By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Each of the participating entrepreneurs had nothing but positive comments to say about their experience last week during the third edition of the “AgLaunch Bootcamp.”
Hosted by Memphis-based AgLaunch and the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, the bootcamp was an intense educational and awareness experience that began Monday with an opening reception at Blühen Botanicals and concluded Friday with a lunch and series of brief pitches at the University of Tennessee.
The four participating entrepreneurs and their companies are Mat Halter, Sustainable Fermentation Systems; Cyd Hamilton, Better Nature; Kevin Anderson, Foresight Chemistry; and DeeAnn Dean, Flow & Barrow. Click here to read a brief summary about each start-up.
Featured speaker for Friday’s finale was Karen LeVert, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ag TechInventures (AgTi). She also serves on the AgLaunch Board of Directors.
LeVert, pictured here with AgLaunch’s Pete Nelson, founded her organization as an innovation model to launch what she described as “revolutionary agtech.” She described AgTi as a private technology transfer sitting outside the university.
“We look for technologies (from) industry, universities, scientists, inventors and venture capital and put a team around it,” LeVert told the attendees at Friday’s luncheon. “We build companies with the goal of someone eventually buying them. We never start anything unless someone (i.e., corporation) has an interest.”
On its webpage, AgTi describes its approach this way: “AgTi shares the information on promising technologies with our industry partners and uses their feedback to determine which technologies to spin off into new companies, to address the unmet needs of the agricultural industry. AgTi leads the initial management team and supplements the scientific team by providing expertise in both business and technology developments. AgTi helps secure non-dilutive financing and angel and venture financing for technology and company development.”
Noting that AgTi has relationships with more than 100 universities and companies in multiple states, LeVert described four of AgTi’s portfolio companies. They were the first four highlighted on this webpage.
During her presentation, the CEO reiterated a number of important points that every entrepreneur should always embrace.
“Rule #1 is to make sure there’s a problem you are solving,” LeVert said. That admonition was followed by the importance of knowing existing or potential customers, determining willingness to pay for a product, assessing the ability to build a team that complements a founder and has the same values, understanding the fundraising likelihood, and recruiting strong Boards of Directors and Advisory Boards.
LeVert also emphasized the importance of not fearing failure. “It’s critical to fail,” she told attendees, reminding them that they can win and learn from a failure.