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Nicole Gunderson joins ManchesterStory as Principal

ManchesterStory Group, an early-to-growth stage venture capital firm making investments in companies in InsurTech and adjacent sectors, announced this week that Nicole Gunderson is joining the firm as a Principal on their investment team.

“I am proud and honored to join the outstanding team at ManchesterStory during this incredible period of change in insurance,” said Gunderson in a release. “I have had the privilege to work with many of the leading insurance and financial services institutions and InsurTechs on innovation, adoption and investments in recent years and joining the InsurTech leaders.

Prior to joining ManchesterStory, Gunderson was the Managing Director of the Global Insurance Accelerator, where she was responsible for the overall growth, development, and success of the programs, as well as providing ongoing support to all of the accelerator’s portfolio companies. Prior to joining the GIA, she spent seven years in corporate and investment banking with BMO Capital Markets in Chicago, San Francisco, and New York, and five years with Dwolla in multiple capacities, including Vice President of Sales and Strategy.

The creation of this new role coincides with the recent doubling of ManchesterStory’s committed capital through the launch of a second, early-stage, InsurTech-focused fund.

“Nicole is an accomplished and dynamic leader in the InsurTech space, having led the Global Insurance Accelerator for the last four years and worked with dozens of InsurTech startups,” said Dave Miles, Founding Partner of ManchesterStory. “As a senior leader of our seven-member investment team, Nicole will elevate our investment process while further broadening our extensive insurance & technology network.”

Nicole Gunderson joins ManchesterStory as Principal | 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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