Featured image provided by Manna Media Inc.
From Nov. 12–18, 2023, six international companies spent the week in Binghamton and surrounding areas for the Soft Landing New York Fall 2023 Customer Discovery and Market Exploration Bootcamp. Bringing the group together in person for the first time allowed them to meet the mentors they’ve worked with virtually, as well as consult with New York State and local organizations who can help them establish their businesses here in the Southern Tier.
“The in-person market exploration bootcamp is perhaps the most valuable piece of the soft landing programming. All other program components – the workshops on the U.S. business and market environment, the mentorship coaching, the student research support – are organized online,” Elena Iankova, director of the Soft Landing New York program at the Koffman Incubator, said. “The bootcamp in Binghamton was the first time when the participants met outside of Zoom in person. They were able to form a bond from the very beginning once they met. The bootcamp gave them the opportunity to learn not just from the experts and the mentors, but also by sharing experiences among themselves.”
Attending companies were in clean energy or agritech industries and represented different cohorts of the Soft Landing New York program. They included:
- Bmate Consulting of Mexico from the fall 2022 cohort, is a business management and consulting firm currently focused within the oil and gas industry, with plans to transition focus to consult with companies in the clean energy industry.
- GH Solar of Brazil from the spring 2023 cohort, is a solar photovoltaic (PV) company providing PV solar farm project development to help lower the cost of electric bills.
- AiroFresh International of Australia from the fall 2023 cohort, is an agritech company addressing problems like mold, fungi, bacteria and viruses in agriculture-controlled cold storage and enclosed polluted areas.
- Corbiota of Germany from the fall 2023 cohort, looks to redefine industrial animal nutrition to improve health and welfare through feeding animals specialized live worms rich in complex microbiota.
- Starz Energies of Tunisia from the fall 2023 cohort, is a lithium-ion battery manufacturing company offering a longer-lasting and cost-effective battery, while also researching other materials for energy use.
- H2 Extra-Here of Italy applied to the upcoming spring 2024 cohort, uses proprietary technology to extract hemp with oil thus offering a cleaner process.
“The journey to Binghamton has been an introduction to the U.S. market and key players in it,” AiroFresh’s team of Jon Taylor, Josh Boundy and Mike Woodrow commented about the bootcamp. “While the Zoom workshops have been very informative, there is so much value in meeting the key stakeholders face-to-face.”
After an inaugural day of customer discovery workshops and meeting a panel of local economic development stakeholders on Monday, Nov. 13 at the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator, companies spent the following two days at the Grow-NY Food and Agriculture Summit. Hosted at the Holiday Inn in Downtown Binghamton, the Summit featured fireside chats on the food and agriculture industry in Upstate New York and an ag-tech startup pitch competition.
While in attendance, Soft Landing companies had the opportunity to network with potential funders, programs, and other food and agriculture or agritech companies already making an impact in Upstate New York and other places in the U.S. Some even hope to participate in the Summit and/or pitch competition next year.
“The Grow-NY Summit was a super illustrative experience since I could see ‘live’ all the lessons taught about how to prepare your value proposition,” Erick Saavedra from Bmate Consulting said. “The Summit provided me a structure to follow and now I have to adapt my company and value proposition in that way.”
Returning from the Summit to the Koffman Incubator on Thursday, Nov. 16, companies had the opportunity to tour the commercial food lab at SUNY Broome Community College’s Downtown Culinary Center and Binghamton University’s Center of Excellence S3IP Labs in the Innovative Technologies Complex (ITC). Then the companies prepared and presented individual customer discovery reflections based on the interactions they had over the week.
For their final full day of the bootcamp, companies traveled with Koffman Incubator staff and Soft Landing program leaders to Ithaca and Geneva, NY to meet with representatives of Cornell University and the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech.
For a company like Corbiota, this last day and the connections made there were vital to the possibility of moving their company to the Southern Tier of New York.
“Logistics and regulations are still challenges for us that we are working on. What really helps us is the connection to Cornell AgriTech,” Alexandra Schneider of Corbiota said. “We are following up with them to discuss how they could support the tests we have to run as soon as the worms arrive in the U.S.”
While many of the participants plan to continue pursuing moving their companies to the U.S. after performing this valuable market research and customer discovery through the bootcamp, Corbiota has active plans to move to Ithaca and have a presence at the Koffman Incubator in January 2024.
“The bootcamp was great to connect to potential customers in the region, potential cooperation partners in the region, as well as other companies from foreign countries,” Schneider continued. “We want to move to New York and start the U.S. company here… [and] we are happy that we made so many meaningful connections and really had a soft landing within [the] area.”
Learn more about the Soft Landing New York program at the Koffman Incubator or apply here to participate in a program cohort.