March 28, 2023
Jim O'Brien, CEO & Co-Founder of Agrograph. Jim's been helping corporations navigate innovation initiatives and build sustainable processes for over a decade. He's held leadership positions at 4 startups and led product innovator teams at 3 multinational corporations ranging from financial services to insurance, to agricultural and corporate wellness. Jim holds an MBA from Edgewood College and a Master’s of Science from UW-Madison.
Julian: Hey everyone. Thankyou so much for joining the Behind Company Lines podcast. Today we have JimO'Brien, CEO and co-founder of Agrograph, which delivers global solutions forthe crop insurance, ag financing, grain distribution, and ag tech industries. Jim,I'm so excited to have you on the show, not only to learn from.
Your background and, and your experiencebeing that you've, you've been a part of multiple startups. I'm, I'm sure youhave a wealth of knowledge, and not only how products work, finding productmarket fit, kind of realizing your tam and, and, and also growing kind of yourindustry. But before we get into all that good stuff about your background andyour experience, what were you doing before you started Agrograph?
Jim: Oh, Julian, I'm, I'mreally excited to be on here. You've, you've done a great job building thispodcast out and, and, and we're, we're really excited to join. A whole group ofthe Behind Company Lines family and, and, and share our story with, with yourviewers. So, yeah. Thank you. You're welcome.
So, a little bit about what we're we'redoing before. I was, I've done lots of, lots of different things. I think , Ilike to think about if you've ever heard of this book called Range by DavidEpstein. He wrote the he's written a number of sports books, but he wrote abook range. It's on the shelf somewhere back here, about be really varied inyour career first and then specialize later.
Yeah. Yeah. So I've, Was in academia forfour years at, at a, Ohio State University. And I consulted for a number ofyears with my own consulting company and I worked at four different startupsand worked, grew up in New York but came out to the Midwest, so did, did,worked on a dairy farm.
Just had lots of different variedexperiences to worked at the Weather channel. I wasn't an on air meteorologistmore on the back end, so kind of had a varied career of lots of different in. .And it, I think all help lead me to, to to what I'm doing now.
Julian: Yeah. And what was theinitial, I guess, whether it was a catalyst or inspiration behind Agrograph?
What did you see in agriculture? And Ithink people are becoming really aware of agriculture now that we're thinkingabout food supplies. We're thinking about population, density and scarcity, andwe're thinking about all the different ways that we even collaborate, globallyin getting our food supplied.
But tell me a little bit more about whatinspired you to start Agrograph and, and what was the. Two, jumping in and, andbeing a founder of this company.
Jim: Well, like I said, Igrew up in, in in New York and, where I'm from, food came from the grocerystore, , right? So, I, I've always been kinda on the outside of ag looking inand I think that's helped for me to bring a different perspective.
And it also drove me to, come out to theMidwest to find out like, how's all this stuff work? Why did we grow all thiscorn? Like, what do we do with all this stuff? Yeah. So I've always beencurious that way. Cuz it's so unlike, where what, what I grew up with. And, theone way I started was , everyone from my high school were, going to, Villanovaand Columbia and Harvard and all this stuff.
And I went to Iowa State and people werelike, why are you going there? I'm like, what's the Harvard of Ag? I was like,yeah, I'm gonna go out where people do this stuff every day. And so stayed inthe industry for a number of years and then for about industry, about 20 yearsand then left and, and from academic and then research and what have you.
And it always kind of stuck in my mindto. How can how can I get back in ag knowing that I could ever be a, a farmer?I, I, I can how can I contribute? And as I was doing work in consulting withwith a major property and casualty insurance industry, one of the top 10 in thecountry, I built out their risk platform.
And it really opened my eyes up to riskmanagement and I said, you know what? I think this same need exists in, in ag.Yeah. But I need to find a partner to go pursue it cause I can't do it bymyself.
Julian: Yeah. Yeah. And what,and what, what was how did you find that partner? A lot of people think aboutor talk about their co-founder experience and, and also, finding the rightperson is tough because it's, it's a relat.
You really have to figure out not onlywhat are the others deficits are, but what are they good at and, and trying tocollaborate. How did you go about finding that co-founder, and how did you setthe expectations for each other to be able to work and collaborate and then beproductive in the right direction?
Jim: Yeah. Well, I did itthe best way possible. I met him at my, our kids' birthday party. Yeah. . So Ihad no idea who he was. We were just sitting there talking, watching our kidsplay it. And, and I said, you do what? Really? I was like, we should talk. Sowe kind of started this journey of meeting for lunch for probably half a year,just kind of talking through what he does and what his background was.
What excited me the most was I said, ifyou can take what you know about, yield forecasting, remote sensing, satelliteimagery, and we could look at every field, every crop, everywhere on earth.Yeah, I can tell you with, with a hundred percent certainty working in, in theag industry all over the world.
