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Entrepreneurial events happening at University of Iowa this spring

Deadlines are quickly approaching for several different entrepreneurial events being hosted by Iowa JPEC this spring. Here are some of the events happening this spring.

Game Changer Competition

Game Changer is a new online event that provides participants a platform to develop “impact-driven entrepreneurship” that will address a United Nations Sustainable Development goal. JPEC’s Game Changer event challenges participants to change perspectives, develop critical thinking and team building skills about how to find viable, high-impact solutions to problems that we face on a local, national or global scale.

Application deadline is March 17, 2021.

Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute Application Deadline

Iowa JPEC established the annual, week-long Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute (OEI) in a partnership among Iowa universities and colleges, as well as Iowa Lakes Corridor Development in 2006. Today, the summer program continues to provide students with a week-long immersion into entrepreneurship and business strategy, and develop an outstanding network of peers and business professionals.

Students from the University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State University, Iowa Lakes Community College, and Buena Vista University, participate in an advanced study of entrepreneurship that includes a team-based entrepreneurial venture computer simulation, seminars with entrepreneurs, business and community leaders, networking, and pitch competitions on the shores of Iowa’s Great Lakes in Okoboji, Iowa.

The 2021 Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute will run from August 8-12. The deadline to apply is March 26.

Iowa Innovation Challenge Phase 2

The Iowa Innovation Challenge is a university-wide competition with the goal to identify, advance, and support the most innovative projects on campus. $250,000 in total funding will be awarded during the 2020-2021 academic year to the most innovative ideas, The competition is open to all University of Iowa faculty, staff, graduate students, undergraduate students, incubator startups, and UI program and academic alumni.

The second phase of the Iowa Innovation Challenge is the Business Model Canvas Competition. This competition is based on the methodology of the Business Model Canvas and requires that companies tell their story beginning from the idea stage including pivots along the way.  It describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers and captures value.

Application deadline is March 31, 2021.

Entrepreneurial events happening at University of Iowa this spring | 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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