I started Agrilyst 2 years ago today. Here are some of the lessons I learned in our second year.
It’s all about the magic.
Farms are not just businesses; they’re a livelihood. If a farm doesn’t reach profitability, it affects the farmer’s ability to pay their rent just as much as their ability to make a loan payment. When a farmer invests in technology, the ROI must be obvious to them, right away. A farmer won’t invest in something that takes them a significant amount of time to learn or use, isn’t reliable, or costs more than its clear value. We made the choice to spend the better part of our second year focused on building software our farmers don’t only need, but that they also love. We show farms ways they can improve profitability and de-risk operations so they can have the confidence they’re not going to miss a loan payment or a rent check ever again. That’s our magic.
Magic takes time.
Creating a product that customers can’t get enough of is not easy. It takes time to build something great. For our software, it meant finding farmers who were willing to use the software in its early days and test with us. It meant finding farmers who had the time to contribute feedback on existing functionality and wish lists for future functionality. It also meant sacrificing real revenue growth until we created magic for our customers.
Igniting the fire.
Once we created a culture of love for Agrilyst, we turned our focus to growth. This is our go to market piece. It’s important to note that while we took time to get our product right before selling, I don’t advocate for building a product in a vacuum. Test your product. Prototype. Build a beta and have customers pay for the beta. By doing that, we were able to get to a customer base who loved the product and also had similar qualities. Our early customers were all smaller commercial indoor farms (greenhouses and vertical farms) leafy greens and herbs growers who were looking for a way to increase farm efficiency. Now that we have a fire, our job is to pour gasoline on it.
Time is valuable, but not sellable.
I originally believed the magic of our product would be how much time it was going to save farmers. It was a problem I had when I worked on a farm and it was something I knew I’d pay for. I underestimated the pain of learning new software (even if the UI is the most enjoyable and straightforward). The underlying problem we’re solving isn’t that it takes too long to enter data. That’s just a symptom. The problem is managing a low-margin operation and staying above the profitability line. Farmers use our system to bring consistency to their operations, replacing operational chaos. They use Agrilyst to track metrics across their full operation, which couldn’t be done before. They use our software to make sure they’re optimizing sub-optimal processes. Growers pay for Agrilyst for these reasons; the time they save is just an added benefit.
Don’t overthink economics.
This one comes from my father, the CPA of the family. Every time we get together (or more often, when I get a phone call during a commute to catch up), my father asks me one question: “so are you making money yet?” As a data nerd, I almost always want to whip out our latest metrics dashboard. But that’s not what he’s asking. He wants to know when we’ll be cashflow positive. I was ecstatic the first time I could say we had revenue. I was more ecstatic when we crossed the $50k in ARR mark. I was even more ecstatic when we saw MoM growth start to grow. 2017 is our year of scaling sales. I’m looking forward to the dinner where I can say: we’re making money.
- Create magic for your customers.
- Use the magic to build love for your product.
- Use that love to scale sales (network effect).
- At the end of the day: make money.
Thank you to our customers (especially our earliest supporters) for trusting us, our investors for believing in us, and Team Agrilyst for always building magic. The past two years have been a wild ride; I can’t wait for the next two, and many more after that. Happy birthday, Agrilyst.