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The next evolution of Clay & Milk

This is one of those bittersweet moments where I have the duty to share that our longtime editor Jake Slobe is stepping away from Clay & Milk to pursue other interests. Jake’s been the primary news-sharer and storyteller of the Iowa entrepreneurial community for almost four years and we are all the better for his work. Personally, I’m very happy for my friend Jake to have the opportunity to pursue other things while simultaneously being bummed about losing him from the Clay & Milk/Gravitate Coworking organization and our community overall.

This is Jake’s last week as a full-time employee here but he’s not going to disappear overnight. He’s agreed to stay on in a freelance capacity and help with the newsletter in the interim (woot!). You’ll still see Jake’s byline on stories (you can still email him tips and story leads at and we’re going to scale back the newsletter to three times per week rather than daily while we plan for the next evolution of Clay & Milk.

That evolution is the sweet part of an announcement like this, losing someone from the team who has been at the core forces us to put a real thought into what it is we do, how we can do it better and how we take things to a new level. It’s the same thing we’ve done with every change in editor (we’re developing quite an alumni roster with Matt, Jami, Joey and now Jake!) we’ve had at Clay & Milk and it’s always exciting. 

Do you have thoughts on what you’d like to see in the next iteration of Clay & Milk? I’d like to hear them (send a note!). While our mission to be the publication of record for all things tech, startup or entrepreneurial in Iowa won’t ever change, how we go about always will. 

Geoff Wood
Co-Founder and Publisher

The next evolution of Clay & Milk | 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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