Jonathan Hua

Ag Technology and the Importance of Event Networking

A member of the agriculture industry for only two years, Jonathan Hua started and failed two businesses before going back to business school with a focus on Capitalist Venture. There he realized he wanted to be an investor in the Silicon Valley but, unsure of how to get his foot in the door, he took a position for a non-profit consultation program. There they tasked him with the project of building an ag tech conference and, in doing so, he became the master of event management and event networking. Through the process of that internship, he fell in love with the agricultural industry and has led to his new position as the Thrive Accelerator Manager for SVG Ventures.

What is an Accelerator Program?

“We invest in companies that are advancing the technologies in agriculture,” says Jonathan. They thoroughly enjoy working with startups across the entire chain, from the input of seeds and genomes all the way through production, manufacturing and even retail. Their focus is on anything to advance food in agriculture.

Utilizing Events for Networking

While buying a ticket to Silicon Valley may sound like a great idea for someone who aspires to work there – the first task is to understand the infrastructure of technology in the area and creating authentic relationships with those currently working in AgTech in Silicon Valley. 

“Everything that has happened in the industry has been a result of someone that I know,” says Jonathan. By building events in the area, he was able to build a subsequent community and relationships within that community. “In that role, I was able to figure out who was who, develop deep friendships with people, and bring delegations and host meetups & start up pitch events, start conferences and get as many people possible into one area to start dialogue.” 

Building an Event

Building an event can also build a community when done correctly. Within that community, individuals can create network connections and form authentic relationships that can grow the sphere of dialogue and industry knowledge exchange. 

Goals When Running Events: 

  • Share insights
  • Audience members can engage and ask questions
  • Engage with a network of people in the area

Ways that you can use events to be a necessary part of establishing your credibility in your industry: 

  • Put effort into going to events that are pertinent to your industry
  • Build events that you would want to be a part of 
  • Be a part of events as a speaker, facilitator, etc. 

Four simple steps to make the most gains for your network while at an event: 

 

  • Are you going to an event that won’t help you? First and foremost, you must have a good reason to go to the event. If you can’t think of one, then it’s probably not the right event for you. 

 

  • Understand what the event is about. Understand who you want to meet and how you are going to meet them before you even sign up for the event. 
  • Check the speaker line up online prior to the event. Event planners will always put the speakers up on the website prior to the event. Familiarize yourself with those speakers, read their work, and understand the topics that they are passionate about. 
  • Recognize key individuals on panels or speaking. Find out what you have to offer that key individual in exchange for a business relationship with them. 

 

 

How to connect with an event speaker for business or investment purposes: 

 

  • Two-way street. Understand that it is not a one-way street of you asking, you must have something that you can give in exchange. 

 

  • Develop a baseline. In the first couple of meetings, develop a baseline relationship with that individual. 
  • Do not ask for a point blank meeting. This is imperative! Build the baseline from step 2, do not just ask them to invest in your business from the initial conversation. Discuss what you liked about their panel and talk – make them want to have another conversation with you! 

 

 

Don’t be an Aggressive Networker

“I have to talk to this many people” or “I need to broach this many subjects,” are samples of the  types of benchmarks that those nervous about networking at events set for themselves. While it is important to have a conversation with many event attendees, it’s also important that you don’t approach someone aggressively in your networking game plan, causing them to back up and become standoffish. 

Develop questions and talking points prior to the event that are both general enough that you can talk to multiple people and prolong conversation, but not so general that you can become suspect to being aloof. Start a conversation with the person and get comfortable. Quality connections are more important than the quantity of connections that you make. 

Example of Great Networking

Prior to Jonathan’s attendance at the Forbes AgTech event, he had numerous people reach out on LinkedIn about the content that he had blogged about or written in the past. They asked if they could have a couple minutes of his time at the event while they were both there. Jonathan says that that is a fantastic way of making an introduction with a speaker or panel member of an event you are attending because: 

If you are interested in learning more about AgTech, investing, accelerator programs or networking at events, you can reach out to Jonathan on LinkedIn or his email jonathan.hua@svgventures.com

Make sure to subscribe to the AgGrad YouTube Channel to learn more about career opportunities in agriculture and follow along on the special “30 Under 30 in Agriculture” series!

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Katie Schrock
katie.schrock@thatwesternlife.com
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