The insight we gained from conducting 130 interviews in the agriculture ecosystem for the National NSF I-corps team program and the NSF Beat-the-Odds boot camp was priceless. We learned about our customers’ needs and were able to develop a strategy to focus our product development efforts on specific customers, market segments, and pests. We learned how to address the farmer’s needs, and identify key partners, resources, and more. Despite our 130 interviews, only 55 of them were growers. That is because August and September are the peak harvest time. The farmers were not available to take our calls because they…


Nothing clarifies your value proposition like one hundred customer interviews.

To our surprise, neither conventional nor organic growers of specialty and row crops were satisfied with the current pest management tools. Regardless of their pest control practices, conventional, organic, or integrated pest management (IPM), growers are looking for new solutions to persistent pest problems. Even though our beachhead market is organic specialty crop growers, we noticed early on that many conventional growers also had organic farms and utilized IPM, which integrates biologicals. Therefore, we included all of the specialty crop growers, regardless of their pest control practices.

Pesticide resistance can…


Uncovering surprising new insights during customer discovery

The Beat-The-Odd-Boot Camp was part of our National Science Foundation (NSF) Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant with a focus on entrepreneurial training. Our first job in the Boot Camp was customer discovery for the innovation that we are commercializing. To do this, we needed to “get out of the building” and conduct in-person interviews with at least 30 potential customers, something that is pretty hard to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, we conducted video interviews. In 2017 and 2018, we undertook a broad customer discovery (a total of 50 interviews)…


The hardest thing I have to do is to describe my role as Pheronym’s COO, which is crucial to our product development.

Karl Cameron Schiller, COO of Pheronym

What does a startup COO do? If you search Google for a COO’s role and job description, it says the COO is the second in command and runs the operations. Even though this is a very clear role for big companies, it is not so clear in a startup. Also, the COO role is different for every startup. For example, digital health tech or digital agriculture startups’ needs are very different from pharmaceutical or agriculture biotechnology startups. Furthermore…

Karl Cameron Schiller

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