Gaby Novakovic is the lead organizer of the OnRamp Agriculture Conference that’s set to take place virtually on July 9. We caught up with her to find out they pivoted what was going to be a physical event into a virtual one that’s focused on helping startups start valuable conversations with potential investors and corporate partners. The good news is that the virtual format will enable more startups to take part, and there’s 200 signed up already. There’s still a couple of days left to apply to meet one-to-one with a who’s who list of agtech investors and corporates. Learn more and see the list below.
What is gener8tor, and what’s your mission?
The gener8tor platform includes pre-accelerators, accelerators, corporate programming, conferences, and fellowships. Since our founding in 2012, our core work has been running startup accelerator programs via a venture capital fund model. In parallel, we started working with corporations around establishing and growing their corporate venture capital and innovation practices (Project North).
gener8tor’s mission is to be the best partner for a community to invest in its best and brightest. gener8tor’s turnkey platform for the creative economy connects startup founders, musicians, artists, investors, universities, and corporations.
What is the OnRamp Conference series all about?
When queried, startups are mostly looking for revenue and customers, and corporations are looking for new startups and technologies, so our two threads of focus — startup and corporate– converged to create our event series OnRamp, which brings these groups together for an afternoon of pitching and dealmaking. gener8tor started the OnRamp Conference Series in 2013 with the hope of giving entrepreneurs access to high-level corporate leaders and investors at various stages in their growth cycle. It soon evolved to focus on specific verticals across multiple events with a core focus around one-on-one pitch sessions between startups and corporate venture capital and innovation executives, VCs, and accelerators. Historically, OnRamp’s trademark was hosting these 1-day events at sports stadiums, with each participating organization getting their own suite or luxury box to take meetings with startups. In light of Covid-19, we’ve pivoted OnRamp to an entirely virtual format. The silver lining is that we’re able to accommodate more participating organizations and more startups.
Why did you decide to launch OnRamp Agriculture in 2020?
Since starting the OnRamp Conference Series in 2013, we’ve hosted vertical events in the industries of Insurance, Retail, Healthcare, Manufacturing, and Education & Workforce Innovation. When expanding to new verticals, we look for a confluence of significant growth in industry CVC (corporate venture capital) activity and growth of startups innovating in the space. AgTech and FoodTech have really popped in recent years, and we wanted to create a free forum for startups to connect with these industry corporations. In addition, we forged a relationship with The Combine and the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. They are leaders in the AgTech vertical and want to grow Nebraska’s presence as the epicenter of agriculture innovation.
This year, the core component of the OnRamp Agriculture Conference is our “Virtual Startup Track” – curated, one-on-one pitch sessions between selected startups and corporate venture capital & innovation executives, VCs and accelerators to discuss potential customer relationships, strategic partnerships and, if appropriate, investment opportunities.
How does agriculture compare to the other verticals you serve?
It’s HUGE! Agriculture is such a broad industry encompassing AgTech, FoodTech, and Food & Beverage. The diversity of participating organizations we have at this 2020 OnRamp Agriculture Conference includes everyone from John Deere to Cargill to Bremer Bank to McDonald’s to 301 Inc. to Evolv Ventures to Cultivation Capital.
Covid-19 scuppered plans for a physical event, but you’re continuing with a virtual edition. How will it differ from the planned event?
Our team really wanted to focus on pivoting with a purpose, to provide value to the industry, especially now during this uneasy time. We decided to host our ‘Startup Track’ programming virtually to help seed valuable relationships that could lead to investments or partnerships. The upside is we will be accommodating more startups, corporations, and investors. The downside is that we will not be having a full-day of conference programming (speakers, panels, demos, exhibitors) but rather a truncated morning Plenary Session featuring a Keynote by Kellee James, founder of Mercaris and “Startups to Know” Live Pitch Session. The morning Plenary Session will be followed by a full-day “Virtual Startup Track.”
How many startups have applied to pitch so far? Are you still accepting applications?
The “Virtual Startup Track” application deadline is June 14. Startup can learn more and apply here: https://onrampagricultureconference.com/startup-track.
We already have 200 startup applicants and anticipate 300+.
Who are the corporations and investors that startups have the opportunity to meet?
Dozens of participating organizations will be taking one-on-one pitch meetings with startups. The full list can be found here, and includes:
- 301 Inc.
- Acre Venture Partners
- Ag Startup Engine
- Blue Farming Diamond Co.
- Bremer Bank
- Chicago Ventures
- Cleveland Avenue
- Cultivian Sandbox Ventures
- Dundee Venture Capital
- Evolv Ventures
- Farm Credit Services of America
- Finistere Ventures
- Flyover Capital
- Fox Ventures
- General Mills
- Innova Memphis
- Invest Nebraska
- Iowa AgriTech Accelerator
- John Deere
- Launch Alaska
- Lindsay Corporation
- Nebraska Angels
- Open Prairie Rural Opportunity Fund
- Pillen Family Farms
- Plug & Play
- Serra Ventures
- SJF Ventures
- TechStars: Farm to Fork