Thriving the Future of AgTech

By Mareese Keane, THRIVE AgTech Platform Director, SVG Partners

Mareese Keane, THRIVE AgTech Platform Director, SVG Partners

Today, AgTech startups are facing a major challenge in accessing crops to operationalize technological trails. The agriculture space, for the most part, is still traditional, and with a lot of farmers having hugely invested in their crops, it is risky for them to provide a portion of their crop for to a startup for trial purposes. Thus, access to growers and farmers is a grave pain point in the AgTech space. Being well connected with growers and farmers through the Western Grower Association, SVG Partners works extremely hard for its program, which allows startups to access farmers for technology trial and validation.

How do you differentiate between the opportunities that you see in the AgTech space?

In terms of startup companies, we have a process-driven selection. We get around 150-200 applicants every year to our accelerator, and we evaluate them internally, which gives us a first list of companies. Next, we invite 50 of them to send us a 90-second video pitch. Once, we receive that, a summary of the shortlisted 50 companies are sent to our corporate partners, and they select the ones that they are interested in. The next round involves a live video pitch in front of our corporate partners.

The partners comprise companies such as Tremble, Western Growers, Coca- Cola, Verizon, Taylor Farms, and many more who attend the live video pitch to select the companies. In this way, we get a collected view of the interests that these companies have in the solution that they have put forward. The partner’s feedback is taken into account while selecting the final ten companies that come into our accelerators.

How do you work with the companies in which you invest? Tell us about your investment style.

Our investment style varies from that of a typical venture capitalist (VC), as SVG Partners makes investments through an accelerated program. All the investments are made via the SVG Thrive fund, and we also run the Thrive Accelerator. Our selection process of investment is aligned with the selection process for the accelerators, which we won in conjunction with our corporate partners. During the course of THRIVE’s intensive eight-week program, companies are provided both a classroom and online training in business planning, strategy, marketing, supply chain, finance, fundraising, and communication skills, and they are selected if the solutions they are working toward is in the AgTech space.

What are the key attributes you look at when evaluating a deal?

Most of our corporate partners come to us as we play the role of an innovation pipeline for AgTech. They see an offering that we can bring to them both on our accelerator program and corporate innovation program to support growth-stage companies.

From the startups’ perspective, we are always on the lookout for a strong and competent team that has experience in the industry. We also check the specific need that they cater to in the AgTech space and their development plan for the solution. It’s all about connecting the dots of the vision of the startup and our corporate partners’ interests.

How do you work with clients post investment?

Startups in our portfolio are a part of a wider platform, which is the Thrive Venture and Innovation platform. As new corporate partners, we always look for opportunities to connect them with organizations. We also support all our companies in the long run with our deep mentor base.

As part of our accelerators, we have established 50+ person mentor base. The expertise that these mentors bring to the table is available to our startups as long as they are a part of our portfolio.

How do you think your current portfolio of companies has benefited most from your guidance?

SVG Partners is a hub of bigger networks and platform that all our portfolio companies have access to, which stands out as our primary value proposition. We are associated with companies that are looking to find the next innovators in the AgTech space, and we have validated ourselves as an organization that is picking winners in the space. This generates interests in the finalist in our accelerator program.

What are the strategic points that you consider to push your company forward?

We are focused on providing value to our corporate partners, and we operationalize that by expanding our networks continuously to access innovators globally. We have continued to build our global network which we leverage to deliver value.

In terms of applicants to our programs, last year we had applications from 37 countries, which shows the global reach that we have and we will continue to expand that. We believe that while California is a hub of innovation, there’s a whole world of innovators and that’s where we look for opportunities to tap into that untouched area.

Will we see a growth of AgTech innovations in the future?

The AgTech space is still quite young and fragmented. Channeled access is not yet established and this will give rise to people who will create channels to bring products to market in the AgTech space in a better manner.

SVG Partners is an investment, technology, and advisory firm that partners with organizations on strategy, innovation and global expansion. Since 2007, SVG’s experienced team of senior technology leaders and venture capital investors have worked with global corporations and scaling companies to drive competitive advantage from strategy to implementation. Through its accelerator and open innovation programs, engineering and development services, and executive strategy and advisory, SVG Partners helps build and scale innovative technology companies worldwide. SVG Partners is based in Silicon Valley, CA.

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