[This post, co-authored with Rob Leclerc of AgFunder, was originally published on Forbes]
Over the past few years, there has been a boom in the number of resources available to food and agriculture startups. By our count, there are now over 100 resources globally, from accelerators to incubators, to pitch competitions, all aimed at helping startups build their businesses.
Finding support amid the growing number of resources can be overwhelming and time consuming for startups. It can also be confusing for other players in the space, such as investors looking for deals or corporates looking to outsource innovation efforts.
For startups especially, time is a precious commodity! That’s why AgThentic and AgFunder have compiled all these resources into an online tool to help entrepreneurs, investors, and corporates find the best support for their ventures. You can browse our comprehensive list of global resources for food and ag startups, search by sector, resource type, location, funding amount, and more.
As we mapped out the ecosystem and defined the different types of resources, we also interviewed startups to understand what is working and where there’s room for improvement. We’ve learned a few lessons, so here are some questions to consider as you search for the best resources for your FoodTech or AgTech business.
Accelerators are the most common resource with over 40 dedicated to food tech and agtech, and though the promise of capital (usually around $35–50k in exchange for 5–8% equity) can be tempting, they are not the only option that can help you access funding, mentorship, and domain expertise. There are many different types of resources, each offering a distinct value proposition: some provide funding, some require in-person commitments, some are focused on specific types of companies (e.g., consumer packaged goods (CPG)), and some provide access to equipment or office space.
This is how we define the different types of resources.
Rather than getting overwhelmed by the value propositions of the resources, be clear about your team’s capabilities and needs before you start the search for a resource. Define your gaps, what you’re looking for in a resource, and what will make your experience successful.
Are you looking for funding? What type(s) of investors are you seeking? Do you need to build out your team, and if so, what kind of talent do you need? Is your product ready, or are more iterations necessary? Who do you need feedback from? Are you having trouble establishing credibility? Are you trying to establish traction with users or potential customers? How much time are you willing to dedicate to your idea or startup?
Being part of an accelerator cohort or moving into an incubator can be a full-time job, so you won’t have time for anything else. If you’re not able- or ready- to dedicate all of your time to your startup, other options for accelerating your venture, such as pitch events and prizes, may be a better option.
Another aspect of commitment is opening up your idea and team to scrutiny by outside parties. This feedback can be extremely helpful — that’s the whole point — but it can also be painful to hear. Are you ready to let outsiders in? Are you willing to listen to their feedback?
Agriculture systems vary across geographies because not all crops can grow everywhere. Similarly, food products often need to gain traction and build brand loyalty in local communities before they can become national brands. Figuring out where you want to be — personally and professionally — can help you select the best resource for your company. And don’t forget to consider where your customers and potential investors will be- resources in those areas are more likely to have relevant connections.
Stage usually refers to funding (e.g., Seed vs. Series A), but more broadly, consider the maturity of your venture across team, product, traction, and strategy. Different resources are suited to different stage ventures. For example, incubators and VDOs tend to help earlier stage companies than accelerators. Similarly, some accelerators look for companies with established revenue, while others are willing to take on companies even before they have a fully commercialized product.
Here’s a set of questions you should ask yourself as you consider the different types of resources.
Venture Development Organization:
For some startups, the reputation of the program is the main reason to join. But in food and agriculture, most of the resources are still new, and it’s not yet clear which programs will be most successful. SpoilerAlert, a B2B marketplace for food waste, and FarmLogs, farm data and decision management software provider, are examples of food tech and agtech companies who decided to join tech-focused accelerators that have established reputations (TechStars and Y Combinator, respectively), rather than food or ag-specific programs. However, depending on what your company needs, the reputation of the program may be less important than the domain expertise and industry connections they can provide. A venture looking to acquire farmers as customers should look for a resource with connections to industry groups, farmers as investors or mentors, and/or strong ties to relevant corporations.
Finally, startups need to seek alignment between their own growth ambitions and that of the resources (and investors) they chose to work with. For example, accelerators or VDOs that take equity at certain valuations are looking for particular a risk/return profile and timeline to exit. Similarly, having corporates involved may pose reputational or IP risks for startups.
Entrepreneurship is rarely easy, but we hope that finding the support you need will be a bit easier with over 100 resources dedicated to FoodTech and AgTech startups. And if you’ve already experienced one of these resources, let your peers and the resources know where they did a good job — or where maybe they didn’t — by leaving feedback.
Tenacious Ventures Management Pty Ltd (CAR 001275760), Tenacious Ventures Management Partnership, LP (CAR 001298484), Tenacious Ventures Fund II Management Partnership, LP (CAR 001298483), and Tenacious Ventures Fund II Staple Co Pty Ltd (CAR 001298487) are Corporate Authorised Representatives of Sandford Capital Pty Ltd (ABN 82 600 590 887), Australian Financial Services Licence No 461981, and are authorised to provide advisory and dealing in connection with investments to wholesale clients only.