and more.

Founders and investors can register here. The registration deadline is February 22. will bring together Midwest startups and investors | 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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