Cause I worked in the wine industry asconsulting and one of the startups I that is, that this is a, a, a great,there's a deficit, right? Yeah. They always say the, the US is, is data richthe rest of the world of many degrees, is data poor that way? Yeah. And, and alot of it is just, we've just invested a lot of time and effort.
So we, he, he, what he brought to thetable is, deep expertise in in data science and knowledge, that that really wasnot something that I brought to the table. I brought the business skills, theglobalization, the, the, how to kind of build a product up and a company. Buthe brought that expertise and, and we've worked well together because we, wereally compliment each other in ways that I think that's really important.
And we talked a lot being that we areolder founders. You. In our, in our forties that we, we're not gonna sleep oncots, and, and eat, crackers all day. Like, if we're gonna do it, we're gonnabe, we're gonna be damn serious about it and do it right. And, and we're gonnago at it with a really clear plan.
And I, and I think we talked about like,when things go well, if things don't go well and so we asked the hard questionsup front and I think that's really important and it's really helped ourrelat.
Julian: Yeah, and thinkingabout Agrograph and, and where agriculture is now, like I mentioned, beforeit's becoming more and more prevalent that, even the, even the, the averagecitizen should pay attention to the things they consume, where it's comingfrom, and, and really kind of support and think thoughtfully about what thisindustry is and in its in its creation.
And I'm curious. . What, where isagriculture now? Is it farmers, is it corporations? Who's, who are the playersthat you're working with? Who the stakeholders. And what are the deficits thatthey're mi missing in terms of the solutions that, that they don't have? Or, orare they, do they not have access to it?
Or is, is it something more? Is it, yousaid a lot of the industry outside of, of, the US is data poor. What does thatdata help agriculture in particular do?
Jim: Yeah. Where we startedwith and what we're focused on, and really from the beginning was servicing.No, I, I like to say, let me step back for a minute, and Julian at, the numberof farmers is decreasing and it's the world over but the farm size isincreasing.
Yeah. And most of the first worldcountries see this at a much more accelerated pace. Right. Right. So, ,there's, there's less farmers out there, but they're doing more right? Andthey're more productive. And north America has some of the most productivefarmers in the whole world actually.
It's not just American bravado there.It's a, it's a, it's a fact of, of data. Brazil's quickly catching up with alot of the productivity and sea technology. So that's kind of the state of theag industry. So what we're focused on as a company is the industries thatsupports farmers. So if you use that same.
Metaphor and say, number of farmersdecreasing, farm size is increasing. What isn't changing is those farmers relyon reliance on banking and insurance, right? Yeah. As you grow, you need to,cost of capital, you need insurance if things go bump in the night. And thoseindustries are least equipped to go handle that new influx of, of, of clients,and most important the, the way they assess risk.
And that's really what we focus on.Cause we have this Agrograph or AGROS risk score. Think of it like a FCO score.Yeah. For the, not for the farmer, but the FCO score of the farm. Right now wedon't call it FICO score. That's fair. Isaacs. But, just from a conceptualstandpoint and, and really better match price, the risk, because at the end ofthe.
For those industries, they wanna writeloans to farmers, right? Or they wanna provide a policy to a grower, but theyalso wanna do it with a clear understanding of risk. There's this sane in theinvestment world that uncertainty cannot be measured, but risk can be priced.Yeah.
So if you can understand that risk, youcan price it. And that's really what we provide is that data set to allow themto better match price to risk the banks win, and the farmers win. So, .
Julian: Yeah. And describe thetool, the technology a little bit in, in, in regards to how the mechanics work.How do you evaluate risk?
How do you, how do you kind of overallconceptualize a credit score or ag, I think it was called Ag credit on yourwebsite, how do you not only collect the data, how do you translate andcommunicate an overall score? And, and how was it done before? How were.Essentially defining the risk of their crops of their farm and going out andtrying to get financing for them.
Jim: Yeah. So I'll, I'llunpack that question in starting with the technology side and pretty easy towrap your head around. We use satellite imagery and, and we're we work with alltypes of satellite providers, whether government backed or privately owned.We've done some work with aerial imagery or drone imagery, but we're reallyimage agnostic.
What we do use is this data, this, thisremote sensing data or satellite data. It's constantly observing the earth. Ifyou think about it, sometimes at a daily cadence, sometimes at a weeklycadence. So every day the earth is being observed and we translate thoseobservations of of earth into meaningful data, right?
And I call it agriculturally relevantinformation and downscale that to the field level. And then we use machinelearning algorithms to, to again, run that processing. And we, we, we combinethat with data that, you could get publicly, like with like soil data or, okay,rainfall data, get from the weather channel was a former weather channel guy.
