Episode 2 – Francis Obirikorang: From Changing Courses to Changing Lives
In Episode 2, we chat with Francis Obirikorang, Co-Founder and CEO of AgroCenta, an award-winning AgriTech company with a mission to improve the financial livelihood of smallholder farmers. Francis shares with us the story of AgroCenta’s early days to how they have become one of the fastest growing Agric technology companies in Africa.
August 06, 2018
About Today’s Guest
AgroCenta connects smallholder farmers in the staple food value chain to a wider online market to trade, access truck delivery services at the click of a button and also get real-time market information delivered to their mobile phones via SMS and voice services.
Francis shares with us the story of AgroCenta’s early days to how they have become one of the faster growing Agric technology companies in Africa.
What We Discuss In This Episode
- [1:50] Francis shares his journey of how he wanted to study Computer Science but ended up studied engineering in the university and how he moved on to software roles in a number software development companies and finally starting his own startup, Swappaholics, an online barter trading platform for exchanging consumer goods which launch in Dubai, Ghana and a number of other African countries
- [8:40] Francis talks about how stiff competition by bigger players like Tonaton and Olx forced them to close down Swappaholics and give birth to AgroCenta.
- [10:20] Francis talks about how he and his cofounder spent 8 months in the field travelling across the country to speak to more than 1000 farmers and understand customer pain-points with no funding and how they applied lessons from Swappaholics to ensure that AgroCenta became successful.
- [11:45] Francis talks about how they came about deciding on the exact solution they wanted to build.
- [13:17] The critical pain points that AgroCenta is solving for farmers.
- [16:14] How AgroCenta’s commodities trade platform, AgroTrade works and how it connects companies who need commodities to farmers who have the commodities.
- [21:15]How AgroCenta faced problems with logistics along the value chain while trying to move commodities from one place to the other and how they build their own platform to match truck drivers to ready-to-transport commodities.
- [22:58] Francis talks about how AgroCenta built their own payment solution to solve the issues of payments among farmers whose commodities they buy and how their payment solution helps farmers build a credit score to enable them access loans from financial institutions.
- [26:00] Francis talks about the vision for AgroCenta.
- [27:25] Francis talks about the impact AgroCenta is making in the lives of the farmers enrolled on their platform.
- [30:01] Francis talks about how much funding AgroCenta has raised so far.
- [32:18] Francis shares lessons that they have learnt along the way while building AgroCenta.
- [34:09] Francis talks about what has been his memorable NO from an investor.
- [38:42] Francis shares some advice for people who want to go into agriculture.
- It is important to go be mindful of competition.
- Before you develop a product or service, it is critical to understand the customer’s pain points.
- You may have assumptions about the problem you want to solve and the solution you want to provide but it is important to validate your assumptions by speaking to your potential users.
- It is important to keep learning. Learn how to sell the product, how to speak to investors, how to raise funding, etc.
- Not many investors will fund you because you just because you have an idea or you have an MVP.
- Investors are looking for traction, impact and what you hope to achieve.
- As the founder of a startup, you will have to wear multiple hats sometimes and take on many roles in your company.
- Agriculture is one of the fields you get to enjoy what you do, make an impact and make good money but be prepared to get your hands very very dirty.
- Before you go and look for investment, you should be investment ready. You don’t go chasing money with an idea.