Techstars: Sarah Bain On The Farm To Fork Accelerator And Entrepreneurship

Techstars: Sarah Bain On The Farm To Fork Accelerator And Entrepreneurship

Techstars is an accelerator firm that has invested in over 3,700 early-stage startups. As one of the largest pre-seed investors in the world, the firm’s portfolio is as diversified as their 8,600 founders are unique – ranging from HealthTech and FinTech to Web3 and CleanTech, from Miami and Silicon Valley to Lagos and London. The firm supports many of the world’s best entrepreneurs with access to capital, mentoring, hiring talent, finding customers, setting up infrastructure, etc. Pulse 2.0 interviewed Techstars Managing Director Sarah Bain – who is overseeing the national accelerator programs in the Minneapolis area, which include selecting, mentoring, incubating, and assisting with funding for over 24 startups in the Techstars ecosystem. And this also includes the Minnesota Twins accelerator program, which amplifies sports technology startups, and the Farm to Fork Accelerator, which is aimed at food technology.

Sarah Bain’s Background

Bain has been at Techstars for eight years. And Bain said:

“Prior to my current role as Managing Director, I held a variety of different positions, including Program Director, Senior Investment Manager, and Investment Principal. I’ve had hands-on experience with multiple programs in my roles and as an Investment Manager, I’ve had the opportunity to manage a diverse portfolio of 150 alumni with a market cap of $3.4 billion.”

“I actually started my career in the HR space and spent a couple of years at Target. I knew I wanted to make a change, so I shifted immediately to joining Quirky, a high-growth venture-backed startup. My team was responsible for sourcing invention ideas and bringing them to the company to determine if we were going to turn them into real products. I saw high highs and low lows with that company, which allowed me to gain a great deal of empathy and insight into the startup world.”

Joining Techstars

What attracted you to Techstars? Bain shared:

“The people. I’m very grateful to be working with some of the people I met when I first started. To this day, they are some of my closest confidants and mentors. But what makes my job extra special is having the opportunity to work with entrepreneurs. They have a  passion, drive, and energy that’s incredibly contagious. Nobody can enact change faster than entrepreneurs – I’ve seen it firsthand through my years at Techstars and the programs I’ve been part of.”

Formation Of The Farm to Fork Accelerator

Farm to Fork 2023 Accelerator Class

How did the idea for The Farm to Fork Accelerator come together? Bain reflected:

“In 2016, Techstars started to become interested in the food system and, more specifically, how to modernize it.  We have enterprise farms, food manufacturers, and food distributors such as Ecolab, Cargill, Target, General Mills, and Hormel, all headquartered in Minnesota, making it the perfect place for the Farm to Fork Accelerator.”

Challenges Faced

What are some of the challenges you face in your day-to-day and has the current macroeconomic climate had an effect? Bain acknowledged:

“There’s no doubt that the macroeconomic climate has impacted entrepreneurs. Fundraising has slowed down. In a time like this, an accelerator like Techstars is a good thing to do. It is dedicated investment, resources, and a network that supports its portfolio. It’s become even more important to ensure our companies are planning intelligently and have adequate cash in the bank. They need to have even more runway than before, and they need to be very aware of how to cut costs effectively.”

Tip About Time Management

Do you have any tips for balancing your time, as you have experience in working closely with hundreds of startups and entrepreneurs? Bain replied:

“Focus and set goals – even if they are small. I am a very task and goal-oriented person, and I’ve found that it’s served me well. I make to-do lists and always ensure that I have goals set.”

Investment Success Stories

Would you like to share any specific investment success stories? Bain pointed out:

“There’s something incredible about seeing a founder experience big wins and success – especially if they are someone you work closely with. There is no better feeling than seeing the company you work for succeed. A company from our portfolio was just acquired this week for a sizable amount. It’s still confidential, so I can’t say much, but seeing all of their hard work having such a positive outcome is incredibly exciting.”

AUM And Other Metrics

After asking Bain about assets under management and other notable metrics, she revealed:

“One of the great things about Techstars Farm to Fork is that we are geo-agnostic, which allows us to attract the best talent from all over the world. Our portfolio is made up of companies from nine different countries, and 50% of them identify as underrepresented groups. The portfolio has also raised a total of  $154 million with a market cap of $379 million.”

Differentiation From Other Accelerators

What differentiates Techstars from other accelerators? Bain affirmed:

“We are the largest early-stage investor in the world and have an incredible network. Our network of mentors, investors, partners, and other entrepreneurs are crucial in helping our companies succeed and they are what make our programs truly unique.”

Additional Thoughts

Any other topics you would like to discuss? Bain concluded:

“My advice to entrepreneurs would be to get it out there and start testing and iterating on your idea or products. You truly won’t know how your product will perform if you don’t test your product. You have to see what your customers want, what they like, and what they don’t like. It doesn’t have to be perfect before you get in front of people. It’s never going to be perfect.”

This content was originally published here.