Like take weather channel data and youcan combine this together to create an a a a score. Like a, like an index,right? Yeah. What we call this agros risk. again, think, think like a FCOscore, FCO scores is, what's the likelihood of you, defaulting on a payment.Right?
Right. So how many credit cards do youhave? What's your amount credit, how often do you pay it back? Right. Yeah. So,this machine learning, can be boiled down to, multiple linear regression, Yaxis is, dependent variable. I always say, what's the price of the car, right?
And the X axis, and what are theindependent variables that drive that price? How many miles? What color? What'sseat choice? What's the brand? Where's it sold? Yeah, yeah. And same, samething. But our Y axis is, well, what's the yield? What's the risk score? Right?Mm-hmm. And what are the factors that drive that yield?
Mm-hmm. if I'm going corn in Iowa versuscorn in Arizona, or I'm going, canola in Kazakh. There's different factors thatdrive the yield and the productivity in those fields. Yeah. And what aremachine learning to decide which ones weigh most heavily that drive thatautomated prediction?
Julian: Yeah. And what, whathave been the, how, how were farmers doing this analysis prior to technology,like agro graf and, and also describe the, essentially the experience thatfarmers have being that, I, I'm assuming like, not unlike other businesses, wecan see kind of the, the transactions and we can kind of project them andpredict them that we might.
A sales cycle that goes through it, apredictive kind of measure. But I'm assuming for a lot of crops it's, it'sseasonality. It's kind of longer, if you would say, yield cycles where, wherethere's a lot more uncertainty from when you, start a crop to, to when youharvest it and to when you distribute it.
How are they evaluating the risk priorand. , how tricky is it to do so when, if something can be kind ofunpredictably I don't wanna say mismanaged or mishandled, but there could besome external, environmental kind of circumstance that, that say disrupts acrop. In, in, in, in, for, for whatever farmer.
Jim: Yeah. I mean, youcould call that an externality, right? Like a hail event or, or weather event.Right. Or, or some event or a flood, right. Some, something that, that's,that's usually. One of the culprits for a change in yield that, that's why weobserve the field, so to answer your question about the growers, I will on asecond, but that uncertainty, we have something we call the, the AgrosVolatility Index, right?
Mm-hmm. to say, if you look at all thegrowers, let's say in a county, if we looked at Sonoma County, we wanna say,let's look at all the, the wine grape growers up there. Yeah. Like there'sgonna, like, they're all gonna produce the yield, right? If as long as growingconditions were cond. , the question is, who has a higher brick?
So the higher total, tons per acre of,of grapes, well, there's gonna be some variance. Mm-hmm. , and the questions isas the, the, the, the operators that tend to be most profitable year over yeartend to have lower variation year after year. Right? Yeah. Now with allimpacted by a dry ear, and they're all negatively impacted by a wet ear, andthey're all negatively impacted by, smoke taint, right?
Yeah. But it's kind of like the, the,the, the. Profitable growers have less variation in the final product than the,the growers that don't. Right. So the question is like, are you the 33rd or the83rd best producer in your county? Like, and that that's the type of data thatwe provide. We provide that. That, that baseline, again, I'll give the exampleof like, think of it like Zillow for ag, right?
They tell you every house in yourneighborhood, whether it's for sale or not, put a price to it, not just showingyou the three that MLS has up for sale, right? Yeah. So we have the population,not just the sample. And so that there, that's that little bit of, of how it'sdone. Back to the farmer side, again, kind of if I.
put their question back on you. Like,we're, we're selling our data to the banks and the insurers primarily. Mm-hmm.. Mm-hmm. . And they're providing their services. Again, as a company, like I'mnot trying to become the. The bank or be the insurer. There's, you have trustin there. You trust your doctor. Trust insurer, trust your banker.
Continue doing that. But we wannaprovide data so the banker and the insurer, cause we're not working withdoctors can provide, that's another company that is, can provide the best databack to evaluate the risk to give that grower. Who's to, 83rd best producer inthe county? The most favorable.
That represents the risk on there. And,and I like to say that, banks don't ask and farmers don't tell. So there's alittle bit of don't ask, don't tell in the industry. And, and, and what thatdoes is create a little bit of a mismatch mm-hmm. , because if you don't tellme all the information I need to know about your operation.
and I don't ask all the information.Well, I, I'll pad my interest rate or my policy premium based on what I assumeis the risk you represent, whether you do or not. So right now, growers are alittle bit of a disadvantage that way. There's a lot of, conversations that goon about trust and, and privacy, which are true and, and important.
But I, I'll caveat to. Both you and Iwill tell our bankers, insurance and the medical industry, everything they needto know because we trust them and we believe that there's a clear exchange ofvalue. If I tell you how I'm feeling and have you take a blood test, I knowyou're gonna help me understand how I'm gonna get better, right?
