What we learned at Hatch — the world’s first aquaculture accelerator

For the last three months, our team was one of eight companies that participated in Hatch’s first cohort. As a city that lives and breathes aquaculture, we knew that moving our business to Bergen, Norway, was going to be a great opportunity, but little did we know how much we would really learn. While we’ve documented a lot of our journey along the way, I now want to reflect on the entire program and what the cohort, the mentors, and the Hatch team have meant to us.

Joining Hatch was an opportunity for us to embed ourselves directly into the aquaculture community, to receive coaching from people who have built a business from the ground up, and to discover something new about ourselves.

The power of a community:

Patrick Riley, the CEO of GAN (Global Accelerator Network), was one of the first mentors who visited our cohort. He has been involved with with accelerators for a long time, and if there’s anyone who knows the value of community-driven innovation, it’s him. He has written about why accelerators work, and he advised our cohort to stay authentic, to be passionate about the problem, and to always remain mission-oriented. We found this advice extremely important when it came to embedding ourselves within the Bergen community which sits at the center of where aquaculture innovation is happening. Its where the Norwegian Seafood Innovation Cluster is located, and no matter where you go in Bergen, you can always hear someone talking about fish. John and I couldn’t have thought of a place more suited than Bergen, Norway, for cultivating our mission to use the power of data as a means to better understand the oceans.

We took Pat’s advice and tried to meet anyone who would be willing to talk about fish. We spoke with researchers, industry veterans, policy makers, and other startups. We heard their stories, and the reasoning behind their work. These conversations eventually led to our desire to dig deeper into how salmon farming has been ingrained into the culture of Norway. We decided to camp up the coast and visit farmers along the way. In Norway, there’s a free land use policy that allows travelers to camp basically anywhere, and we wrote about our trip in the post — What Salmon Means to Norway. On our trip, the one consistent message we heard, directly from the people who started the industry, was that the large majority want to see the industry grow, and grow in a way that remains in harmony with our oceans and coasts.

Coaching from the people who have seen it all:

I’ve been learning to play golf for the last few years, and what consistently surprises me is how small adjustments can make a big difference. Oftentimes I have found myself trying different stances, grips, and swings as featured in books, magazines, and even on Youtube. However, while those resources have helped me understand the game, I found that having a coach who can identify the right adjustments had the greatest impact on my ability.

I believe that the support needed when building a company isn’t much different. There are so many different areas to work on that it is hard to regularly identify the most pressing ones. Bill Liao, partner at the venture capital firm SOSV, is someone who has seen the journey of many companies and served as one of our coaches and mentors during our time with Hatch. He was quickly able to determine exactly what we needed to work on. What he said wasn’t new to us, but the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. At a moment when we were trying to both on-board customers and reframe our vision, he gave us two points that we continue to reference today:

  • Communicate with people three times and through as many channels as possible.

Any marketing book will tell you the same thing, but there was something unique about the timing of his message. We felt that each meeting with a new client was extremely important and that we needed to accomplish it all with each opportunity we were given. Bill’s advice taught us to slow down. This piece of guidance implied that we needed to take things step by step because these relationships take time. In following his advice, we were able to reduce the pressure we felt to take advantage of every opportunity, and we learned how to focus on building the right relationships.

  • Find an engaging way to start your pitch.

Throughout the program, our pitch evolved dramatically. At one point in our journey, we spent so much time thinking about our vision that we didn’t pay enough attention to keeping our audience engaged. Bill quickly recognized that, and his post Getting attention from your first word summarizes that lesson perfectly.

To see what our final pitch looked like, you can watch it here —

What’s unique about his advice is that it didn’t tell us how to accomplish the goal, but it did provide us with a measurable goal to reach, a benchmark that we could use to assess our progress. He left it up to us to figure out the reasoning behind his advice and how to integrate it into our work.

Learning about ourselves:

I’ve played sports my entire life, and my coaches have been some of most influential people in my life. They’ve known the right moments to teach me, inspire me, and sometimes even challenge me. They have kept me grounded when things were going well and built me up when things weren’t. For us in Norway, the Hatch team fulfilled this role.

From day one, Wayne Murphy preached the importance of constantly seeking feedback and making connections. What I’ve discovered by following his advice is that in order to accomplish those things we need to be willing to take a risk and step outside of our comfort zones. Throughout the program, Wayne encouraged our cohort to do uncomfortable things. Whether it was walking into a random customer’s office, finding sponsors for our trip, or even asking potential customers for a sale, Wayne and the rest of the team continuously pushed us towards becoming better founders. Every founding team is unique, and I don’t consider John and myself any different. For us to overcome our personal insecurities, we’ve had to look introspectively both as individuals and as a team in order to understand how we’re going to grow. I’m extremely proud of what John and I have learned in terms of working together as a team and goals for our company, and we owe a lot of that to the Hatch team.

Community + Coaching + Personal Development = Hatch

As a result of joining Hatch, Manolin has grown more than we could have imagined in the last three months. In the next few months, we plan to launch new features on our platform, write more about our aquaculture journey, and pursue our mission of helping aquaculture grow sustainably. We are grateful to all of the mentors who were instrumental in the development of our company, but they helped us accomplish is just the beginning. We’re extremely excited to continue this journey with Manolin.