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Techstars Iowa Accelerator Announces 2021 Class

The inaugural cohort of Techstars Iowa officially kicked off its 3-month journey today at Gravitate Coworking in Downtown Des Moines. Ten companies from a variety of industries are joining the 2021 program.

Techstars Iowa is partnering with universities across the state including Grinnell College, Iowa State University and the University of Iowa. The investment office of Grinnell College is providing the initial funding for Techstars Iowa, committing enough money to support the program through its first three years.

Several new members are joining the Techstars Iowa Accelerator team this year. Ben McDougal has joined as an Entrepreneur in Residence. Aadira Aai-Arivudai has joined as Lead Operations Associate, Patrick Foster as Business Analyst Associate, and Alyx Sandbothe as Design/UI/UX Lead Associate.

The Demo Day for the program will take place Oct. 14.

Meet the 2021 Techstars Iowa Cohort

CaseCTRL (Houston, TX)

CaseCTRL, built by surgeons, is an AI surgical workflow instrument for efficient surgery management

Onward (Denver, CO)

Onward is a freight marketplace that connects retailers who need to ship heavy goods to underutilized trucks heading in the direction the load is going; Item hitchhiking 

Small Packages (New York, NY)

Small Packages ends loneliness by helping people build, track, and celebrate relationships

LegalQ (Minneapolis, MN)

LegalQ provides access to legal services on-demand from anywhere, at anytime

Flyte (Seattle, WA)

Flyte is an AI-powered note taking platform that generates intuitive, well-organized meeting minutes and action items right after a call 

Out Of The Box (Cambridge, MA)

Out Of The Box creates meaningful learning experiences for children, by combining hands-on hardware with software learning tools


QuickHire is a career discovery and development platform for new-collar workers

Sevelyn (Des Moines, IA)

Sevelyn provides the Latino population mental health support with accessible, inclusive and supportive services sensitive to language and cultural needs

Trend (Austin, TX)

Trend helps companies win at marketing by automating workflows with a wide network of creators and influencers who provide original, specifically targeted content  

Voxable (Austin, TX)

Voxable is the conversation design platform to build better voice and chat apps, with a streamlined system for creatives to improve their overall user experience

Previous coverage

Techstars Iowa Demo Day 2020 Showcases New Class of Startups -Dec. 3, 2020

The descriptions of the companies listed above have been provided by Techstars Iowa.

Techstars Iowa Accelerator Announces 2021 Class | 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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