Yield Lab is the only agriculture technology dedicated fund that guarantees funding and provides business development services.
Name of Accelerator: The Yield Lab
Principal: Matt Plummer
Program Manager: Connie Bowen
This article is part of our Startup Accelerator Spotlight featuring accelerators from around the world. We hope these spotlights will assist the entrepreneur should they consider attending an accelerator program.
In two sentences or less, tell us about your accelerator and its objectives.
The Yield Lab invests in agriculture technologies that will sustainably increase the world food supply or reduce the inputs from farm to fork.
Why is your accelerator program unique? Please describe the benefits of participation in your program.
I would start off with the fact that we are agriculture. There are a handful of agriculture “accelerators” out there with their own unique models developed off of their geographic proximity to certain resources or strategic interest, but the Yield Lab is the only agriculture technology dedicated fund that guarantees funding and provides business development services. We are also a bit more graduated than most accelerators. We spend most of our time developing customers, collaborators and investors for our portfolio companies and less time on how to put together a slide deck.
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What is the most difficult part of working with startups?
Finding Time. Startups tend to get lost in the chaos and are sniffing out every opportunity they can find. Having them come to St. Louis every month puts stress on their schedule, but we attempt to alleviate that through high quality, value creating programming.
What do you enjoy the most? What do you find most appealing about working with entrepreneurial startups?
The challenge of the nature of agriculture and the business and life cycles. There is no enter button on a pig or on a corn stalk. Plants and animals need time to grow. The Yield Lab and our companies face an industry at the mercy of time and seasons to optimize technologies and generate customer adoption. That said, this challenge allows for the Yield Lab and our portfolio companies to “succeed slowly”. That is we are in a position to meticulously track and understand our companies’ needs, their customer’s needs and how we can deliver superior programming or value to our portfolio companies and their customers.
Tell us about your success stories. Which are the most interesting companies to have participated in your program?
To date, our portfolio companies have raised $15M in follow on capital since joining our program. Nearly every company has left our program with a customer or pilot project, some companies (S4 and Holganix) have even taken note of the resources available to agricultural startups in St.Louis/Midwest and have expanded and opened up offices in St. Louis. One of our companies services the St. Louis Cardinals, we have another company doing business in Europe and yet another company working to fuel U.S. Naval fleets in Hawaii.
Most recently, the Yield Lab ourselves have opened up another accelerator fund in Galway, Ireland. An analysis of the hundreds of companies that come through our deal pipeline showed that roughly 75% of all companies were from North America, but our research indicates there are plenty of AgTech startups in all corners of the globe and we wanted to increase the value to ourselves and our investors by opening an office in Europe to leverage these technologies.
What are the three most important factors startup entrepreneurs should consider when contemplating attending an accelerator?
- What can the accelerator provide from a non-capital investment standpoint? How can the skillsets of their Managing Directors and team provide a value add to our development?
- What have been the experiences of prior portfolio companies that have completed an accelerator program?
- Does the accelerator invest capital and have skin in the game and my companies’ future? Do they have incredibly large cohorts where my company needs will be lost in the crowd or is it a more personal atmosphere?
What else would you like to share?
The Yield Lab program itself is unlike most. As mentioned, due to the nature of agriculture, our program is set up over a 9 month period of time to take into account growing seasons. The companies meet in St. Louis for 2 days every month for 2 full days of programming. One of the positive externalities of this is the companies have time to genuinely and thoughtfully follow up on each lead introduced to them by the Yield Lab.
Second, we are able to survey the companies every month and have discussions at our partner meetings to understand the changing needs of our portfolio. This allows us to be flexible and tailor our programing to be as current and sensitive to our portfolio’s needs as we can.
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