An Opportunity to Connect: Ed Tech, The Future of Work, Startups and Investors Unite

gener8tor’s OnRamp Education & Workforce Innovation event has gone virtual which offers startups the free opportunity to pitch corporate venture capital & innovation execs, VCs and accelerators. To register to pitch you must submit by June 21st. We sat down with the Danica Nilsestuen, the Director of the OnRamp Education & Workforce Innovation Conference, to learn more about the opportunity.

What is gener8tor and what’s your mission?

gener8tor’s mission is to be the best partner for a community to invest in its best and brightest. gener8tor’s turnkey platform for the creative economy connects startup founders, musicians, artists, investors, universities, and corporations. The gener8tor platform includes pre-accelerators, accelerators, corporate programming, conferences, and fellowships.

Since our founding in 2012, our core work has been running startup accelerator programs via a venture capital fund model. In parallel, we started working with corporations around establishing and growing their corporate venture capital and innovation practices (Project North). Where these two threads converged to create OnRamp (@OnRampEdu) is that, when queried, startups are mostly looking for revenue and customers, and corporations are looking for new startups and technologies. OnRamp brings these groups together for an afternoon of pitching and dealmaking.

What is the OnRamp Conference Series all about?

gener8tor started the OnRamp Conference Series in 2013 with the hope of giving entrepreneurs access to high-level corporate leaders and investors at various stages in their growth cycle. It soon evolved to focus on specific verticals across multiple events with a core focus around one-on-one pitch sessions between startups and corporate venture capital and innovation executives, VCs and accelerators. Historically, OnRamp’s trademark was hosting these 1-day events at sports stadiums with each participating organization getting their own suite or luxury box to take meetings with startups. In light of COVID-19, we’ve pivoted OnRamp to an entirely virtual format. The silver lining is that we’re able to accommodate more participating organizations and more startups.

The core component of the OnRamp Education & Workforce Innovation Conference is our “Virtual Startup Track” – curated, one-on-one pitch sessions between selected startups and corporate venture capital & innovation executives, VCs and accelerators to discuss potential customer relationships, strategic partnerships and, if appropriate, investment opportunities.

Why did you decide to launch OnRamp Education & Workforce Innovation in 2020?

Since starting the OnRamp Conference Series in 2013, we’ve hosted vertical events in the industries of Insurance, Retail, Healthcare, Manufacturing, and Agriculture. When expanding to new verticals we look for a confluence of significant growth in industry CVC (corporate venture capital) activity and growth of startups innovating in the space. EdTech and the Future of Work verticals have really popped in recent years, and we wanted to create a free forum for startups to connect with these industry corporations. In addition, we forged a relationship with ECMC Group and ECMC Foundation who are leaders in the education vertical and want to grow the Midwest’s presence as the epicenter of education and workforce innovation.

How does education and workforce innovation compare to the other verticals you serve?

It’s HUGE! This is such a broad industry encompassing edtech, workforce development, future of work, training, e-learning, gaming, immersive technologies, and human resource technology. The diversity of participating organizations we have at this 2020 OnRamp Conference includes everyone from ECMC Group to SEI Ventures to American Family Insurance to GSV Ventures to Bloomberg BETA to Chloe Capital.

COVID-19 clearly scuppered plans for a physical event, but you’re continuing with a virtual edition. How will it differ from the planned event?

Our team really wanted to focus on pivoting with a purpose, to provide value to the industry, especially now during this uneasy time. We decided to host our ‘Startup Track’ programming virtually to help seed valuable relationships that could lead to investments or partnerships. The upside is we will be accommodating more startups, corporations, and investors. The downside is that we will not be having a full-day of conference programming (speakers, panels, demos, exhibitors) but rather a truncated morning Plenary Session featuring a Keynote from Thomas C. Murray, author of Personal & Authentic and Jimmy Casas, author of Culturize. The morning Plenary Session will be followed by a full-day “Virtual Startup Track.”

How many startups have applied to pitch so far? Are you still accepting applications?

The “Virtual Startup Track” application deadline is June 21. Startups can learn more and apply here:

We already have 250 startup applicants and anticipate 300+.

Who are the corporations and investors that startups have the opportunity to meet?

Dozens of participating organizations will be taking one-on-one pitch meetings with startups. The full list can be found here, and includes:

For more, see:

This post is sponsored by gener8tor. If you’d like to learn more about our policies and practices regarding sponsored content, please email Jessica Slusser.

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Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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