Combine News

A Look Back: 2019 NMotion gBeta Food & Ag Cohort

A Look Back: 2019 NMotion gBeta Food & Ag Cohort

Local startup accelerator NMotion recently announced an expanded partnership that includes the launch of the NMotion Accelerator Studio and the continuation of the gBETA Lincoln pre-accelerator program.

The NMotion Accelerator Studio is currently seeking applications from individuals and teams and ultimately will select five of them to each build a startup from scratch. Selected participants each will receive $100,000 in investment capital and will work closely with NMotion and gener8tor staff to build, design and launch new products or services over the course of 16 weeks. Local investors in this new model include Ameritas, Assurity, Invest Nebraska, Greater Lincoln Chamber Foundation, Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development, Nebraska Angels, Nelnet, Union Bank & Trust, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

In 2019 NMotion operated three gBeta pre-accelerator cohorts throughout the year. One was a food and ag focused cohort in the Combine Incubator. Almost a year has passed since the cohort concluded and the five alumni companies continue moving forward with their respective businesses and point to NMotion participation as a key driver. “We were pretty early on in our concept development but it forced us to get clarity on what our marketing and go-to-market strategy would look like in the future” said Jeff Tezak, Founder of Tiiga. The baobab electrolyte drink mix successfully completed a $10,000 kick starter campaign following the pre-accelerator and has begun to expand commercial and whole sale partnerships. Tezak noted that golf courses have shown strong willingness to purchase the product.

The NMotion Food and Ag Cohort companies were some of the first companies to work out of the Combine Incubator at Nebraska Innovation Campus. “Working in the same physical space alongside similar early stage companies was a huge help to us as we were all working through the same types of problems” said JC Smith of Croptech Solutions. Croptech continues to sell its agronomic software services directly to farmers and in 2020 formalized a partnership with the agtech giant Farmers Business Network. “NMotion really forced us to define who was responsible for what in the company, following the program we hired a new employee who is now responsible for over 10,000 acres”.

At the December 2019 conclusion of the program no one could have predicted what would incur in the coming months and how a worldwide pandemic would impact businesses large and small across the country. Two NMotion gBeta participants particularly noted that their experience in the program played a key role in preparing them for handling 2020. Ensign Beverage, a Kombucha business from Hastings had to compensate for the lower demand for kegs at bars and restaurants. “Our time in NMotion played a critical role in the preparation of our canned line; which turned out to be very timely as our rollout to grocery stores in the region was instrumental in keeping sales up through the pandemic” said owner Jesse Hoeft. Jeff Jirovec, Founder of Grow with the Flow Aquaponics said that experimenting with online ordering and digital channels proved to be invaluable as consumer behavior changed. “At one point around Mothers Day we had to shut down our ordering form as demand had built up so much” said Jirovec. The aquaponic operation grows plants, produce, herbs, floral design and wholesale cut flowers.

The cohort was the first of its kind to have an industry focus. The pre-accelerator program opened doors for its participants to be involved with following completion. One final participant, Dynamic Motion, continues to be active in the Combine Incubator program and won $25,000 at the Farm Credit Services of America Innovation Pitch Competition. Dynamic Motion designs and manufactures self-driving robots for automatic detection and safe disposal of dead chickens on farms.

To learn more about the upcoming NMotion program and apply, go to: www.nmotion.co/accelerator-studio.