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Middle Bit: ManchesterStory co-led an $8M investment round in LA-based Just Insure

Just Insure, a pay-per-mile insurance technology company, has raised $8 million in a funding round. The new funds will be used to scale the company and its product offering as it looks to expand into additional states.  The funding round was led by ManchesterStory, CrossCut Ventures, and Western Technology Investments.

“We are the only auto insurer that’s using telematics to rewrite the rules of what’s possible in auto insurance,” said Robert Smithson, founder and CEO of Just Insure in a statement. “People are simply driving less as a result of increased work-from-home rates, and this isn’t changing anytime soon. Our approach enables us to offer customers rates that are truly reflective of their driving, which in turn rewards drivers, removes rate bias, and ultimately makes the road a safer place for everyone. We’re eager to continue developing our telematics capabilities and growing our team with these new funds.”

NewBoCo & Rural Business Innovators Iowa SBDC receive SBA awards for inclusive entrepreneurship

NewBoCo and Rural Business Innovators Iowa SBDC are winners of the Small Business Administration’s 2021 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition.

Both organizations will receive $50,000 as winners of the GAFC, which recognized efforts that “targeted assistance to STEM/R&D entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups, including women, people of color, rural, and veteran entrepreneurs.”

View all of the awardees here.

Involta announces three new leadership positions

Involta has announced three new leadership appointments. The three Involta veterans and their new roles include:

  • Josh Holst, Vice President of Cloud Services
  • Mark Cooley, Vice President of Security and Compliance
  • David Humes II, Director of Product Management

“Creating a culture that supports internal professional growth has been fundamental to our success. These individuals have and will continue to help amplify Involta’s capabilities from multiple angles, ensuring we continue to innovate, refine and deliver solutions to meet the demands of the digital economy,” said Bruce Lehrman, co-founder and CEO of Involta. “Today, Involta is more advantageously poised to deliver exceptional quality and customer care through our cloud solutions, growing data center portfolio, managed security services, edge deployments, and beyond to our customers across manufacturing, healthcare and finance.”

Middle Bit: ManchesterStory co-led an $8M investment round in LA-based Just Insure | 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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