Rabobank, a global financial services company operating in over 40 countries, has teamed up with San Francisco tech campus RocketSpace to launch a new accelerator called Terra, which will focus exclusively on food and agtech startups.
Combining RocketSpace’s global tech ecosystem and startup network with Rabobank’s food and agribusiness leadership and experience, Terra’s unique model and call for startups will be announced at Rabobank’s FoodBytes! San Francisco event today.
Terra aims to bring together the industry’s most disruptive startups and progressive corporations to spark change in the food production system. The accelerator was created as a response to what the partners see as a powerful industry shift in the number of food- and farm-focused startups while also taking a few new approaches to some of the more traditional aspects of an accelerator program.
During the eight-week curriculum led by industry experts, startups will focus on sharpening their product and pitch before the eight-week product validation phase. The product validation phase will help startups move past a proof of concept to a commercially viable product, leading up to the final demo day in January 2017.
Rabobank will be joined by a group of presently undisclosed partners from the food and agriculture sectors who will collaborate with startups on real-life product testing and go-to-market solutions.
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Fostering more collaboration and innovation between corporations and startups is a key aspect of the platform. One of the program’s main goals is to immerse participants in the full innovation process from beginning to end so that the program leaders and collaborators can see the products evolve first-hand and provide real-time feedback.
“Sure, companies can just acquire startups, but with Terra, the approach is entirely different,” Manuel Gonzalez, managing director and head of Rabobank North America Wholesale’s San Francisco office, tells AgFunderNews via email. “This platform was designed to attract the best of the best in the food and ag tech space and to allow potential investors to spend time with these companies, getting to know them and help them before making any investment decisions. There will be a process that will allow potential investors behind the scenes access to these companies that generally isn’t afforded in other accelerators. There’s much more intimacy involved in this process.”
According to Gonzalez, the team has not finalized the selection criteria for its applicants, but its looking to bring on companies representing the entire value chain.
“From farm to fork,” he says. “We’ll be looking for companies that already have a first round of funding, have a good product concept, and which are a bit farther along in their development process.”
Selected startups will have the opportunity to work from RocketSpace’s tech campus in downtown San Francisco, among its community of more than 150 startup members. Founded in 2011, RocketSpace offers services to its members, which include entrepreneurs, startups, and corporate innovation professionals, including programming, consulting, events, and office-as-a-service. Some of its alumna include Uber, Spotify, Practice Fusion, and Leap Motion. It has also provided corporate innovation services to clients like Converse, Royal Bank of Scotland Pfizer, Samsung, and ABinBev.
“Rather than limit innovation to within their four walls, forward-thinking brands are building an ecosystem of collaborators—big and small,” said Duncan Logan, founder and CEO of RocketSpace, in a recent press release. “It’ll be fascinating to see this diverse group come together and build real-life solutions to address tomorrow’s food and agriculture needs.”
KitchenTown, a food startup incubator and commercial production facility just outside San Francisco in San Mateo, CA, will serve as the program’s official test kitchen.
And unlike many other accelerators, Terra’s startups are not required to give up equity or pay for admission to join the program.
The number of accelerators, incubators, and other programs dedicated exclusively to food and agtech startups is climbing. As Rabobank noted in a recent May 2016 report, this new crop of startup vehicles are hoping to help small companies with big ideas capture a slice of the market share pie from more established industry players.
As the food and agtech startup ecosystem continues to develop, broaden, and enrich itself give major trends could have a noticeable impact on the industry, according to the report. Reducing investment risks, provide external R&D for large-scale companies, cultivate a new division of labor, lower barriers to entry, and encourage investment at the Series A level.
“Terra will have a huge flow of investors and potential investment through demo days, investors coming through the office to meet them, etc.,” explains Gonzalez. “RocketSpace already has a huge flow of capital coming into their platform daily and that—combined with the access and networking benefits afforded by the program—will truly set this accelerator apart from the rest.”