Skip to content Skip to footer

How will the Startup Iowa Awards work?

Nominations will be accepted until Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 at 11:59 pm. The top five nominees from each category will be recognized on Jan. 15, and winners of the Startup Iowa Awards will be announced during the final week of January. All winners will be decided on by an independent panel of judges.

All finalists will receive a Startup Iowa Awards trophy and a feature story in Clay & Milk!


Yes! We strongly encourage all interested organizations/individuals to nominate themselves.

What are the judging criteria?

Depending on the award you’re applying for, nominations will be judged according to the following criteria. Please do your best to address these criteria when filling out your nomination form.

  • Quality of business idea and plan
  • Strength of the founding team and their ability to fund initial operations
  • Company’s overall impact on Iowa’s startup ecosystem
  • Level of support and mentorship provided to startups and early-stage companies
  • Success of portfolio companies
  • Scope of individual’s work and effort

Does my company have to have a physical address in IOWA, or can we plan to do business there?

Yes. All nominees must be based in and active in Iowa.

is there a submission fee?

There is a $15 fee per submission. All proceeds from the awards will go toward supporting Clay & Milk. We are the only news source that covers the startup, technology and innovation community in Iowa on a daily basis, and funding from events like this goes a long way toward making Clay & Milk a self-sustaining publication.

CAN my company sponsor this event?

Yes, we are currently looking for sponsors for the awards. If interested, send an email to

Have a question that wasn’t answered above? Send an email to

Startup Iowa Awards FAQ | 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
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives
Purchase Now