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Startup Weekend Iowa City goes virtual, tickets now available

Startup Weekend Iowa City is partnering with Techstars Iowa to bring back the 54-hour event in a new, virtual format next month. During the weekend-long event, entrepreneurs, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists and more will pitch ideas for new startup companies, form teams around those ideas, and then deliver final presentations at the end of the weekend.

The online event will kick off at 6 pm on Friday, April 23. Participants will get up and pitch their idea on Friday evening and try to form teams around their ideas. Throughout the weekend, teams will then work on their ideas and will have the opportunity to meet with mentors on Saturday afternoon.

“Since we weren’t able to have Startup Weekend Iowa City this past year because of COVID, we wanted to do something to bring it back again for 2021,” said Jay Cooper, organizer of the event.

On Sunday, teams will present their final pitches at 4 pm via live stream. The final pitches will be free and open for anyone who would like to attend.

“It will definitely feel different than the in-person events where you have that energy of everyone in the room together,” said Cooper. “But we will be utilizing a lot of technology that people have been using now pretty frequently for the last year. So it won’t be terribly difficult for folks to form teams and really get things going during the weekend.”

Cooper says he hopes to have between 50 and 100 people sign up for the event.

“We’re going to be using software that a lot of people are using already,” said Cooper. “We’re going to be using Slack and Discord as a way for teams to form leading up to the weekend itself and then also use those platforms to communicate between teams so mentors can come in. The actual beginning and end of the Startup Weekend will be live streaming so that folks can do their pitches in front of a virtual audience.”

Registration for the event is free and now open.

Startup Weekend Iowa City goes virtual, tickets now available | 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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