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New Des Moines company is providing marketing leadership to midsize business and startups

A new Des Moines-based company is looking to fill a gap in marketing leadership by creating a Marketing Leadership-as-a-Service model for midsize businesses and venture-backed startups.

The new company — called Propel — provides fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) services to mid-size companies and venture-funded startups who need a marketing strategy and the leadership to deliver on their growth objectives. A fractional CMO is an outsourced marketing executive who performs the function of a CMO without a company having to commit to a full-time in-house one.

Once a company signs up for Propel’s services, they will be guided through a proprietary matching process, that will match them with the best-fit CMO for their needs.

“Rather than going through a time-intensive and very expensive, recruiting and hiring phase of six or more months, a business can reach out to us,” said Gregory Bailey, founder and CEO of Propel. “And often within two or three weeks, they will have one of Propel’s fractional CMOs on their team, ready to get to work.”

Bailey says that “Marketing Leadership-as-a-Service” is a new category that Propel is pioneering, and that the company is at the intersection of a couple of different trends happening in business and in the economy.

“One is the gig economy where talent and employees, now more than ever are resigning from their W-2 employee jobs. Employees, including executives like chief marketing officers, are wanting more flexibility and more autonomy,” said Bailey. “And then on the other side, we’re really focusing on midsize businesses and venture-funded startups, to help them with marketing leadership, everything from a marketing strategy to marketing campaign execution, all in the spirit of growth.”

The company officially launched last Tuesday and in addition to Bailey, Propel’s team currently includes three fractional CMOs — Haley Stomp, Glenn Rothenberg, and Randy Bachman.

“Speed matters when you’re building a company because you have to go from zero to 60 as quickly as you can and build that early momentum. So we’ll be in the market, having a ton of conversations, meeting with a ton of different midsize companies and venture-funded startups,” said Bailey. “The next six to twelve months will be a combination of accelerating our own sales pipeline, bringing more value to more of these types of companies that become our customers, and then on the other side, recruiting more key talent.”

New Des Moines company is providing marketing leadership to midsize business and startups | 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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