So I'm willing to make that exchangebefore that I'll pay you money, right? Yeah. No different in in, in the agindustry. It's just right now we haven't created a clear mechanism of like, ifyou give me this, I'll give you that right now. It, it, it's kind of a, it's avery fragmented market. Yeah. And non-standardized.
And what it leads to is justinefficiency, pure plain market inefficiency.
Julian: Yeah. Yeah. It'salmost like they're speaking similar. It's like, I speak Spanish, my family'sfrom Mexico, but if, if I speak to somebody who speaks Portuguese, We can kindof get each other, but kind of don't, it's that a little bit of a disconnect,but it seems to go in a direction.
But that, that's a little bit of adigression there. I'm curious in terms of ag and, and as you mentioned the showor before the show, it's becoming so popular. It, it's that for some reasonit's becoming, not for some reason, but we're, we're even that much more awareof agriculture even nowadays. Why aren't more companies racing to.
and replicate the process or, or go outand, and start working. Is it because it's a tight community? Is adoption oftechnology kind of slowly? Are we on, are we on the crux of that? Why aren'tpeople flooding into ag being that it's gonna be so necessary? And so,abundantly clear that, that it's, it's something that is not, obviously notgonna go away.
It's only gonna get, the problems aregonna get bigger. The the needs gonna get bigger. Why aren't people involved inagriculture?
Jim: Well, Little bit. Wetalked, on the, on the, on the kind of the pre-show work was, you're morelikely to run into a billionaire on the streets than they are a farmer.
Right. Just the percentage of of farmersin the country is, is relatively small and they're concentrated like CentralValley, California, very concentrated. Mm-hmm. , Midwest, very concentratedand. One farmer produces, may run, 20,000 acres. I think average farm sizes areon 5,000 acres, for a, a, a full scale production farm.
So they, you can, one person and onegroup can produce quite, quite a lot. So I think, I think to your, to yourpoints that you brought up and, and they're all good and relevant points that,I mean, an ag is a very, niche industry. Yeah. And it, it's niche for a couplereasons.
Not everyone has a direct relationshipto it, right? I think many folks who've been in the industry have someconnection. Either they grew up on a farm or they, it's not like mygreat-grandfather's on a farm sometimes. Some of I've heard, early stage peoplesay that, like, oh, great, but we all probably came from Agrographrian at somepoint.
If we go far enough back in history,that's not the point. It, it's, I, I, I think in my, my opinion, everyone has,has their opinion. It. To, to really get into an industry like this, you reallyhave to understand the problem set and be willing to wrap your head around whyis it the way it is today?
Why isn't it working? Like it's, youcan't come in and say, well, I'm gonna go disrupt it. We're gonna change theway they do it. Like that doesn't happen overnight, particularly in thebanking, insurance industry. It's not sexy. Yeah. Banking, insurance is notsexy, but there's an old saying this like, why did Willie Sutton, he was a bankrobber.
Why did you rob. and his answer was, cuzthat's where the money's at. Yeah. . And it's like the same thing in thisindustry. Like these are the, these are the power players that, that drive themoney and it, it, it, you really have to take the time to understand whatthey're doing and why they're doing it.
And really like come up for us, we'vereally focused on what's the solution to answer their question, how do I writeand automate you? The, the, the onboarding, the underwriting the risk process.How do I be, make it more standardized, more efficient. Mm-hmm. , that's reallythe work we do. And, and you have to really understand quite a bit about therisk industry and quite a bit about the ag industry and kind of put it alltogether.
I think that's what keeps a lot of folksout from playing in it and, and probably for, for, for good reasons.
Julian: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Andtell us a little bit more about agro Graf and the traction you've seen. Howmany companies, how many farmers, how many people are using the product, howmany partnerships are you seeing now?
What's been exciting about, the previousgrowth, but what's particularly exciting about the next phase of agro graf and,and what you're gonna be focusing on this year and, and the years to come?
Jim: Yeah, wait. I wouldsay as the CEO and co-founder, what I've been most proud of, as a company,we've really focused on generating revenue before we've generated venturedollars.
Yeah. As we, we, we haven't raised a lotof venture dollars. We've, we've been, we've been profitable, since 2019. Andas a company and, and it's been in our investors, the investors that we dohave, have been more of a slow capital knowing that to grow a great business,it takes time.
Right? You don't like, yeah. Go fromzero to one overnight or zero to a million overnight. It takes time to kind ofbuild up. , as like if I back to my, comment before, if you provide real valueand real data to real people, they'll pay you real money for that. Yeah. And ifyou can go build a business that way you can scale and, and repeat that.
Knowing that if you're mindful aboutyour scaling of not like throwing an idea at the wall. I'm like, that didn'twork. And I spent a lot of time and effort of like kind of incrementallygrowing to say, you'll hear VC say, why don't you, raise more venture dollarsand. . Look man, if you throw a bunch of gas on a fire, what happens?
