Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Technology Association of Iowa announces graduation of 2022 Iowa Technology Leadership Institute cohort 

The Technology Association of Iowa (TAI) announced last week the graduation of its inaugural Iowa Technology Leadership (ITLI) cohort. 

“As the Technology Association of Iowa celebrates its 25th anniversary, it is incredibly fitting that we graduate this inaugural class of 25 exceptional professionals, the future leaders of the Iowa technology industry,” said Brain Waller, President of TAI in a release ” Over my past 9 years as President of TAI, this program is one of my greatest joys and accomplishments. It could not have been done without the support of our sponsors Principal Financial Group, Iowa State University and Involta.” 

The TAI Iowa Technology Leadership Institute develops tomorrow’s Iowa technology leaders through programming designed to fill gaps that technical education and experience can often neglect. The institute provides access to networking with peers and experienced executives from across the industry.

“This experience exceeded my expectations in so many ways,” said Cathy Blood, ITLI Cohort Member and Senior Integration Analyst/Applications Solution Tester, GCommerce, Inc. “Each course was very well organized and the course topics were on point with today’s business environment and presented in a mixture of different styles for maximum learning. ITLI provided me exposure to new experiences I would not otherwise have been aware of and has given me not only a new network of business leaders I can turn to for help and inspiration in the future, but also life-long friends.”

The ITLI curriculum is developed and facilitated by the Technology Executives in Residence Michelle Bates, Chief Innovation Officer, Revology, Inc. and Dave Tucker, Partner, Next Level Ventures, with leadership from the TAI Board of Directors. 

“This has been one of the most rewarding career experiences I can remember,” said Tucker. “I am so encouraged for the future of technology in Iowa after working with this group and am certain I learned more from them than they learned from me.”

The ITLI classes focus on the non-technical aspects of leadership that help seasoned professionals build influence and move to the next level of their careers. The experience included engaging presentations, interactive panelists, small group problem-solving scenarios and one-on-one mentoring from experienced technology executives.

As the inaugural program comes to a close, 100 percent of the 25 participants have signed up to participate in the ITLI Alumni Network. In addition, 55 percent have expressed interest in continuing to participate in ITLI by serving on the alumni committee to help shape the program going forward. 

“ITLI has been an invaluable experience, combining amazing relationship building between equally-driven peers along with rockstar educational experiences from those we aspire to be,” said Page Smith, ITLI Cohort Member and Director of Digital Solutions, Kreg Tool Company. “The bonds formed through this year’s ITLI class will be sure to play a large part in the future of Iowa’s technology leadership and will certainly always be the most awesome for being first.”

Applications for the 2023 cohort for ITLI will open on July 12, 2022.

Here are the names of the 2022 cohort members.

  • Mandy Abbas, UnityPoint Health
  • Steve Billingsley, ITA Group, Inc.
  • Cathy Blood, GCommerce, Inc.
  • Emily Burns, Ruan Transportation Management Systems
  • Lisa Butler, Data Innovations
  • Kevin Hersom, CUNA Mutual Group
  • Josh Holst, Involta, LLC
  • Ryan Huffman, Iowa State University
  • Mike Johnson, McLeod Software
  • Amanda Kasten, Kingland Systems
  • Shivani Kharbanda, John Deere – Intelligent Solutions Group
  • Michael Lohrbach, Iowa State University
  • Stephen Morgan, Fareway Stores, Inc.
  • Andrew Mueller, Pella Corporation
  • Casie Muller, Principal Financial Group
  • Brandon Potter, ProCircular
  • Beth Rissman, Telepharm
  • Scott Robinson, Merchants Bonding Company
  • Howard Samarin, United Equipment Accessories Inc.
  • Page Smith, Kreg Tool Company
  • John Sonneville, John Deere Financial
  • Theresa Swaim, FBL Financial Group, Inc.
  • Bryan Tonne, VGM Group
  • Aaron Welch, Ramco Innovations
  • Ryan Wood, Kum & Go
Technology Association of Iowa announces graduation of 2022 Iowa Technology Leadership Institute cohort  | 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
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives
Purchase Now