AgTech Mentor Network
The Tennessee AgTech Mentor Network is the latest addition to the thriving ecosystem focused on supporting agtech startups and companies in Tennessee. The goal of the network is to create a meaningful feedback loop for startups engaging industry veterans, startup experts, and farmers that will lead to additional investment and create more viable companies right here in Tennessee. With support from LaunchTN, the network will focus on supporting new entrepreneurs in the agtech space as well as startups led by seasoned entrepreneurs who are new to the agriculture industry. Through its annual bootcamps, KEC and AgLaunch have worked with multiple Tennessee teams focused on building successful companies in agriculture. We are looking to build on that experience by developing a network of mentors and farmers that will work with Tennessee agtech startups to bring their product or service to market.
The mentor network will utilize a structured, stage-gate process involving panel presentations and one-on-one mentoring sessions that address specific topics in the business-planning process. After completing the program, startups will have an investable pitch deck, a solid business plan, and a strategy to gain market share. These tools will position Tennessee’s entrepreneurs to raise capital, request other funds like SBIR grants, and scale their company.
Participating companies and mentors will also have access to networking opportunities, industry events, and entrepreneurial resources through the KEC, AgLaunch, and Launch Tennessee partnership. At this time, the network will meet virtually with mentors when in-person sessions are not possible.
The application and pre-acceptance interview process is streamlined for the entrepreneur and mentors. Limited mentoring led by the program director happens in this phase focused on key steps to help prepare the company to enter the program.
INTAKE & EVALUATION
The entrepreneur gains immediate feedback from a panel of seasoned agtech industry mentors on the general business plan and strategy. In this phase, the company is evaluated for readiness to enter the program completely or remain in a “pre-intake” phase. If accepted into the program, an EIR (Entrepreneur in Residence) and a team of mentors are assigned to the company.
The entrepreneur is mentored in preparation to present their pitch to a panel of industry marketing experts that focuses on the company’s business strategy and market analysis. The focus will be on market segmentation, competitive analysis, differentiation and developing or refining a go-to-market strategy.
The entrepreneur is mentored in preparation to present their pitch to a panel of industry financial experts that focus on the company’s economics. The focus will be on pro forma profit and loss, funding needed and developing a strategy to secure funding.
The complete business model and pitch are refined in light of all feedback received
FINAL PANEL + GRADUATION
A formal presentation is given to a panel of mentors, including other strategic partners, customers, investors and industry experts. After completing the program, startups have an investable pitch, a rock-solid business model and a plan to develop and scale their company. These tools will position Tennessee’s agtech entrepreneurs to raise private-sector capital, seek funding from SBIRs and other grant opportunities, and grow their technologies.
Is Your Company a Fit for the TN AgTech Mentor Network?
Before applying for our program, the Tennessee-based entrepreneur should have free and clear access to the technology’s intellectual property. The entrepreneur should also be prepared to address and refine the following key items →
- Rough overview of a business plan
- Rough market analysis
- Financial model
- Company slide deck
- Executive summary
Interested in Being a Mentor?
There are three ways to become involved in the statewide network as a mentor. Mentors can join as Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR), Domain Experts, or participate as a review panel member. EIRs and Domain Experts are the lifeblood of the network.
EIRs are CEOs or C-level executives with expertise in agtech, marketing and finance, as well as raising capital. EIRs will commit about three to five hours per week to the program, which can last six to 12 months, but is dependent on your time and the company’s needs. They will lead a team of mentors that guide the entrepreneur through all phases of the program, including the review panels leading up
to the final panel presentation.
Domain Experts have senior expertise in specific areas such as marketing, finance, regulatory, reimbursement, clinical, operations or other specialized areas. The commitment can range from one to four hours per week at various times over a three to nine month period to participate on mentor teams. They will advise entrepreneurs and attend review panels regarding their domain expertise.
Panelists participate as subject matter experts in one or more of the key 90-minute panel presentations. They critique the company presentation and provide frank feedback on the content and readiness for the next phase of mentoring. In exchange for sharing their time and knowledge, EIRs, Domain Experts, and Panelists will plug into a vibrant entrepreneurial community, give back to the industry, have a first look at future investment opportunities and even position themselves for a possible board seat with the company.