It blows up blow mostly in your face,right? Yeah. But if, if you, if you, if you do a slow burn and you're mindfulabout how you grow it, you can grow a massive burning man fire, right? Yeah.But you, you've worked your way up to that. You, you, you've, you've, like, I,I understand the product market fit. I've built the product machine, and thenyou go build the sales machine and then, You start scaling that sales machineand you start advertising.
So we've taken, again, the danger inthat is that if you're in a market that is providing a lot of value, otherplayers want to come in. So there is a sense of urgency a about growing, butwe've just taken a very continual, hard path to, to, to grow quickly, but togrow.
Mindfully. And I think that's the way Ithink about we, we don't just go make a RAs decision, we're really clear of whowe, what we do, who we do it for, and, and why they need it.
Julian: Yeah. Yeah. And whatare some of the biggest risks that, that Agrograph faces today?
Jim: Well, I think like anyrisk or any company that I would say, is a small company if you're under, maybe300 people, I'd say you're a small company you've been in business less than,10 years.
You're probably a small company. So Icould include a lot of. is you have risks to the economy, all the, the talk nowand the Silicon Valley Bank and that I've got some strong opinions on, on that.Not, not that I don't need to be another talking head on that, but some of the,the things about risk management and chief risk officer and how you handle riskis a, is an indication of , like the type of dangers that can happen whenyou're not keeping an eye on that, right?
Mm-hmm. and, and you take your eye offto go and things unwind. Well, if you haven't done the other strategicfinancial portfolio risk things, when bad things happen, you're unprepared forthat. Right. You, you don't have the money in the bank to go with, have thewherewithal to stand it. Yeah. So for us it's, it's a little bit of the, theeconomy, right?
And it's just, and then us for scaling,like, like, , getting more awareness out there of who we are and what we do.Yeah. We, we do quite a bit of our work, about a third of our business outsidethe United States today, and a lot of it is getting awareness. How do I know,how do I get our name out in front of, companies in, in in Argentina or in,central Europe or in Australia.
It, it takes time to build that brandpresence and market presence. And one way we do that is, partnering with someoth other companies. We'll, we'll soon announce some partnership with planetLabs imagery so that we'll pull their imagery in for various projects and, andwork with them.
So that, that gives us a lot moreexposure and it's really a good symbiotic relationship between bothorganizations. They do image capture, image capture around the world. And we dothe data analysis side. So it's a really good opportunity to, to work togetherand, and, they have a, band, a publicly traded company, so much bigger blowhorn the blow from than than little old a graph that way.
Julian: Yeah. Yeah. Ifeverything goes well, what's the long term vision for Agropgraph?
Jim: The long term visionfor Agrograph is really to become this. This credit score of actg, just like,if you're gonna run you know you're gonna get a loan or you're gonna buy a caror a tractor or a house, right?
You've gotta get a a, a FCO score and acredit report, right? Every, every transaction. Well, the same thing in, inagriculture industry, whether you're. Buying, inputs, which, fertilizer or seedor you're buying a tractor or a combine or piece of land or getting anoperating loan, they all have to run every year, every time every grower has toget a credit report, has to get a FICO score.
Yeah. And we want all those to gothrough Agrograph and we run that, that, that credit report of the farm.Because the reason that's needed is that farm, if you think. Is what's creatingthe revenue that's driving the, the loan or the policy you're giving to thefarm, the farmer, the individual. You can look at their tax records, but youknow, I'm not walking your 8,000 acres.
In fact, I don't even know where 8,000acres are located. So, so it's, it's one of the, the, there's a statement fromthis guy Ken Zuckerberg from CoBank who said he sent it back in 2017 and I, Iwas just on a panel with him out at the World Agritech conference in San Franciscowas. Agriculture is the last trillion dollar global industry to truly embracedigital tools and tech op digital tools and technology that drive operationalexcellence.
Like it's, it's like, and there'snothing holding industry back. Consumer and commercial divisions of, of bankshave already put tens to hundreds of millions of dollars into. Digitalengagement, mobile automation standardization, it just hasn't trickled its waydown into, into agriculture.
But it's happening. And if it wasn'thappening, we wouldn't have any traction that people wouldn't be doing. Butit's this kind of slow churn of, as leaders come in that that really value, adata and, and, and the analysis that drives it. It changes the way you thinkabout the business and that's happening the world over.
So it's a, it's a good time to, to be inthe. .
Julian: I love that. And Ialways like this next question. I call it my founder f faq. So I'm gonna hityou with some some rapid fire questions and, and then we'll see. We get got firstquestion is what's particularly hard about your jobs?
Jim: I think there's a thestatement from the Walter Isaacson book about Steve Jobs.
