Saber Miresmailli, founder of Crop Sense, explains how Wavefront has helped accelerate the growth of his agri-tech company.
“In the span of a few months, Wavefront turned me from an academic with an exciting idea to an entrepreneur with a product ready to sell.”
From Ideation to First Steps
In 2010, Saber Miresmailli had an idea to develop a technology to revolutionize the farming industry. As an academic on track to complete a PhD in Chemical Ecology, he had a wealth of knowledge in both the food and sustainable energy sectors. But to turn his idea into a reality, Saber needed to connect with individuals who could offer the business know-how, funding opportunities and support to create a marketable product.
“I was basically an academic with an idea, but didn’t know how to make a product out of it, let alone sell it! Around that time I was told by a friend, you have to go to Wavefront, they can really help you make things happen!”
Acceleration Program at Wavefront a Catalyst for Growth
Shortly after arriving at Wavefront in 2014, Saber enrolled in the Venture Acceleration Program (VAP). Through this program and the many connections made at Wavefront, Saber began his journey as a first-time entrepreneur. Wavefront provided many arms of support to get him started on the right path:
- Gateway to Connection. Saber was introduced to government agencies like NRC-IRAP and other organizations who support the growth of tech startups. “I learned there is a lot of support out there for people like me. Wavefront was the gateway to understanding what’s available and what’s possible.”
- Education and Training. The Venture Acceleration Program helped Saber develop a sound business plan, minimum viable product and an understanding of real customer needs before heading to market.
- Executives in Residence. One-on-one coaching from a seasoned business mentor guided each of Saber’s steps forward and helped him avoid common pitfalls along the way. “Learning to draft a shareholder agreement, how to acquire the right patents and the right people to hire was invaluable mentorship when just starting out.”
- Networking. Building a network of advocates through Wavefront, Saber was able to leverage newfound collective knowledge and contacts to expedite his company’s success. “Wavefront is full of amazing people — many of whom went from advocates to great friends. Learning from fellow entrepreneurs at Wavefront was a great perk!”
Crop Sense Poised to Change the Future of Agriculture
As a result of the support received at Wavefront, Crop Sense was off to a rolling start in the market.
Crop Sense raised more than $800,000 in funding through a newfound network of support. Numerous grants were received from NRC-IRAP, MITACS, NSERC, BCIC, and the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC funded the first pilot after connecting with the company through Wavefront. The Crop Sense technology is now in its fifth generation. With the support of Wavefront mentors, the product continued to evolve with a mind to true user needs, going on to prove itself as valuable in the market.
Their technology is actively used in BC nurseries. In 2017, the company will extend commercial roll-out across North America including California and Mexico, with plans to venture into Europe, Asia and Australia in 2018. The company has filed multiple patents for their revolutionary technology and continues to apply learnings from their Wavefront education to take steps towards efficient growth.
As for team growth? The company has expanded from a team of two to 11. Wavefront’s connections to talent and funding helped them get the right people on board at the right time.
Awards and Social Impact
With its early success, Crop Sense has already garnered attention from many groups and awards across Canada, such as:
- Serving as an advisor to the BC Minister of Agriculture
- Representing BC at The United Nations Climate Technology Center and Network
- Being named as a Top 10 company in the 2014 BCIC New Venture Competition
- Winning the IAFBC 2015 Award of Excellence for Innovation in Agriculture and Agri-food
- Winning the 2016 TSX Award for Best Presentation at BC Angel Forum
- Winning the 2016 BC AgriTech Art of Pitch Challenge
- Winning the 2016 Innovation Award of North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce
- Actively participating in the Vancouver food policy council