Q&A with Grow-NY Mentor Travis Millman

Headshot of Travis Millman

Q&A with Grow-NY Mentor Travis Millman

Each year, the 20 Grow-NY finalists benefit from access to resources and connections during the competition’s Business Development phase, which includes 1:1 guidance from an assigned mentor who will help them plan how to maximize their impact in the region’s burgeoning food and agriculture landscape. We sat down with new mentor Travis Millman to discuss his experience, insight, and advice about entrepreneurship in the food and ag industry. 

Travis Millman is a long-time entrepreneur with a passion for new technology. Most recently, he spent a year and a half as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Colgate University, where he was deeply immersed in entrepreneur development and education. With experience at Audible, Sony, and Pearson, he brings broad industry expertise to help Grow-NY mentees succeed. Although new to the agricultural sector, Millman offers a rich range of functional skills, including business development, strategic partnerships, the definition and the execution of win-win relationships that he says he hopes to “cross-pollinate” with the startup participants in Grow-NY. He says Grow-NY is particularly interesting to him because it aligns with his goal of improving the planet, and is an opportunity to unite startups’ strategy and vision to connect to an exciting and unknown future. 

Question: You’ve had your hands in a lot of different industries through entrepreneurship – What draws you a food and agriculture innovation competition? 

The idea of selectively choosing promising teams, pairing them with mentors, giving them a clear charter for developing their businesses for reaching key milestones and preparing them to secure investment to be able to take the businesses to the next level feels like a really lovely combination of an opportunity to apply the existing skills and experience I have to an initiative that feels really important and critical to the economic development of the region. It’s clear that application of AgTech in this part of the world is going to be essential to achieving a really sustainable, high quality of life for people who live in the area. As a techie and as someone who has been applying technology to solve problems my entire career, it seems to me that there are so many opportunities for applying technology cleverly to make things more effective, more efficient, more humane.  

 Question: How do you think food and ag startups benefit from launching within the Grow-NY region? 

New York does an amazing job of creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and for businesses of all stripes. There’s been a sustained effort to try to drive more economic development in the upstate region. One of the things I admire about Grow-NY as an initiative is that it’s built on the primary business of the region. That feels authentic and powerful. 

 Question: What should food and ag startups keep in mind as they begin to grow? 

While I’m no expert in AgTech, as a voracious reader, and as someone who’s deeply concerned with climate issues, I feel that in the whole, our nation’s agricultural system is astonishingly out of balance when it comes to sustainability, issues of human and animal health, climate mitigation, and ultimately producing delightful, delicious, and good-for-you food. It’s a chance to encourage the industry to move in this kind of direction. I would love to see New York State become a true leader in sustainable agriculture that uses technology and what we know about environmental science and sustainability to be a posterchild for other parts of the world. 

 Question: What are you most excited about for mentoring a Grow-NY finalist this year? 

It’s my thrill and my honor to work with brilliant entrepreneurs with experience in AgTech and a vision for what they want to achieve. One of my favorite moments working with startups is that moment when people come together and realize ‘oh my God, we can do something we never thought was possible before and we see a new path into the future.’ It’s my fond hope that I’ll work with a team this cycle from the summer into the fall that achieves several of those moments. 

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