I'm not a huge Steve Jobs fan but Iwill. One thing he said there that's always stuck with me was that every dayyou may ride the shit hero a rollercoaster. Usually it was a dealing with SteveJobs, but that, that's, that's part and parcel of, of running a company is thatyou can ride that shit hero rollercoaster sometimes the same hour, sometimesthe same day from the same month, but, The highs are high and the lows are low.
And I think that's again as, as I tellmy wife, she's like, isn't this what you signed up for? I'm like, of course.But that, that, that part is probably, probably the, probably the, the, thetoughest part of, of knowing that, you're, you're constantly pitched and rowbetween, good, good and bad news.
Julian: Yeah, yeah,definitely. The rollercoaster is a tough one. And what, what would you saywhat's been helpful for you to kind of manage and stay neutral and kind of takein, Taking the, the information that you're getting with, with some, somelightness, some, some, some some gracefulness, some, things that won't impactyou so much.
Is there anything that you've seen valuablein your life, in your personal life or, or even professional life that's helpedyou kind of manage the highs and lows? Advice for other founders who are maybehaving a struggle and having a hard time managing, their, their their responseto, to what they're seeing in, in their business.
Jim: I'll give you tworesponses. Big picture. I mean, the, the, the first response is one that youcan't you can't just pull off the shelf. You have to be there. And, and that'sexperience like getting into this, industry or getting into starting a companylater in life. Gives you a lot of perspective.
Yeah. Uh, I think, having a family,people may think like that may maybe makes it more difficult. I would say quitethe opposite. It really helps you to focus again, like what we talk a littlebit in the pre-call of like, you focus, you focus on what matters and whatdoesn't much more clearly. And, and the, and the stakes are much more real.
Yeah. You're not, you're not just, saysleeping on a cotton, eat, eating, granola bars. Like it matters. So, right.Your focus is much different. So doing it later in life means you've had a lotmore experiences and know how to professionally handle highs and lows. If youever heard about Bill Gates when he started Microsoft, he'd walk to parking lotand see who wasn't there on the weekend.
Like, oh, he must've been a joy to workfor . Like, so like stuff like that helps. And then the second part is whateveryone can do is At the end of the day, you all have to manage stress. But,taking, taking time out to say it's okay to take a break, it's okay to go for awalk, go for a run.
Like, yeah, we run a remote company soeveryone's remote. Like, I don't micromanage. I can't micromanage, but like, Idon't care if you're on a boat, you're in this, you're at the ski lodge. Likeas long as you're doing great work and and producing results, that's fine. Andit's also keeps. If you need a break, go take a break.
Like, I'm not expecting you at theoffice, sitting there eight to five, lock your. , but the results of your workwill come through on what you produce. Yeah. Again, so I think taking time foryourself is important. Again, you have to manage that. As you're running acompany, you don't have a lot of time, so you have to realize that that's theone commodity I can't.
Yeah. I have to be careful giving out.But, opportunities like this, sitting down with you is always enjoyable. It's avery good use of time for a lot of reasons. now you can control your time andyou can manage your time. Yeah. No one can take that from you but you, so Ithink that puts you in control a bit.
Julian: So I love that. No,it's a great response. And, and I'm, and I'm curious even more so, being thatthis isn't your first startup, also what, what have you seen and what have, interms of, you talk about experience and you talk about, and, and makes me thinkof like maturity of, of the startup that you probably are, are building now.
What have you seen and or what have youlearned now and that now that you wish you learned earlier on? buildingcompanies. And what does a successful company need in terms of, if you lookedat its components, you saw what it had in terms of operations and its salesmotion, its product market fit, what are some things that a company needs tohave to be able to scale to be able to be successful more so than anythingelse?
Is there two or three things that youkind of prioritize earlier on being that you wanted to do it right and youwanted to do it? Seriously. Right. And take it seriously from the, from the.What, what does a company need to have?
Jim: Yeah, I mean, that,that's a tough one to distill to a, a quick talking point, but my, my, my offhip response to that is going back to the comments I made earlier it's importantto find product market fit first.
And we hired our marketing person beforewe hired our first salesperson. Yeah. And the reason we did that was, One ofour board members said, Jim, you've gotta load the lips of sales, right?Because if they're doing the job, they're gonna knock on doors and say, Hey,I've got this great product, you wanna buy it.
But if they're saying the wrong thingand they go out and kind of pollute the market with that, then you have to goback and correct it. So if you spend the time to be really mindful about what thehell are we selling? Who needs it? Why do they need it? At what price? What'sthe value? Of what you're doing and selling it for a price that like, Hey, I'llgive you a discount that gets you in the door, but I'm not gonna give it away.
