We put together a list of the top YC companies by valuation as of October 2018. You can see that list at https://ycombinator.com/topcompanies.
Here’s a Q&A with Jesse Vollmar, Cofounder & CEO of Farmlogs, one of the companies featured on the list.
What does FarmLogs make/do?
We’re creating a better future for farming by making software that helps growers run more efficient and more profitable operations.
How many employees does FarmLogs have?
How many founders?
What is your most impressive recent product milestone?
We recently designed and launched a radically better way for farmers to sell their crops. It gives them access to powerful financial instruments that can help them manage risk while maximizing profitability but in a way that is simple and intuitive. We did this all in just a few months and are gearing up for a much larger-scale launch later this year.
What is the larger impact / societal impact of your product in the space you work within?
We’re helping multi-generation family businesses stay in business and succeed in a very challenging economic environment. Farming isn’t just a job, it is an entire way of life and we get to help people that often get overlooked hold on to their family heritage.
What’s an interesting element of FarmLogs’ company culture?
I think we’re quite adaptable. Our market evolved a lot since we started and we’ve been able to shift our focus while still staying true to our mission. We really care about farmers and optimize for the impact we can make for them.
Looking back, what motivated you to start FarmLogs?
I really just wanted farming software to be better. I grew up on a farm so I could see that the innovation in farm technology had really stalled out. There wasn’t anything exciting happening anymore. The same old legacy desktop software hadn’t really changed in over a decade. I couldn’t stand the software most farmers were using and neither could they.
Is what you’re working on now the original idea or did you pivot?
The market has evolved and a year ago we executed a fairly bold pivot. We had been working on data-science driven solutions to maximize yield and minimize cost when we realized that helping farmers maximize the price they sell the crop at will have an even larger impact. We’re now building an entirely new and better way for farmers to sell their crops and not just focusing on yield.
Were there moments where you thought the company might die? Describe one of those and anything you learned from it.
Early on when we were trying to raise our seed round, we just weren’t having any success. We were fresh out of YC and agtech was not something VCs were interested in. Not being able to raise money when some of our fellow YC graduates could really scared us at first. We decided to just hunker down, keep the burn rate low and keep grinding away making the product better. Eventually investors came knocking on our door because we were making something customers wanted and it started to show.
I look back now, and many of the hottest companies of the time (that easily raised a bunch of money) no longer exist. I think the lesson is: focus on what customers want not what VCs want and keep your burn rate low until you are sure things are working.
What was a particularly important insight you had about your market that made your product work?
We knew how much weather plays a role in farmer’s lives and just how much farmers would want to know how much rain they got at their fields. This seems like something that might already exist or like something that isn’t all that important, but we knew otherwise. We found this esoteric, scientific-grade rainfall dataset and built a really great product experience around it for farmers. That simple innovation unlocked a massive amount of growth for us.
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with a young founder?
Set out on a mission that matters to you personally and that you can be genuinely passionate about. Don’t just start a company for the sake of starting a company.