innovationIOWA award winners, new GIA director
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Business Record innovationIOWA Weekly | June 9, 2022
VizyPay, Mwirotsi named 2022 innovationIOWA award winners
By Sarah Bogaards | Staff Writer
Left: VizyPay CEO and founder Austin Mac Nab and Managing Partner Frank Pagano. Photo by Duane Tinkey Right: Pi515 Executive Director and founder Nancy Mwirotsi. Submitted photo
The Business Record announces today the winners of the 2022 innovationIOWA awards.

VizyPay is the recipient of the Corteva Agriscience innovationLEADER of the Year Award, and Pi515 founder and Executive Director Nancy Mwirotsi is the recipient of the innovationENTREPRENEUR of the Year Award.

The recipients of the innovationIOWA awards are nominated by members of the community and selected by Business Record leadership.

VizyPay is a Waukee-based payment processor focused on serving small businesses and rural communities. It was founded in 2017 by small business owners Austin Mac Nab and Frank Pagano.

Mwirotsi started Pi515 in 2014 with the aim of empowering underserved youths to explore STEM fields. We profiled each winner in this year’s innovationIOWA magazine. Here is one question we asked them:

How do leaders effectively guide a team through times of uncertainty?

Mac Nab: Transparency, compassion and a solutions-driven mentality are the keys to guiding a team through a time of uncertainty. Innovation often comes to light during these periods, but only leaders who are willing to learn, unlearn and relearn can successfully navigate teams through the unknown. Uncertainty is uncomfortable, but so is growth. Leaders who are flexible with their ideas remain teachable and curious. Moreover, a leader that keeps a positive attitude through uncertainty and challenge can shift a team’s thought process to be more open towards change. There is always an opportunity waiting to be capitalized on within challenges, and leaders who truly put their people first will find a way to twist uncertainty into opportunity.

Mwirotsi: The most critical skill for an effective leader is listening to those around them. People may put forward unexpected ideas and solutions, and a good leader creates space for this to occur. An effective leader also manages to balance empathy with their responsibilities.

Read their full profiles in the magazine, which will be unveiled at the launch party next month. We hope you can join us!

WHEN: Monday, July 11, 5-7 p.m.
WHERE: Corteva Agriscience, 7000 N.W. 62nd Ave., Johnston

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innovationIOWA Leader Q&A: Jessica Hyland
By Sarah Bogaards | Staff Writer
Jessica Hyland, executive director of the Iowa Biotechnology Association, or IowaBio, recently sat down with me to share about the association's priorities and its new STEM committee and future leaders fund and what's new in the biotech industry.

Below, she answers our innovationIOWA Leader Q&A.

What does innovation mean to you?

I would define innovation as game-changing. Basically something that shakes up a space and takes it forward, maybe improves it in a way that people didn't expect.

What is one area of focus for your organization or industry in the next year?
For the next year, I would say STEM education. That's something that our membership really cares about, and we're revamping those efforts with a very active STEM committee. [It’s a] newer committee but super involved, and I would say that's definitely going to continue to be a focus now that we've got our new Future Biotech Leaders Fund.

Share a past career or personal experience that influences how you perform your current role.
I would just say generally being from the advocacy world and that being kind of my strength and background. I definitely carry forward the skill set and the relationships that I gained from that, but then also the skill set that I need to adapt change quickly. That is something that I definitely carry forward from that along with the relationship-building, and I think I use all of those skills in this current role.

Paustian receives National Space Society award
Des Moines Area Community College West Campus Provost Anthony Paustian was awarded the National Space Society’s Award of Excellence for Public Motivation at a recent ceremony. "Having spent most of my last 20 years trying to inspire people to become more imaginative, creative and innovative, this is especially meaningful to me," Paustian wrote in a LinkedIn post.

Israel to head Global Insurance Accelerator
The Global Insurance Accelerator has announced Dan Israel will be its next managing director. Israel has been an investor in the GIA and his most recent role was as director – enterprise strategy and innovation at Principal Financial Group. "I’ve been able to see firsthand the positive impact the GIA has both on the cohort firms, which it helps to grow and expand, as well as the benefit to the corporate strategic partners," Israel said. "The GIA fills a niche role in the insurtech market that allows it to bring together both innovative founders and strategic corporate partners to enhance both groups’ opportunities for growth." He has also held financial roles at Rolls Royce North America, Target Corp. and Principal Global Investors. Israel started at the GIA on May 31, working with current managing director Nicole Gunderson through the summer to transition into the role and prepare for the fall selection of the 2023 cohort.

