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Middle Bit: Applications still open for John Pappajohn Iowa Entrepreneurial Venture Competition

Applications for the sixteenth annual statewide John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Venture Competition will close on May 17. Iowa-based entrepreneurial ventures will compete for $100,000 in prize money supported by John Pappajohn and the Iowa Economic Development Authority. The competition is intended to encourage entrepreneurship and economic development across Iowa.

The $100,000 in seed funding consists of a $50,000 contribution from John and Mary Pappajohn and a $50,000 match from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA). The goal of the competition is to support Iowa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.  

Iowa businesses that have been in operation for four years or less, or are not yet cash-flow positive are eligible to apply. This competition is open to businesses including, but not limited to, technology, biotechnology, green technologies, medical, advanced manufacturing, agriculture, engineering, and education industries.  

Participants will be judged on written submissions, and, those who advance to the final round of the competition, will present to a panel of judges. First place will be awarded $40,000, second place  $25,000, and third place $15,000. Awards for other categories will total $20,000.  

GIA’s 2021 Cohort Company Final Presentations

The eight insurtech companies from this year’s Global Insurance Accelerator (GIA) cohort will their businesses on Wednesday April 28 from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. CT over Zoom.

The GIA is a mentor-driven accelerator designed to foster innovation in the insurance industry, financially backed by 12 insurance companies and with mentorship from 100+ insurance executives and professionals.

The event is free and open to the public.

Apply or nominate now for the Iowa Innovation & Entrepreneurship Honors

The John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center is currently accepting applications and nominations for the second Iowa Innovation and Entrepreneurship Honors now through April 30. The Honors recognize students, alumni, faculty, staff, and program participants who create value through innovation and entrepreneurship. Two new awards will recognize a top student and alumni from an Iowa JPEC certificate or degree program.

The Honors will recognize both the 2020 and 2021 award winners during a luncheon event on Friday, October 8, 2021. 

Submissions must be received by Friday, April 30.

Middle Bit: Applications still open for John Pappajohn Iowa Entrepreneurial Venture Competition | 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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