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Middle Bit: Jason Gross joins ManchesterStory as Vice President

ManchesterStory Group, a venture capital firm based in Des Moines, announced this week that Jason Gross is joining the company as Vice President and Head of Platform. 

“Jason is an award-winning innovation, strategy and technology-adoption leader with experience leading large-scale transformation at three top insurance providers,” said Dave Miles, Founding Partner of ManchesterStory. “Jason’s expertise and insights will enhance ManchesterStory’s capabilities as we help our strategic partners leverage innovative solutions and accelerate the growth of our portfolio companies.”

The creation of this new role coincides with the expansion of the firm’s venture capital franchise as it engages more strategic partners and adds to its network of insurtech, fintech and healthtech companies. 

“I am thrilled to join the team at ManchesterStory during this incredible period of change in insurance,” said Gross. “I have had the privilege to work with dozens of carriers and InsurTechs on innovation, adoption and investments over the years and joining this impressive team was a natural fit.” 

Greater Des Moines Partnership announces fifth annual Small Business Success Summit

The Greater Des Moines Partnership’s fifth annual Small Business Success Summit has been scheduled to take place on Friday, Nov. 5 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the FFA Center on the DMACC Ankeny campus.

Summit participants will have a chance to hear presentations by keynote speakers, participate in workshops with fellow business owners in Greater Des Moines, and engage in conversations at various breakout sessions.

“Our small businesses are still overcoming the challenges they faced during the year of the pandemic, and many are still figuring out how they can appropriately reevaluate their business process with the ever-changing landscape,” said Christina Moffatt, Director of Small Business Development at the Greater Des Moines Partnership. “The Small Business Success Summit will be an opportunity to empower our small businesses and help direct them toward their future goals.”

Costs for the Summit range from $79 for Partnership Investors and Members to $99 for nonmembers. Registration information and the full speaker lineup will be announced at a later date. Stay up-to-date on the latest details and register for the Summit on The Partnership’s website.

Applications open for Cultivo

Applications for the second cohort of the Cultivo Global Ag Innovation Program are due August 30, 2021. The six-week virtual program will launch in the fall with startups from around the world taking a deep dive into the U.S. startup ecosystem and making connections with the business, research, and farmer leaders of Iowa.

Application forms can be completed online.

Middle Bit: Jason Gross joins ManchesterStory as Vice President | 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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