Evolution in Managing a Startup

November 7, 2023
6 min read
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In a recent interview, we had the pleasure of sitting down with the CEO of InnerPlant, Shely Aronov, while she shared her inspiring vision and insights into the industry's future trends. Remember, knowledge is power, and understanding the trends shaping the agriculture industry can empower us to make a positive impact on the world.

5 Things You'll Hear:

  • The Convergence of Large-scale Agriculture with Plant-level Management: Explore how the industry is undergoing a significant transition, revolutionizing the way crops are managed on an individual plant basis while still maintaining large-scale operations on thousands of acres
  • The Commoditization of Agricultural Inputs: Learn how seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides are becoming more generic and off patent, resulting in a new landscape for farmers and businesses in the industry
  • The Role of Proprietary Products in Addressing Challenges: Discover how companies like John Deere are developing innovative solutions like their See and SprayTM technology, focusing on plant-by-plant management to address the challenges posed by commoditization
  • The Significance of Building a Team that Cares: Dive into Shely's philosophy on team building, where caring for individuals and fostering a strong culture is just as important as finding skilled employees
  • The Importance of Timing and Industry Trends: Gain insights into why timing and keeping a pulse on industry trends are crucial for success in any business venture

"Our ability to sequence and engineer DNA is strongly correlated to the increase in available computational power. As our gene repository increases, data storage and processing capabilities will be fundamental for making sense of an ocean of information."

Kira Noodleman - Partner, Bee

Read more about the potential applications of Synthetic Biology and the "Second Wave" in our Synthetic Biology Insight Paper or more about the mission and vision of InnerPlant on their website.

Shely Aronov: The Future of Agriculture

InnerPlant's Path to Success

A Quest for Impact

The journey begins with a desire for impact. After successfully founding two previous companies, Shely knew that she wanted more. The last venture, though not without merit, left her craving a more substantial imprint on the world. And so, the vision was born, a vision that would be profoundly inspired by the evolving trends in the industry.

The Convergence of Trends

When starting InnerPlant, Shely didn't do so blindly. Instead, she meticulously observed the industry, seeking to understand the future landscape. What she discovered was nothing short of remarkable. The agriculture sector was undergoing a colossal transformation characterized by two simultaneous trends.

First, there was the shift towards large-scale agriculture, managing thousands of acres, yet with a new focus: a plant-by-plant approach. Second, the inputs into agriculture, such as seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides, were heading down a path of commoditization. In fact, over 80% to 90% of these inputs were becoming generic and off-patent. When these two trends converged, the opportunity became unmistakably clear. The alluvial diagram below provides a glimpse into how CRISPR innovation is occurring all over the globe.

Figure 1: CRISPR Impact on Global Invention Inventory1

A Vision That Endures

What's particularly intriguing about this story is the endurance of the initial vision. This vision has not wavered since its inception. The team at InnerPlant has been working tirelessly towards this opportunity, and they are now witnessing it come to life. John Deere, a well-known name in the industry, launched See and SprayTM, a plant-by-plant management solution. Moreover, with more products being commoditized, the industry is acutely aware of the challenge, pushing for proprietary innovations. The trends are not only unfolding but strengthening Shely's vision.

Building a Culture That Cares

A company is more than just a product; it's a team of people who share a common mission. The entire Team at InnerPlant understands this deeply. The philosophy behind building a team for Shely is refreshingly simple: find people who care and, in turn, care for them. It's a recognition that a team's success hinges not only on their skills but also on the quality of management.

InnerPlant places great emphasis on having strong managers. After all, bad managers can be more detrimental than less-skilled employees. They believe in providing the team with support, engagement, and a clear path for growth. This philosophy fosters a culture where everyone is invested in the mission and driven by a purpose larger than just financial or scientific success.

Leadership in Adversity

One striking message that emerges from this journey is the importance of leadership in adversity. A leader's true mettle is tested when things go awry. Shely shares a powerful lesson: leaders shine when the going gets tough. It's easy to lead on good days, but true leadership is about showing up when everything seems to be falling apart.

She recalls a critical moment when an investor pulled out last minute, and a funding round unraveled. It was a challenging day, filled with uncertainty, and she had to deliver the news to the team. The world seemed in disarray, but she showed up, providing assurance and setting a course forward. It's in such moments that real leadership emerges.

Did you know that InnerPlant plans to expand its operations to millions of acres by 2028, utilizing cutting-edge equipment, daily satellite mapping, and working with farmers in both North and South America?

Navigating the Challenges of Growth

As any company grows, it faces new challenges. At the inception, there's often nothing to lose, which is liberating. But as a company expands, the stakes rise, and there's more to lose. Navigating this transition can be complex.

For Shely, the key is to constantly strategize and think ahead. This involves playing out scenarios and evaluating risks. While she thrives on risk, she recognizes the diverse stakeholders involved in the company may not share the same enthusiasm. Her approach involves mapping out the next ten steps and determining if the risk-reward balance is favorable.

The Future Unfolds

The journey of InnerPlant is far from over and Shely's vision extends into the future. By 2028, they envision impacting millions of acres, pioneering equipment generations, and employing cutting-edge satellite technology to map the earth daily. They're not only working in North America but expanding to South America, partnering with farmers on a global scale.

In the span of just a few years, InnerPlant has achieved remarkable milestones, and there's no doubt that the journey ahead promises even greater innovation and impact.

The story of InnerPlant is a testament to the power of visionary leadership, enduring commitment, and the ability to adapt and thrive in the face of adversity. It's a story that inspires us to think big, work together, and keep pushing the boundaries of what's possible. The future of agriculture is being shaped by the dreams and determination of entrepreneurs like the CEO of InnerPlant, and that's something worth celebrating.

Shely came through our third fund, and since the investment, the team has continued to grow its service and personnel. Click here to learn more about the Company and Team, or here if you are a Founder innovating in any of our three vectors.

  1. https://www.science.org/content/article/its-crispr-revolution-china-becomes-world-leader-genome-editing ↩︎

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