Designed specifically for global startup and scaleup companies that are planning to enter the US marketplace in the next one to three years, Cultivo Virtual Academy has provided a valuable jump-start for founders and leaders who completed the first two cohorts.
In the last six-week virtual program, cohort members interacted with 35 Iowa businesses, universities, and other leaders in presentations and roundtable sessions. In addition, cohort members were connected with another 40 researchers, producer organizations, and more in one-on-one conversations outside the formal virtual programs.
“In six weeks – virtually, no less, and with our peers dialing in from literally across the globe – we managed to meet some of the most established and innovative players in Iowa,” says Katrina Stanislaw, head of region, North America, AgriDigital. “We met with leadership at Corteva, John Deere, and Sukup to start-ups like Rantizo, as well as industry experts at Iowa State University and state producer associations. The list goes on, and we appreciate each and every speaker who took the time to share and brainstorm with us.
AgriDigital was a member of Cohort One in April and May 2021, and the company has continued its market entry progress in the US, including being named in the Final 15 of the FoodBytes! by Rabobank 2021 pitch competition. Cohort Two member BioLevel was also in the Final 15 of the pitch competition.
Each week, experts and cohort members take a deep dive into areas that will be critical for success, including supply chain, regulatory and IP strategies, finance and tax strategies, workforce and immigration, and resources available for building or funding businesses.
“Cultivo is unique in that it focuses specifically on agriculture companies that need go-to-market help and provides real-world advice and resources to establish operations in the US,” said Sumit Verma, CEO and cofounder of India-based Reazant. “The program really provided a very distinct perspective of the US market and we made the connections we needed to get a foothold in the US.”
Verma shared an example about a speaker who shared an unmet need in his company’s portfolio; that initial interaction led to follow-up conversations and ongoing discussions about a possible solution from Reazant.
“These conversations are happening solely due to our participation in Cultivo,” said Verma.
Business leaders who participate as speakers and discussion leaders in the virtual program also find value in the experience to spark fresh ideas for their own business through interactions with the global participants and other Iowa companies.
“The Cultivo program explores nearly all facets of agriculture in the Midwest and exposes participants to many different ag leaders in Iowa,” said Myron Stine, president of Stine Seed Company. “Everyone involved is able to take something tangible away.”
Stine noted Iowa’s central location to serve the row crop acres of the Midwest, favorable tax laws for agricultural-based companies relative to other states and the excellent agricultural and business resources in central Iowa and across the state as benefits for global startups who choose to launch their US market entry from the state.
Doug Moore, entrepreneur and venture capitalist, has served as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence for Cultivo, and has been impressed with the engagement and focus of the twelve companies who completed the first two cohorts.
“The big value add for cohort companies comes from the Cultivo team constantly asking what information they need and what connections they want to make. We were able to make fantastic connections and show them how easy it is to do business in the state of Iowa,” said Moore. “One of our greatest strengths in Iowa is the ability to not only make those connections, but more importantly, know that phone calls and emails will actually get returned and that people will take the actions they say they are going to do.”
The Cultivo experience also provides an entry point for startups and scaleups into Iowa’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. From opportunities to establish a physical presence at Iowa State University’s thriving Research Park to exploring additional resources like the Ag Startup Engine, collaborations for grants and state resources or moving toward venture financing.
“The Cultivo program has connected entrepreneurs from different regions of the world with agribusiness leaders in the US and allowed us to hear firsthand their insights on the trends that will build the future. We benefited from unique knowledge passed on by several specialists in specific areas of entrepreneurships, innovation and agribusiness,” said Dagon Riebiero, cofounder of Brazil’s Biotecland. “In our case, the highlight of the program was the connections generated. After the program, we have all the conditions and paths to be able to plan an expansion in the United States.”