Iowa Biotechnology Association receives $10K grant for Future Biotech Leaders Fund
The Iowa Biotechnology Association announced Wednesday it has received a $10,000 grant for its Future Biotech Leaders Fund from Agilent Technologies. The fund launched in 2021 to advance the association’s STEM efforts, and is managed by the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. Agilent’s grant to the fund will support scholarships, stipends, programming and competitions related to STEM education. Through the new fund, IowaBio will continue its support of programs it has helped fund over the past 20 years, including the BioGENEius Challenge, Iowa State University Biotechnology Outreach Education Center programs and State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa awards and scholarships. Agilent Technologies is a California-based analytical laboratory instrument manufacturing company that expanded to Iowa when it acquired Advanced Analytical Technologies in 2018. More information about the Future Biotech Leaders Fund is available at

DMACC students advance to finals of innovation challenge
A team from DMACC is one of 12 finalists in the Community College Innovation Challenge, sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges and the National Science Foundation. The national competition has community college students use STEM skills to develop solutions to real-world problems. As finalists, DMACC Boone campus students Michaela Beck and Allison Arnold will attend the Innovation Bootcamp in Washington, D.C., next week with their mentor Nancy Woods, a math and physics professor at the Boone campus. The team will present its idea to a panel of experts and practitioners and have opportunities to be coached in communication and entrepreneurial skills relevant to supporting innovation. According to a release, the two students were also winners at the fall 2021 ISU Innovation Challenge and developed their idea further for this competition. To learn more about the competition, visit

Other news:
- Collins Aerospace selected to create NASA’s next-generation spacesuit (Clay & Milk)
- Alliant Energy awards innovation scholarships to students (Corridor Business Journal)

These stories originally appeared in the Business Record's e-newsletters and weekly publication.
Sign up for our free e-newsletters to stay up-to-date all week long. Learn about membership here

Iowa startup hopes to revolutionize farming with 'swarm' of small, autonomous tractors

DES MOINES REGISTER: The empty cab of a moving tractor sparked concern in a neighbor of Nebraska farmer JJ Granstrom that something had happened to him. It was, in fact, just an autonomous tractor from Nevada startup Sabanto. Sabanto founder Craig Rupp previously worked as an engineer for Deere & Co. and is developing the "swarm" model of automated farming. The general idea is this: "If an operator doesn't need to sit behind the wheel, a single worker can oversee multiple smaller tractors." The company is betting that smaller and simpler machines will save money and address labor needs because they require less training for workers. As automation sets up to take over farming operations, Sabanto is positioning itself to compete with the larger ag manufacturers. Read the full story to hear what others are saying about the swarm technique and learn more about Rupp and Sabanto’s history.

IN OTHER NEWS: The U.S. exascale Frontier system in Tennessee has been newly ranked the most powerful supercomputer in existence with the ability to perform 1.1 quintillion operations per second (ARS TECHNICA). Enterprise software companies are so far untouched by the rout in technology stocks brought on by inflation and rising interest rates (WALL STREET JOURNAL). It turns out Moore’s Law studying the progress of semiconductors has a cousin that theorizes the future of LED lighting, a crucial component of vertical farming (EMERGING TECH BREW).
Guest commentary: Maybe your corporate sustainability strategy can be more than just a cost of doing business
Carl Vieregger, associate professor of management, Drake University

Strategy is about finding investment opportunities for incremental returns on strategic capital allocation.

If you are trying to do well while also trying to do good — if you sincerely care about your company’s investments in corporate social responsibility (CSR) — you might feel like these investments are just a cost of doing business in the current competitive environment.

New research published by Leandro Nardi and colleagues in the journal Strategy Science, though, reminds us of a competitive truth: Customers are willing to pay for products and services that are unique from others in your market. Continue reading

MORE INSIDER CONTENT: See all Business Record Insider content and learn more about how to receive the weekly publication. Click here

June 14-17: 2022 Iowa Technology & Geospatial Conference
The ITAG Conference is a joint effort between the Iowa Geographic Information Council and the Iowa Counties Information Technology organizations to combine annual conferences into one comprehensive technology and geospatial event. In total, there will be more than 50 hours of educational content over the course of the conference.

The purpose of both organizations is to promote education, training and cooperation in regard to technology and GIS. The goal of this conference is to educate, network and encourage an exchange of knowledge and professional practices.

WHEN: All day (View schedule)
WHERE: West Des Moines Sheraton, 1800 50th Street, West Des Moines
Visit the event website to register

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