“We don’t see many options.”
“It’s not relevant, it doesn’t move the right needle.”
These are 2 common themes about technology solutions that I hear when talking with big players in animal ag production that would be customers, the strategics that would be acquirers, and the angel & venture investors that would provide early capital to startups building solutions for livestock & poultry producers & processors.
Let’s not beat a dead horse talking about these problems, my goal is to find solutions. And the best way I know to do that is by talking with smart people, testing some hypotheses, and sharing those learnings.
In short, I’m writing an ebook and I need your help ?
I want this book to be chock full of relevant context and helpful perspective on animal ag for innovators & investors working in – or considering working in – this segment.
One way I plan to do this is by talking with 25 investors & 25 producers/processors. So here’s how you can help:
- If you are an investor in animal ag…
- If you are a producer/processor…
- If you know someone in one of the above categories that I should talk with ….
….and are game to have a quick chat about this space, or want to send someone my way, shoot me a message.
Ultimately the 2 big questions that the livestock & poultry sector will have to navigate to radically accelerate the pipelines of solutions are:
- How do we attract funding & innovators to tackle the real problems in animal ag?
- What’s the funding model that generates return for investors, for entrepreneurs, and most importantly creates real, measurable value for customers?
My hypothesis is that it will take a non-traditional funding model to drive more innovation in animal ag…and I don’t know what that looks like, yet. That’s one of the questions I’m wrestling with through this process because I don’t think we’ll see any unicorns (privately held companies valued at $1B+) operating solely in animal ag. The industry structure doesn’t support that probability given industry concentration as well as margin structures.
If that’s right, the traditional venture capital model doesn’t fit animal agriculture.
So we need an innovation model that leads to more great products that deliver high value for customers while generating returns for investors and entrepreneurs. A few dimensions that could drive a tweaked model:
- Reduce the amount of time to product-market fit by having startups closely aligned with prospective customers to get early and ongoing customer feedback. This should result in shortened sales cycles and faster adoption.
- Reducing the amount of early stage capital required to get to product-market fit. This is a function of #1.
- Reducing the amount of time a startup is independent, aka a path to acquisition in year 2-5 instead of year 10-12.
As always, it’s about finding a path where the rewards are commensurate with the risk. If the rewards are somewhere sub-unicorn, which traditional venture capital requires, then the risk profile has to also be lower.
Keep in mind that $741 million was invested into alternative proteins in the first quarter of 2020. The first quarter.
If animal ag intends to stay relevant to consumers, we need to tap into the existential urgency of solving the big problems and channel our collective inner RBG to bring allll the smart people along for the ride that we can find.
“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” – RBG