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Five startups take home $29,500 at Venture School Launch Day

The University of Iowa’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC) held its Venture School Launch Day event in conjunction with EntreFEST last Thursday night.

Venture School Launch Day highlighted five standout Venture School alumni from the 2020/2021 year. The five startups were selected from a total of 80 Venture School companies this year and each had five minutes to pitch their businesses to a panel of judges followed by a three-minute Q&A.

Here are the five final companies that presented.

BOCS DSM (Des Moines)

BOCS DSM designs custom gift solutions for businesses to personally reach their employees and customers.  The company sources, assembles, and ships gifts directly to recipient’s doors, taking the burden off internal resources.

Line Call (Des Moines)

The Line Call App helps amateur tennis players make the right in/out call when the ball bounce location is questionable. By turning their phones into an impartial referee, the app creates a fair and enjoyable tennis match experience for everyone.

Nate’s Powder Coating (Mason City)

A small local business that offers powder coating, mobile sand and media blasting, and on-site painting. Nate’s Powder Coating assists businesses and individuals in ensuring their metal products, tools, and equipment are always presentable.

Stock Cropper (Mason City)

Stock Cropper is an Iowa-based company building multi-species, autonomous mobile grazing barns to homesteaders, vineyards, orchards and row crop farmers interested in integrating livestock on to their land as part of the regenerative agriculture movement.  

WorthU (Cedar Rapids)

WorthU helps recenter and recharge employees’ lives and improve productivity with guidance in proactively planning time off.


First place was given to The Stock Cropper who took home the $10,000 first place prize. Second Place was given to BOCS DSM who took home $7,500. Line Call won third place and took home $5,000 along with another $1,000 award. WorthU and Nate’s Powder Coating took fourth and fifth place respectively, and each took home $3,000.

Five startups take home $29,500 at Venture School Launch Day | 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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