agtech content company
Rob Leclerc has the kind of pedigree that investors tend to like: He has a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Calgary and a Ph.D. in computational biology from Yale. In fact, 10 years ago, what he really wanted to do with his degrees was to find and fund agriculture-related projects that tackle climate change.
But a decade ago, “agtech” wasn’t yet a category, and that was problematic when it came to pitching investors on the concept of an investment fund that Leclerc would run with partner Michael Dean, with whom Leclerc had previously operated an agribusiness in West Africa for several years.
At the time, “there were a handful of businesses” relating to agtech that investors were aware of, Leclerc said. Think Climate Corp and Impossible Foods and the smart machinery company Blue River. But Climate Corp hadn’t yet sold to Monsanto for $1 billion. Impossible Foods wasn’t valued in the billions of dollars, as it is today. And Blue River was still years away from its $305 million sales to John Deere.
The strategy isn’t unprecedented. Leclerc said he was partly inspired by Michael Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch, who built a brand around entrepreneurship, then used the strength of that brand to launch an investing career. Meanwhile, Arrington was preceded in his path by investor Jason Calacanis, who earlier founded a media company, and more recent examples are beginning to emerge routinely. Among them: Londoner Harry Stebbings used his “Twenty Minute VC” podcast as a springboard into the venture world last year, and Nik Milanović, the author of a two-year-old newsletter called “This Week in Fintech,” in January launched an investing syndicate called the Fintech Fund.
Still, newsletter subscribers – no matter how deep their pockets – don’t invest tens of millions of dollars in a team without seeing some results first. And AgFunder (which has since broadened its LP base) already has some about which to brag. Among the 60 companies to so far receive a check from AgFunder was the autonomous tractor startup Bear Flag Robotics, which sold to John Deere last year for $250 million; Root AI, a startup that was developing a harvesting robot for indoor farms and was acquired by AppHarvest for $60 million last year; and Greenlight Biosciences, a biotech company focused on RNA research that went public last month by merging with a special purpose acquisition company.
agtech content company