Right? Sure. Because I always.Especially in the B2B industry. Why buy the cow if you get the milk for free?Right? Yeah. No one will do that. Like, I mowed your yard for free for yearsand then say, Hey Julian, by the way, I'm gonna charge you 30 bucks. You'relike, beat it. You'll find the other kid will do it for free again.
Right, right. And so it's a tough, youget yourself in behind in a bus in, in a way. And a lot of you read about a lotof, I listen to a lot of podcasts, read lots of books like that. That's a hard,hard one to, to overcome, right? Yeah. So I think if you're always sellingproduct that has value, that people will pay real money.
that, that's a, a good way to have youon that, that that growth tra growth trajectory. So,
Julian: yeah. Yeah. Anotherquestion is also thinking about ag and, and thinking about its, its evolution,especially currently. You talked about being at a conference recently andoutside of what you're doing in terms of, risk assessment, giving kind of,honestly a lot of a lot of power back to the farmer in, in regards to havingits ownership of their risk in, in this identifi.
What are some other things that you'veseen in terms of that, that are pushing the industry forward and making itprogress? Is there any other technology other in the other individuals joiningag? What are you particularly excited about?
Jim: The industry overallknow, using this, this, this World Agha conference, having San Franciscoessentially held, I think three locations around the globe.
in, in south America, I think Brennoareas in London. I think they, they're trying to do a Singapore one too. Butagain no, not promoting a conference. It's good conference for ag. But there'slots of good ag conferences. What makes this one different and why I wouldbring it up here is, this conference is about talking, discussing thechallenges that the industry faces and the ag industry in.
but also being in San Francisco, there'sa heavy emphasis on innovation and it's saying, Hey, there's an old saying,right? If you're gonna go point out my problems, be nice enough to tell me asolution, , well thi this kind of puts that in play to say, Hey, we've got allthese companies that provide solutions to the problems we've talked about andthe challenges of the industry, and let's marry 'em up together.
Let's put 'em on a panel. Let's, haveyou know a speed dating that where they can go talk and present idea. And, ofcourse venture capital is there too. So I, I think that what I'm excited aboutis that there's money that comes into the industry. There's a, a venture side,which you need to get started.
But the industry players have come inand been, willing to talk about like, what's not working. Cuz that's half thebattle of, of, of new product. To get the market, you have to understand whatare you solving for, what are you replacing? Why is it what you're replacing isbetter, cheaper, faster, stronger, Kanye West type thing.
Yeah. Like if you can understand thatyou, you, you're gonna, you're gonna get people nodding their heads and. Hey, Ireally wanna I want adopt that, I wanna, I wanna start chipping away at thisproblem, yeah. I always say like, you sell them the sexy ideas and they buy theboring stuff.
Yeah. . But that's how you have to getstarted, right? Yeah. Get the basic blocking and tackling, and then you kindof, work your way. Iterative fashion all the way, all the way to like fullintegration stuff.
Julian: Yeah. I know youmentioned it a book earlier, but I always love to ask this question because Ilove founders and how they extract knowledge out of anything that they ingest.But whether it's early in your career or now, what books or people have beensuper influential for you? Today?
Jim: I'm a big fan ofbooks. Again, I've read every book on the shelf there. So, a lot of people juststack 'em up.
I'd probably have three that I would sayfrom recently have been Let's say recently, but you know, the last, 15 years,the most influential for me, and they're all different. The one, if Imentioned, was ranged by David Epstein. And just because I liked it, because itreminded me of me to say, it's okay to have a, a really diverse background.
You can still be successful. In fact,yeah, some of the most successful people are the ones who did lots of differentthings and at one point said, Julian, when are you gonna get your lifetogether? And then, and you do it in the end, you're like, wow, cuz I did allthese different things. I know a little bit about all these differentindustries.
In fact, they're all pretty related. Sothe book's a fantastic story. I'd highly recommend it. Talk about like the,like the tiger mom, like Tiger Woods and his evolution versus Roger Federer.Yeah. But by the way, Roger Federer didn't get serious to tennis. I think hewas almost in. Wow. So he, he played, he loved soccer.
He liked, doing lots of other stuff.Tennis wasn't his main draw, even though his mom was a tennis coach. So,fascinating stuff. The other book, the other two other books, Is one's a kindof a golden oldie, but it's by, it's the How to Win Friends That InfluencePeople by Dale Carnegie.
Yeah. And I try and listen to that bookevery year, although I haven't listened to it this year. I usually do it on,on, on a book on tape or, CD type thing, auto, auto audible thing. But is thatbook so influenced me of , like, like starting a company or like, growing yourrelationships and, and growing your network.
Yeah. It's so important to remember,like, you hear like the givers and takers. Like, if you wanna provide value topeople, we, we got two ears in one mouth. Listen, first talk talk once and, andunderstand the importance of a good network, a networker, people, and providingvalue and, and listening.
