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Seattle VC Went to a Farm and Startup Lessons Learned

Seattle VC Went to a Farm and Startup Lessons Learned

Seattle VC Went to a Farm and Startup Lessons Learned

Aviel Ginzburg has been dividing his time between fielding calls from would-be company founders and working on his farm. The software engineer, entrepreneur and investor has been a pioneer in the Seattle tech scene for quite some time and is now a general partner at the seed-stage venture fund Founders’ Co-op.

The self-proclaimed “city lad” recently bought some land on the spur of the moment and decided to add “farmer” to his list of occupations. Ginzburg and his wife had joked about owning property in Southern Oregon, and when they found a listing that met all their requirements, they made it a reality.

A winery, orchard, alfalfa field, flower garden, and stables for their horses are just some of the many amenities on their 40-acre property. As if that weren’t enough, gigabit fiber is already installed.

After the acquisition of Ginzburg’s social media analytics startup in 2017, he felt the itch to start a new business and started Double Dinosaur Farm.

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Ginzburg recently told, “So many companies are started because you become really enthused about something and get in over your skis.” “And that feeling was something I hadn’t experienced in a long time – and now I have it.”

Ginzburg isn’t the only IT industry veteran to look outside the company for advice on how to succeed in business. It was revealed last month by The Information that Mark Zuckerberg and other executives in Silicon Valley had taken up martial arts as a way to exercise their discipline and machismo in preparation for deal-making and competition.

Ginzburg’s experiences on the farm can teach the startups in his portfolio resilience and flexibility in the face of adversity.

Ginzburg was suddenly enlightened to this fundamental truth. He and his family, full of enthusiasm and naiveté, spent the first three days planting flowers and fruit trees. They were also successful in establishing an irrigation system that fed water from a neighboring creek.

Two days later however an unexpected frost hit, killing off all of their new vegetation. Further, the freezing caused the irrigation system’s pipes to burst, unleashing a torrent of water in all directions.

His only thought was that “we’re going into this recessionary time,” he remarked. The portfolio’s founders falsely assumed they would have a simple time raising capital because of their impressive growth projections. People are dropping out of appointments all of a sudden. They aren’t able to complete their rounds. Are we going to run out of money? they ask.

Seattle VC Went to a Farm

The farm’s disorder was a visible manifestation of the market’s unpredictable swings. That we have so little power over the world is a sobering reminder, he added.

The lessons didn’t end there. There was a persistent problem with Ginzburg’s tractor. The wounds he now bears from his attempts to repair the machine attest to the fact that he was also learning just how risky it was to drive and operate.

But Ginzburg also claims that his experience in the startup industry for the past 15 years has helped him get perspective on the farm.

Probably the most useful thing he taught me was that “things are usually shitshow internally” with companies.

As Ginzberg put it, “something is always breaking or failing” in a growing business. The same thing transpires out in the countryside. Machines break down. Crop failure occurs. Wild animals and the elements will always find a way to foil your best-laid plans.

Just replace “crops” with “customers” in the preceding sentence to describe a company. Ginzburg also uncovered the history of the expression “Make hay while the sun is shining,” a favorite of his coworker Chris DeVore at Founders’ Co-op.

According to him, hay growers need to cut the alfalfa and let it dry in the sun for three to seven days (depending on the heat) before they can bring out the baler. This procedure’s timing is of the utmost importance. All of the alfalfa’s nutritional value is lost if it’s harvested too late. The entire harvest could be lost if it rains during the drying process.

Ginzburg compares this to the ability of successful startup entrepreneurs to recognize when it’s time to be acquired or to seek further capital. He urged the group to “take this crazy risk” of locating the opening.

In 2021 “agtech” deals were worth $11.4 billion a record for the industry. So far Ginzburg’s time on the farm hasn’t inspired any particularly novel technological insights.

His conversations with multigenerational family farmers reveal a lack of enthusiasm for innovations that could make their work easier.

“A lot of them, they just genuinely adore their work, and they have a perfect understanding of how their instruments function toward their aims,” he added. To get things done quickly and effectively, it’s crucial that people can fix things on their own, or at least to a large extent. Taking something away from them, even if it means they’ll be more productive, isn’t an appealing idea.

Someday, Ginzburg hopes to build a market stand there to sell farm-fresh produce, fruit and flowers. The formation of a co-op with a nearby vintner is in the works. He would also like to construct some rustic cabins there. The plan is to set up a makeshift camp and invite the company owners in his portfolio to a weekend retreat at the farm.

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