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Brett Brohl, Managing Director, Techstars
AgTech startup companies have some common challenges that the other entrepreneurs regularly face, such as hiring personnel and raising capital, but there is one specific challenge that disrupts their journey gravely toward prominence. Their main customers, the farmers are reluctant to take risks on technology that could potentially affect their crop cycle profits. It is hard on the farmers’ part as well because they generate revenue on a flat basis annually, and it would be a considerable loss margin for them if they lose revenue on their entire yield. Although farmers are willing to adopt new technologies that solve a real pain-point, they want it to be vetted.
Being a worldwide network that helps startups to exceed, Techstars is a founder-friendly association that assists in building businesses. The AgTech space is wide open and has many opportunities that an entrepreneur can latch on. Leveraging data, managing food safety, and pest control are some of the areas that they should consider. Techstars’ founders and their teams connect with other entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporate partners who will help their companies grow in the AgTech space.
Focus on the Team
When we invest, the main focus in on the founding team of the startup; we ensure that the team is competent, experienced, and shows a high degree of compatibility. Oftentimes, startups meet the mentors that we connect them with, and they help the companies in bettering their product in accordance to the market pain points.
When we invest, the main focus in on the founding team of the startup; we ensure that the team is competent, experienced, and shows a high degree of compatibility
The mentors encourage startups to run a pilot which allows them to sandbox their product in different market scenarios. This is where great entrepreneurs shine and create adjustments quicker. This helps us understand the startups that we should definitely be interested and invest in.
The Accelerator Program
The program is largely driven by the mentors that work with startups and help them think through some of the opportunities existing in the AgTech space. The startups are taught to position themselves in the marketplace differently. They are also given guidance on who can be their potential clients and how they can pitch their business in front of them. Techstars operates in three divisions: Techstars Startup Programs, Techstars Mentorship-Driven Accelerator Programs, and Techstars Corporate Innovation Partnerships. While the Techstars Mentorship-Driven Accelerator Programs help founders do things faster, the Techstars Startup Programs inspire, educate, and connect entrepreneurs. Thirdly, the Techstars Corporate Innovation Partnerships help brands to supercharge growth by accelerating innovation and cultural transformation.
The AgTech Portfolio
We have nine companies in our current AgTech program. For every company, we follow a different guideline and principle to guide them as different companies need help in different areas. We have also partnered with Cargail and EcoLab which provide mentors for the program. We organize various executive-level meetings represented by a majority of the C-suite of both the companies. They undertake one-on-one mentoring sessions and endow ideas and values, which are very beneficial for startups.
Some mentors also meet the startups on a weekly basis to help them understand how enterprise-level corporations work to innovate and solve problems. These startups are greatly benefited as at the end of these sessions, they know how to pitch their product and sell it into the industry. They also comprehend the methodology to build sustainable and repeatable sales processes. Further, we also help the startups to study expectations and set goals and expectations accordingly, which helps them to introduce accountability during the program and build a scalable business beyond.
Mega-Trend for the Times ahead
When it comes to the future, there are many innovative ideas in rotation today that will take full effect in the future and will provide startups with many opportunities to innovate. One such trend is the autonomous farm that has risen due to a lack of workers on the farm. This will lead to the increase in using autonomous technologies, such as robotics to bridge the labor gap.
As a company that supports the AgTech space, we need to work with startups to create more efficiency for the farmers so that they can, in turn, support the growing population. That’s where technology will play a big part.
Piece of Advice
• For people who are thinking about starting a business, start it today and don’t wait for tomorrow. While being an entrepreneur is risky, it gives you a piece of mind that no other job can.
• For people who are starting a company, quickness is the name of the game. Innovate quickly and succeed fast, don’t overbuild your solution.
• Give entrepreneurial roles for people in strong positions. Just because it is a small company, it needn’t be the case that they can’t have a positive impact on the industry. Partner with them and help them succeed in making this world a better place.
• For investors, ensure that you take AgTech seriously and invest in this rapidly growing space.