And, and, and that book is all about, thinkingdifferently and getting your head around like, why can't now? How do I sailsell better and sell a product better? Well, you gotta understand people,right? You've got background in psychology. Yeah. It's so important tounderstand. Economics. One principle is that, people are, are, are markets arerational and the answer is no.
But people are not. Yeah, yeah. Uh,They're emotional. So understanding the emotion that goes into the sale, right?Facts tell, stories sell. Like, once you understand that changes the way Thelast book was a different book entirely, is a Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. Yeah.Yeah. And, and that book, I mean, Phil Knight, my goodness gracious.
What a, what an interesting story oflike all his like early struggles and you know you're a failure son, Boone'sshoes and like wasting your life. He had some funny Jack Assery, what are youdoing with Jack Assery? But he went and built Nike and, and this and this, hishumbleness, which I liked so much so of like that he didn't take himself tooseriously.
But he, man, he worked his butt off andhe was persistent and he didn't give up and he was like, welcome to life, like,If it was easy, everyone would do it. The stock market goes up directionally,but it's choppy. Right? Right. It's like that's what life is like. That's whatrunning a company is like.
So I, I find that, I found that veryinspirational book, but also a book to say, always stay humble. And know that,if I, if I get another chance that another day I can be better. Than I was theday before if I learned the lessons of mistakes I made.
Julian: Yeah, I love that onein particular because, in, in regards to a lot of founders, and you, I've heardit on the show so many times, you have to just take away the ego from the companyand, and really just focus on day-to-day the work and the outputs that youperform.
Because outside of that predictingthings, it's, it's all convoluted. You, you can only really kind of focus onthe present and build and build and build, and it's that humble persistencethat I think a lot of founders. And that book about range, I think a lot offounders can, can really attest to that.
And, and one founder said, when buildingan early team, you need a bunch of generalists because everybody needs to beable to do at least one little bit of everything to move a company forward. Andthen after that you specialize once you kind of go and scale. But I'd love thesentiment there cuz in a re, re.
Reiterated kind of the points that a lotof founders have made. And I know we're coming to the end of the show and it'sbeen such a pleasure chatting with you, but I do want to ask this question. Isthere any question I didn't ask? Anything that you would've liked to answer orthat you didn't get a chance to answer? Go.
Jim: No, you've actuallydid a really good job. I think you, we've covered lots of, lots of topics here.I, I'm, I think one thing that we had talked about, and I think it goes to,some of the perception in ag is that, that it starts with the farmer. And Iwould say no, it ends with the farmer.
Yeah. Like, like, It starts higher up thethe food chain. Right. There's a whole, it's a trillion, I think it's somethinglike a 27 trillion industry. Yeah. For ag, right. And there's a lot ofdifferent players in that, in that market. The farmer is a critical componentof that. But there's an old saying by a John F.
Kennedy, that's like, the farmer is theonly, A person who, buys at retail, sells at wholesale and pays freight bothways, right? Yeah. And it's like, it's in a very important component, butthere's a whole ecosystem that supports ag, from the, distributors, suppliers,bankers.
Yeah. People who make the, the, the, theequipment that, that powers that that but most emphasis gets drawn on thefarmer. And I think they're one of many inputs to this whole ecosystem that.Our life better and healthier and happier. I mean, if you look during the Covidtime one of the big concerns of the government was food security that, oh myGod, if people aren't getting their frosted flakes in the morning, it's gonnaget nutty out there.
And there was a real concern about that,of like, it's a supply chain. Like cuz when people don't have food, then itgets crazy. Look at the toilet paper thing. Yeah. Imagine if that happened. TheFrosted Flakes, right? Yeah. So. The grower's part of it, but there's a wholesupply chain that's in part of it, and I think that's the emphasized of like,and we're plugging into the, to the, the, the risk management side of the banksand insurance and just a.
Keep in mind that the farmer is just onepart, but oftentimes that's the sexy part to talk about.
Julian: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Ilove that. And, and last little bit. Where can we find you? Where can we findAgrograph? Where can we, give our audience a chance to be able to support notonly the product, but you as a founder?
Give us your LinkedIns, your websites,your Twitters, where can we be a supporter of you and, and what you're workingon? .
Jim: Love it. We're atAgrograph.com on the interweb. You can find us on LinkedIn, Facebook andTwitter or not on InstAgrographm, and a lot of people in the banking worldcome, come, come to that side, info@Agrograph.com.
You could send us a note here. We'd,we'd love to hear from you and, and, and set up a conversation. Very gratefulJulian, for the opportunity to come on your show. You've, you guys have done agreat job and us to be able to contribute to this thought leadership. It'salways always a pleasure to do so.
Julian: Amazing. Jim, I hopeyou enjoyed yourself and thank you so much for being on Behind, Company Linestoday.
Jim: Thank you.
Julian: Of course.