90 Days Later, Regen Network Has Been Accelerated
By Christian Shearer, CEO
I was at the Denver International Airport when we got the call from Zach Nies and Hannah Davis that we had been accepted into the 2019 Techstars and Nature Conservancy Accelerator Program.
I was surprised at how much it moved me, but in retrospect, I realize I was unsure if the story my co-founders and I had built around the potential of Regen Network was something that anyone else was going to be able to recognize. When we were selected as one of the 10 companies (out of hundreds of applicants) to get into a program, it sunk in for me that what we were building was acknowledged by others. The vision, the technology, and the team were valued by one of the largest environmental organizations in the world and sought out by one of the most respected technology incubator and investment organizations. This felt like a significant step in our process toward broad market adoption.
Since that phone call, we have raised just over one million dollars in capital, added over 5 million acres to our farmer backlog, signed multiple letters of intent (LOI’s) for the issuance of ecosystem service credits, won a hackathon in Berlin and have become one of the most respected organizational contributors to the codebase in the Cosmos/Tendermint. We hosted our colleagues at OpenTEAM, a consortium of members representing farmer management tools, remote sensing analytics companies, renowned research institutions, and agribusiness giants. This group of organizations is bringing together on an open-source ecosystem of which we are building the key blockchain infrastructure for data management, claims, and markets as a core part of our user-centered design and go to market strategies.
And if that were not enough, just last week we we pitched our vision to about a thousand people at Demo Day to close out our 90-day accelerator experience.
Techstars is a worldwide community that helps entrepreneurs succeed. It was founded by a group of investors, led by David Cohen, who realized that their investments would be a lot less risky if they helped the companies to accelerate their growth, give them the connections and the resources they need to thrive. The Boulder, Colorado-based organization has grown to 50 programs per year around the globe, and one of the stats that Techstars likes to remind people of is that it is harder to get into Techstars than it is to get into Harvard. There is somewhere around a 2% acceptance rate. There are now about 2000 Techstars companies worldwide all starting as humble startups and some reaching the point of IPO (SendGrid is the most recent example).
The program that Regen Network participated in is unique in that the “corporate partner” is a non-profit. It is the only program of its kind. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) entered into the partnership with the idea that technology may be able to help them 10x their impact in the world. TNC was founded in 1951 with a mission to protect and conserve nature. They now have over 1 million members and have helped protect over 119,000,000 acres of land and thousands of miles of rivers worldwide. They have watched as technology has transformed industries across the globe and are wanting to explore how technology might transform the world of conservation and regeneration worldwide. When they teamed up with Techstars it was a conscious choice to choose technology companies that not only were aiming at creating impact but also to scale that impact through being highly successful businesses. With hockey stick revenue would come hockey stick impact.
Over the past 90 days (the program ran from July 29 — October 31, 2019), we’ve been through a lot. Part of the Techstars philosophy is that if it is going to break, let’s break it now so that we can get on with building it back up stronger than before.
We didn’t break, but they certainly stirred the pot and our team is coming out all the better for it. During the program, we lost a valued designer but her departure contributed to us starting a process within our team that has resulted in practices and processes internally that have us on a path to success. For Example, the Techstars program instilled in us the importance of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) in everything we are doing, so that we know that we are making progress toward those things that really matter. As a start-up, there are many things you could be doing, and all of them will make you feel like you are being productive, but only a certain subset of them are the optimal choices for actually moving toward your stated Objectives. This OKR process is now an integrated part of how we work as a team.
It shows up in our development of the core infrastructure which builds the foundation for all that we hope to achieve at Regen Network. Part of our process was being mentored by industry leaders to hone in on a single unified value proposition and laser focus. The outcome of this process was an embrace of the open platform strategy to build network effect. This strategy focuses on building a set of software development kits (SDKs), APIs and other tools for groups to use to achieve their ends. There is significant demand for these tools to be built and maintained as open source, and Regen Network signed a contract with the Interchain Foundation to focus on blockchain usability features related to key management which will make the Cosmos ecosystem one of the most user-friendly blockchains in the space.
It shows up in how much we have narrowed our go-to-market strategy from the 1000 different potential applications that could come from our work to a clear starting place of producing farmer-focused ecosystem services credits for the voluntary markets. Over the last 90 days, we have conducted numerous customer discovery interviews, resulting in the signing of our first LOI’s which presumably will represent our first ag-related revenue in early 2020. By combining this rigorous customer discovery process and design focus, with our open-platform strategy we’re able to deliver the most cutting edge tools to where they are needed most, while building a vibrant platform that will launch with significant traction.
And it shows up in our success in fundraising, having raised over $1 million and targeting the closure of the round this month (November). To really capitalize this company to the levels needed for rapid development, customer acquisition, and scale, we are aiming to raise another $5million over the next 5 months, and we are on target to achieve that (and perhaps over-subscribe) by mainnet launch in March 2020. This is a testament to the focus and clarity of the team, due in part to the rigor of the Techstars program.
The program teamed us up with 9 other companies as part of this year’s cohort. The connections, support, and camaraderie built amongst the teams was palpable. We came into the program already connected and deeply appreciating the work and missions of two other companies also working in the Regenerative Agriculture space. Nori and Propagate Ventures continue to be companies that we deeply respect and now we have plans to create long-term partnerships.
Since the day we received that acceptance call back in June, we have raised the capital to grow our team and still have over 6 months of runway (learn about investment opportunities here). We aimed to add 100k acres and ended up with a tidal wave of farmer support, adding over 5 million acres to our farmer and rancher backlog. We signed our first LOI’s for the issuance of ecosystem service credits and have become one of the most respected organizational contributors to the Cosmos SDK.
We have an exciting year ahead of us. The growing team is focused intently on creating a suite of functionality that enables the issuance of ecosystem service credits by the time our mainnet launch is live in March of 2020. This will enable farmers and ranchers around the world to be recognized and rewarded for their positive impact on the planet. When the economics of agriculture shift in favor of positive ecological practices, farmers and ranchers gladly get on board. Regen Network is building the tools that help farmers get paid for their ecological impact. When that happens, the planet transforms.