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Young Entrepreneur Convention set for Feb. 25 in Ames

Young Entrepreneur Convention 2023 is set to take place Saturday, February 25 in the Student Innovation Center on the Iowa State campus.

The event is focused on providing information, motivation, and practical tools to assist early-stage founders. In addition to a series of keynote speakers and panel discussions, the event offers ample time for networking and one of the largest single-day pitch competitions in the United States.

The first speaker takes the stage at 9 a.m. The event concludes with the Pitch Competition finals at 4 p.m., followed by a post-event social that will bring together students, early-stage founders, and entrepreneurial leaders from Iowa and beyond in an informal environment to recap the day.

“We are driven to create an atmosphere of founders helping founders,” said co-founder of the event Clayton Mooney in a release. “Connecting early-stage founders with founders who have experienced success has tremendous value. It not only provides these young founders with real-world contacts who can share what the founder journey is like, but it helps them to build a network they can lean on as they grow their companies. We are excited about this year’s speaker lineup and confident that there will be a number of takeaways for long-term founders, those launching early-stage startups, and those who are still wondering how to move from idea to action.”

This year’s featured speakers include Dublin, Ireland-based serial entrepreneur Michael Guerin of Imvizar; Iowa-based patent and IP attorney Tim Zarley; YECon alumni speaker Shelby Smith, who has built her business with international reach from the ground up; and a workshop designed to help early-stage founders reach revenue led by Nebullam’s Nick Herrig.

In addition, the annual Pitch Competition will award prize packages including cash for the top three finishers. The Pitch Competition is limited to the first 30 pitchers to sign up. A limited number of pitch slots remain open. A ticket to Young Entrepreneur Convention is required to pitch.

Additional information and tickets are available at

Young Entrepreneur Convention set for Feb. 25 in Ames | 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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