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Venture School accepting applications for spring cohort

The University of Iowa’s Venture School program is accepting applications for its Spring 2023 cohort to be held at various locations across the state, beginning the week of Feb. 20.

The sessions meet one night a week for seven weeks as either hybrid, fully remote, or in-person, depending on location. The final class of the session is a Venture School Launch Day Competition that will be held the week of April 10. The cost is $299 per team and each Venture School team will be assigned a local entrepreneur as its coach.

Venture School is a statewide program for entrepreneurs and is built from a streamlined curriculum developed by the National Science Foundation I-Corps at Stanford University and the University of California

To apply for the Spring 2023 cohort, click here and register now in the drop-down menu. The deadline to apply is Feb. 5.

Below are the locations Venture School will be held this spring:

Iowa City/Cedar Rapids
Days: Tuesdays, start date Feb. 21
Location: Kirkwood Regional Center, Coralville

Des Moines
Days: Wednesdays, start date Feb. 22
Location: Pappajohn Higher Education Center, downtown Des Moines

Dubuque (Remote)
Days: Tuesdays, start date Feb. 21

Mason City
Days: Wednesdays, start date Feb. 22
Location: NIACC Business Center

Days: Thursdays, start date Feb. 23
Location: Eastern Iowa Community College

Sioux City (Hybrid — first and last week in-person)
Days: Tuesdays, start date Feb. 21
Location: Design West

Venture School accepting applications for spring 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
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