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Bull Force wins first place at Venture School pitch competition

Bull Force and its founder Greg Schut won first place and $2,000 at the Iowa JPEC Venture School Fall Final Pitches and Awards on Nov. 15 at Kirkwood Regional Center in Coralville.

Bull Force is a battery-operated tray that mounts on a concrete bull float. Using a remote control, concrete dumps out of the tray in a controlled manner and fill voids in a freshly placed concrete pad. A vibration device helps level concrete.

Jolt Education and Jade Peterson placed second and earned $1,200. Jolt Education is a school lesson plan that uses a social media approach to education. Lessons are structured in short, easy-to-process bits of information such as video clips, prompts, and fast activities.

Brian Nigg and The Collective Group won third place and $800. The Collegiate Group is an independent educational consulting firm to help students and their families navigate the college search, admission, financial aid, and decision processes.

Paige Lassen and HydroSpring received a $500 Customer Discovery award. HydroSpring is a multipurpose water bottle with a retractable straw that extends from the stationary water container bringing water to you to meet your hydration needs. This design would decrease spills on work stations and improve safety with outdoor activities and driving.

Aaron Bontrager of Payroll Vault was awarded $500 for Judge’s Choice. Payroll Vault is a boutique-style payroll service provider that designs payroll and workforce services for small businesses in eastern Iowa.

The next Venture School will be held in Spring 2023 with dates to be determined.

Bull Force wins first place at Venture School 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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