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Middle Bit: Des Moines Partnership hires Diana Wright as Startup Community Builder

The Greater Des Moines Partnership has hired Diana Wright for the position of Startup Community Builder.

In this role, Wright will engage with the existing startups and high-growth businesses in the Greater Des Moines areea. She will also help new and diverse startups connect with the community and its mentors, advisors, investors and other community leaders and feeders.

Wright most recently worked at Iowa State University’s Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship to lead, create and market a number of the cornerstone entrepreneurial programs, including the creation of CYstarters, the first-ever student accelerator at Iowa State University. Prior to that role, Wright worked as a Community Builder for tech startup Dwolla. A connector in the Iowa startup community, her leadership includes rebooting Startup Ames, organizing events during the inaugural year for 1 Million Cups Ames and leading due diligence rounds as a member of the first women’s angel investing network in Iowa, FIN Capital.

“I am focused on a single purpose: to help entrepreneurs build real, impactful businesses in Iowa,” Wright said in an announcement. “I am excited to work with existing and aspiring startup founders in Greater Des Moines to help them connect, build upon success and identify how we can collectively continue to build the startup ecosystem in this community.”

“A growing, vibrant startup community is critical for economic development success,” said Jay Byers, President & CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. “As we evaluated opportunities to support the startup community in DSM, it became clear that we needed a connector and creator to support and maximize the DSM startup community. Diana has a proven track record of building relationships and programs to help startups and the startup ecosystem grow.”

Wright will begin her new role at the Partnership on April 19.

Data analytics company from Des Moines accepted into St. Louis-based accelerator program

InfraLytiks, a Des Moines-based data analytics company, has been accepted into the inaugural cohort of the NGA Accelerator, a new geospatial startup accelerator program based in St. Louis.

Eight companies will be a part of the cohort. Each company will receive $100,000 in non-dilutive grant funding and participate in a 13-week business development program. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the cohort will operate virtually.

The new accelerator program is being managed through an agreement between the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Missouri Technology Corp. and St. Louis-based Capital Innovators. It aims to find technology firms that can “help solve geospatial challenges that focus on government and industry opportunities” in areas of data management, advanced analytics and modeling, data integrity and security and artificial intelligence.

The eight startups participating in the initial cohort of the NGA Accelerator are:

  • (Reston, VA): provides machine learning software and services to assist the U.S. Department of Defense, intelligence, and commercial sectors.
  • Boston Geospatial (Boston, MA): uses space-based racer imagery and other data to create products for customers who operate in the critical infrastructure market, such as oil and gas.
  • (Somerville, MA): has developed an intelligence system it says can be used for regional data collection and industry-specific use.
  • InfraLytiks (Des Moines, IA): focuses on data analytics and developing automation software using tools such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and computer vision.
  • Kinnami (Braintree, MA): has developed a data management and security platform.
  • Polysentry (San Francisco, CA): Software-as-a-Service company that automates the analysis of large datasets for the intelligence, defense, and private sector communities.
  • Stratodyne (Columbia, MO): collects high-resolution imagery from aerial balloons and analyzes it to help users predict vegetation changes, monitor assets, and detect threats in real-time.
  • Xona Space Systems (San Mateo, CA): building a next-generation satellite navigation system using small but powerful satellites in low-Earth orbit.

MākuSafe CEO Gabriel Glynn named one of ‘Top 25 Leaders Transforming Manufacturing

Gabriel Glynn, CEO and CoFounder of MākuSafe was honored as one of the top 25 leaders who are transforming the manufacturing industry.

The recognition was bestowed by SME, a professional association committed to advancing manufacturing and developing a skilled workforce. The 25 leaders, who work at startups, large corporations, public-private partnerships and standards organizations, are successfully changing the pace and scope of technological adoption of smart manufacturing processes at the highest levels. 

Middle Bit: Des Moines Partnership hires Diana Wright as Startup Community Builder | 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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