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IEDA awards $500,000 in funding for Three entrepreneurial projects

Three entrepreneurial service providers have been awarded grants via the Iowa Economic Development Authority‘s (IEDA) Entrepreneurial Investment Award program.

The program provides financial assistance to service providers that offer technical and financial assistance to entrepreneurs and startup companies seeking to create, locate or expand a business in Iowa. In total, the three organizations received $494,000 thousand in grant funding.

Among the criteria for assessing this round of applications was how the initiative adds value to the Iowa entrepreneurial ecosystem, specifically those that support and enhance diversity.

Here are the three organizations that received grant funding:

NewBoCo is a Cedar Rapids nonprofit that supports entrepreneurship, innovation and tech education to serve startup businesses and provide skills for all individuals in Iowa to thrive. NewBoCo is partnering with Kiva, a nonprofit organization, to create a hub that gives diverse entrepreneurs access to a microlending platform to raise zero percent interest, zero fee, extended grace period loans from active lenders motivated by social impact. The project was awarded a $110,000 grant from the EIA program to pilot the hub.

Drake University’s The Startup Hub Des Moines is working in partnership with the University of Iowa to connect minorities, immigrants and other underrepresented entrepreneurs to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Iowa. The partnership will work to provide one-on-one counseling and special entrepreneurship programs, addressing a lack of access, educational resources and mentorship. The project was awarded a $184,900 grant from the EIA program for recruitment and training.

The 24/7 Black Leadership Advancement Consortium (24/7 BLAC) aims to increase professional development, stimulate the creation of wealth and financial empowerment, and build networks of influence with navigational support for Black Professionals. In partnership with community organizations including the University of Northern Iowa, Red Cedar CV and Grow Cedar Valley, 24/7 BLAC offers the Black Business & Entrepreneurship Accelerator (BBEA), the only all-black accelerator program in the state. The project was awarded a $200,000 grant from the EIA program to support the accelerator.

IEDA awards $500,000 in funding for Three entrepreneurial projects | 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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