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How effective commercialisation will benefit your AgTech startup

Donald Marvin

Over the past thirty years, Donald R. Marvin, President and CEO of Concentric, has established an impressive track record for building exceptional value for stakeholders at several life science and agri-food companies. Formerly New Jersey’s CFO of the year, he has raised over $350 million in both private and public financing and completed nearly a dozen M&A transactions for his former companies.

At the 3rd Partnerships in Biocontrol, Biostimulants, & Microbiome in Rotterdam, we caught up with Don to discuss what factors AgTech startups need to take into account when commercialising their products.

Successful commercialisation

“In order to successfully commercialise your technology, it has to work in the hands of the farmer. If it doesn’t work in the field and it doesn’t work for the farmer, then it doesn’t work. No matter what you say, it doesn’t work.

You also have to develop products that demonstrate a markable return on investment for the farmer. The farmer is not going to buy your product just for the sake of it – it has to make them money, too.”

Customer trials

“The reason Concentric carries out customer trials is because biology is biology – it’s not a perfect science. If someone says that they have a win rate of 99%, it’s hard to believe. Honesty is important in the field trials, particularly when you communicate the data to the farmers that you hope to sell your product to.

All our field trials are scientifically designed, they’re all replicated, they’re in various climate zones and soil types across different regions of the world.

Ultimately, it’s a body of scientific knowledge, and you have to be very transparent when you present that to your customers and your prospective customers.

Concentric is based on transparency and honesty with our investors, our board members, all our stakeholders, all our employees, and most importantly, all our customers. We have a growing network of customers all across North America. If you’re going to be shy on those building principles, then you’re making a mistake.”

Management

“From a management perspective, you have to have a really good leadership team around the table with a strong agricultural background and the experience required to take these products to market. This is particularly important for small companies, where you’re up against the key players out there in many regions around the world. If you cannot get a lot of expertise around the table, you lose your position.

You need a strong board that can guide the executive team to making those right decisions.”

Investment

“For first-time entrepreneurs, you need to remember that raising money is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. If you think it’s going to take a month or two to raise $5 million in the hope you might be lucky; chances are you won’t be. If you’re in it to win it, it’s going to take 6-18 months to raise that capital.

Go after the smart money, not the easy money. The smart money is very important because they understand your sector. They can help open doors for you, and they understand that it’s not an up or down case all the time. Sometimes entrepreneurs will tread water; sometimes they’ll swim. The smart money in this business understands that; whereas the easy money may not understand.

I give caution to all CEOs that if you’re going to take $50 million from a private equity firm, they might not have the sector knowledge that other investors may have because they’re momentum investors in some cases. If you can’t turn that $50 million that they invest in your company to create additional shareholder value, then it could be a problem down the line.”

To find out more about the next event in the series, 3rd Partnerships in Biocontrol, Biostimulants, & Microbiome: USA, simply take a look at the agenda here

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