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Techstars Iowa taking a pause after three years

After three years, the Techstars Iowa Accelerator will not return in 2023 and has decided to “take a pause,” organizers of the program announced last week.

Launched in 2020, the accelerator graduated a total of 30 companies throughout its three cohorts. The Des Moines-based accelerator was funded by the investment office of Grinnell College, which provided the initial funding for the accelerator program.

“The past three years have been incredible,” wrote Techstars Iowa in a LinkedIn post announcing the pause. “Working with Grinnell College to support entrepreneurs and collaborate with the entrepreneurial community in Iowa has been amazing. Grinnell’s commitment to entrepreneurial endeavors is admirable and will continue in many ways. We want to give a big shoutout and thank you to all of the mentors, Iowa ecosystem members, including Iowa State University and the University of Iowa, and investors who shared their expertise with founders.”

Six Iowa companies were accepted into the accelerator program over the three cohorts, including Des Moines telehealth startup OpenLoop Health and Sevelyn, a digital emotional wellness platform designed to service the Latino community. OpenLoop has seen a large amount of success since graduating from the accelerator’s first cohort in 2020. The company raised an $8 million Series A round in March 2022, and recently announced plans to hire around 400 new employees and expand from one floor to occupy three floors in the Bank of America Building on 6th Avenue.

Kerty Levy, who served as the Managing Director of Techstars Iowa for all three years, is now the managing director of Techstars Boston, according to BostInno.  Levy is also spearheading a new crypto accelerator program called Techstars Crypto Boston.

Techstars Iowa taking a pause after three years | 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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