Atomic advice to help avoid blowing yourself up

J Matthew Pryor

J Matthew Pryor / February 14, 2022

3 min read––– views

I am late to complete by #ship30 journey - but it's allowed me to put down some guidance that I hope can be helpful.

I've made plenty of mistakes in my own founder journies. Part of my goal in writing these atomic essays was to create some easily digestible tips to avoid those mistakes that I see others repeating. I thought it would be useful to recap some key lessons for my penultimate essay for this voyage.

Here is a summary of some things you can do to increase your chances of having an impact in your agritech endeavors.

Don't assume you can cut out the intermediaries and go direct.

Agriculture is a complex set of interconnected value chains.

Many of the existing structures and supply and advice have resisted disruption for good reason. The set of deep relationships and entrenched incentives are powerful forces that won't yield to technology alone.

Don't make the mistake of naively assuming that selling directly to farmers is the straightest path to success.

Don't get fooled into seeking attention when you should be building a reputation

I've been there and it can be painful.

The constant effort required to get noticed and have an opportunity to explain to your potential customers how they will benefit from using your product or service. The ease with which newly minted startups seem to get coverage.

Resist the urge to confuse attention with reputation. Double down on customer discovery and value creation, deliver awesome customer service, and win by having a great reputation

Do the work to help your investors see what you can see

Early-stage startups rarely have strong evidence of product-market fit.

When you get asked for easy evidence like sales traction, don't stare blankly, provide other compelling evidence that your early customers and supporters believe what you believe. They may not be paying you money, but if you're really on to something, they will be acting in ways that make it clear that they want what you're building.

You need to help investors suspend their disbelief and go on the journey with you.

Do pay attention to the importance of human psychology in farmer adoption

Technology alone is rarely so compelling that adoption by the market just happens.

More often than not, technology creates new ways of working, but there is far more needed to encourage the majority of people to work on those new ways. There are key reasons that farmers resist adopting new products. Too often, founders aren't clear on who really benefits from a product and don't focus on the design of their business model and incentives.

Hopefully, some of these short notes have been helpful or at least got you thinking about things a little differently.