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7 Iowa JPEC businesses share $10,000 at undergraduate pitch competition

Seven businesses combined to win $10,250 last week at the Hawkeye Summer Accelerator Undergraduate Final Pitch competition at MERGE in Iowa City.

Three University of Iowa founders won two awards apiece. The event was hosted by the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.

John Hatfield of Chordaworm Lures won the First Place Investor award ($3,000) and Best Minimum Viable Product ($500). Jon Barns of ARBLU won Best Investor Pitch ($1,000) and Most Improved Team ($500). Jared Sherwood of Local Shore Shrimp won First Place Elevator Pitch ($1,000) and Most Traction ($500).

Madeline Humpal-Pash of ChemoCare Solutions won Second Place Investor ($2,000). Other winners were Jennifer Apitz of Walk On (Second Elevator Pitch, $750), Jordan Walters of Walters and Co., won Best Elevator Pitch ($500), and Indya Smith-Johnson of Indya Heart Studios won Best Use of Customer Discovery ($500).

Investor Pitch

  • First John Hatfield, Chordaworm Lures $3,000
  • Second Madeleine Humpal-Pash, ChemoCare Solutions $2,000

Best Pitch

  • Jon Barnes, ARBLU $1,000

Elevator Pitch

  • First Jared Sherwood, Local Shore Shrimp $1,000
  • Second Jennifer Apitz, Walk On $750

Best Pitch

  • Jordan Walters, Walters and Co. $500

Most Improved Team

  • Jon Barnes, ARBLU $500

Best Use of Customer Discovery

  • Indya Smith-Johnson, Indya Heart Studios $500

Most Traction

  • Jared Sherwood, Local Shore Shrimp $500

Best Minimum Viable Product

  • John Hatfield, Chordaworm Lures $500
7 Iowa JPEC businesses share $10,000 at undergraduate pitch competition | 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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