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Iowa EdTech Collaborative receives $400K grant to support edtech growth in Iowa

The Iowa EdTech Collaborative has been awarded a $393,184 CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant by the U.S. Department of Commerce‘s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to support the advancement of edtech growth in the state of Iowa.

The grant is expected to help create or retain 463 jobs and will be used to support the hiring of a full-time “Director of Educational Technology.”

The Iowa EdTech Collaborative officially launched in October of 2019 after the completion of an in-depth study commissioned by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) and produced by TEConomy, “The EdTech Opportunity: Educational Technology as a Dynamic Growth Sector for Iowa.”

“The TEConomy study confirmed Iowa’s legacy in education and strong foundation in EdTech, while presenting a roadmap to create jobs and grow this thriving sector,” said Debi Durham, executive director of the IEDA and Iowa Finance Authority in a release. “This grant will build upon our work to weave EdTech into Iowa’s economic development priorities, expand the state’s foothold in this global industry and benefit future learners.”

The Iowa EdTech Collaborative efforts are being led by the Iowa City Area Development Group (ICAD), which was identified as the logical organization to spearhead the strategies due to a growing edtech cluster in the Iowa City area.

“Innovation in assessment and learning has been a foundation of the Iowa City area for over 60 years. What started with entrepreneurial roots has blossomed into an industry that employs over 3,100 employees statewide with more than 2,000 here locally in Johnson County,” said Kate Moreland, President of ICAD. “The recent emergence of a handful of successful edtech startups has led us to dive deeper and explore doubling down on the sector.”

Previous coverage

Pear Deck acquired by California-based edtech company -Nov. 25, 2020

Iowa EdTech Accelerator announces four startups for inaugural cohort -Feb. 26, 2020

Startup Roundtable examines industry clusters, explores edtech in Iowa -June 12, 2019

Iowa EdTech Collaborative receives $400K grant to support edtech growth in Iowa | 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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