Catching up with Velocity Fund $5K winner, IntelliCulture
Last July, IntelliCulture pitched and won $5,000 at the 22nd Velocity Fund Finals (VFF). We caught up with Michael Wu, Co-Founder of IntelliCulture, for a post-VFF update. IntelliCulture is now a Velocity Garage company.
IntelliCulture offers a hardware equipment logger to capture data from farm equipment, broadcast it to a cloud database. IntelliCulture uses the data to identify inefficiencies, recommend corrective actions, and help farmers to cut cost and make farming more profitable.
Q: How has your company developed since winning VFF?
Michael Wu (MW): Our company was founded not long before our entree application to the VFF. [We just] want[ed] to help out farmers and bring the benefits of precision agriculture technology to a wider customer base. After 3 months, we have committed ourselves to refine our customer segment and developing our business case. The IntelliCulture Team visited farm shows & exhibitions to do market research, spoke to farmers and local agriculture organizations to further our network and recently started working with farms to validate our first MVP. Meanwhile, we’ve been submitting more applications to various pitches and grants, with many pitches [lined up] in the next few weeks. IntelliCulture also became a Velocity company [last month].
Q: What is your company currently working on?
MW: The company is currently focused on doing detailed market research on our customer segment and refining the methods by which we can bring a valuable product to our target customers. To do this, we’ve been working on developing a bigger network through both local farmers, organizations in the southern Ontario regions, as well as approaching larger government bodies and agricultural ministers. Through them, we have begun acquiring the data and connections we need to proceed with developing our company. In the meantime, we’ve also set out to validate some of our early hypotheses. We are testing a minimum viable product (MVP) with a pilot farm, getting feedback from the user, and making incremental changes.
Q: What do you enjoy most about building a startup?
MW: Building a startup has been a very real experience for us in the sense that we really got to be connected with our customers, communities, and our business stakeholders. We all really enjoyed talking to so many people face-to-face about our shared interests in agriculture, technology, and rural life. All of the members in the company can attest that we have never been as in touch with the people that we want to provide solutions for prior in our professional careers. This is a scary feeling, but it has also been one of our favourite aspects of working on this company thus far.
Q: What did you like most about competing at VFF?
MW: We were able to meet many like-minded entrepreneurs with various experience levels, from industry experts to people just like us putting their ideas out for the first time. We gained a lot of confidence and faith in the goals that we are trying to achieve and learned a lot about different industries that we were not familiar with. We also gained many insights into what the entrepreneurial community around us was like. This was not a community that we had a great understanding of before we competed, and our experience at the competition definitely made the community as a whole a lot more personable. All of the teams really respected each other.
Q: Are there any tips you can give to startups that are pitching?
MW: I think the 2 biggest tips that we as a team would like to give is to be daring and manage time well.
When we started our venture, we were very timid and often underestimated our ability to convince others to back our ideas. We got a lot of positive experiences that made us believe in what we could accomplish, but it wasn’t without a lot of effort and we asked many questions. So we’d like to give a word of encouragement to the startups that are pitching: stay positive and keep on trying and exploring your ideas.
Another lesson that we have learned in developing our company thus far is that things get busy. There simply isn’t enough time to do everything we want to, no matter how hard we try. What really helped us (and we hope to pass on to other startups) is our willingness to dedicate time to track tasks, review priorities, and understand time expenditure at both the company level and the individual level. Although it is another item that needs time, it really helps us to ensure that we are on track and that we are actually being more efficient with our time over the long term. Hopefully, at a certain point, every group finds a time tracking and priority allocation method that would work for them.
Missed IntelliCulture’s pitch? Watch it on YouTube.
Want to see all of the updates from past season’s winners? Check out our Road to 23rd Velocity Fund Finals blog.
Learn more about the Fall 2018 Velocity Fund Finals today!
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.