The Dion Guagliardo Podcast

#38 John Fargher - Co-Founder of AgriWebb

May 11, 2023 John Fargher Season 1 Episode 38
The Dion Guagliardo Podcast
#38 John Fargher - Co-Founder of AgriWebb
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

AgriWebb is a digital platform that helps livestock producers with record-keeping, compliance and productivity. Starting in 2014, AgriWebb has now grown to the point where 25% of Australia’s farm animals are managed under the platform. To date, they've raised over $40 million at a market cap of over $100 million.

Throughout the episode, John discusses the history of technology’s impact on the farming industry and what innovation is needed today. John also emphasises the importance of meaningful conversations to unlock opportunities for both yourself and your business.

If you like this episode, feel free to share with family and friends and leave a 5 star review.

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General Magic Documentary:  https://www.generalmagicthemovie.com/

Favourite Business Book (Shoe Dog): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27220736-shoe-dog


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 Audio

There's a whole theory crucial conversations, whether it's conversations at home or whether it's conversations in a workplace or, or beyond. getting the most out of those conversations. Being curious, asking lots of questions, building lots of trust so people, people want to open up to you and, give you, you lots of gold along the way. And actually caring about an answer of what someone has to say. So often I, I see and hear people. Not actually listening to what you've said, Dion or others, and just, I'm just ready for my response.

And actually, yeah. I haven't heard what you've said and I haven't been active because I've just got an agenda over here that I'm trying to try.

Yeah. Right. Yeah. 

Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah. 



(Generic Introduction)

 Welcome to the Dion Guagliardo Podcast, where I interview business people who run or have sold businesses worth a few million dollars all the way through to billions of dollars. While most of my time is spent to managing investment portfolios for people after they've had a successful exit. I've always been fascinated by the entire process and hearing the insights that successful entrepreneurs and business people have learned along their.

At Fortress Family Office, we're an investment portfolio manager and we manage portfolios for high net worth families. If you'd like to know more about not only the way we approach investment markets by our philosophy on life and business, feel free to subscribe to my weekly insights note. Go to www.fortressfamilyoffice.com and hit subscribe.

(Episode Introduction) In this episode, I interviewed John Fargher, co-founder of a AgriWebb. AgriWebb is a digital platform that helps livestock producers with record keeping compliance and productivity. They started the business in 2014. Business has now grown to the point where, Almost 25% of Australia's farm animals are managed under the platform.

They've raised, over 40 million at a market cap well beyond a hundred million. throughout the episode, John discusses the history of technology's impact on the farming industry and what sort of innovation is needed today. He also emphasized the importance of meaningful conversations with your customers to unlock opportunities for both yourself and your business.

Really interesting conversation around relationships. If you'd like this episode, feel free to share with family and friends and leave a five star review.


Well, John, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us. 

Yeah, thank you. great to be here. 

Do you wanna just give us a little bit of background about, where your journey started and sort of how it got to where you are now with, ag AgriWebb, and just a bit of background and, and your journey.

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I guess like all things, I've sort of always been a bit of an, an entrepreneur at heart. but you know, my roots and where I actually grew up on a farm, in regional South Australia, fifth generation farmer out there. So grew up with rolling up the sleeves and, you know, following the footsteps to my father and grandfather and became very passionate about agriculture and, and more particularly, you know, passionate about innovation, technology.

How can we do things better? And, you know, going back, looking at, at what we did in previous generations, you know, we, we have a large Outback station, 400,000 acres. so to do anything takes a lot of time and a lot of time and effort. You go back in the fifties and sixties, we had a staff of 40 all on horseback and, with the evolution of technology and innovation, the motorbike came in and eventually, and Cessna came in and, and call it the late seventies.

So what took kind of a month could now take a couple of hours, right? Yeah. And what took 40 staff is now down to two staff, right. Or, or the family could, could run it on, its on its own. So quite dramatic transformational changes in, in those decades. I sat back and, and really looked at what had really shifted in more of my generation call it the last ten, twenty, thirty years, we didn't see the same step changes, right?

We were still doing the same sorts of things in terms of, taking, hours to days to check. Stock watering points, we were still making decisions from a generational perspective the way we'd always made decisions on the farm. And we were still ultimately, you know, using a pencil and paper notebook at Besta spreadsheet to kind of make forward, based business decisions.

So that led me to go, right, well, let's have a look at some software. We did look at software. We actually bought some about 20 odd years ago. and it came in a floppy disk and stayed that way in the top drawer of the office. Right? Yeah. So that, that, that was really opened my eyes to being like, right, this industry in terms of agriculture as it stands, is the act is the least digitized industry in the world.

And when we look at livestock, agriculture, and what I mean by that is, call it sheep and cattle farmers. is the least digitized of, of agriculture. So that's really kind of my upbringing. and was very passionate about sort of driving change, not just for our family business, but has as a, as a whole industry.

I mean, you know, we are looking at a, a, a multi-trillion dollar industry. That's ultimately run off the back of a pencil and paper notebook globally. Yeah. Right. So, so with that comes lots of problems, but also comes lots and lots of opportunities. that was my burning passion, burning desire. I went off and did other things, professionally, actually, I, I'm a lawyer by background.

not, probably because I wanted to become a lawyer. It was more around, I wanted some kind of a professional degree behind me and wanted to, to learn, a good chunk of skills that could be applicable across, across multiple areas, but really business. so, you know, through university I mentioned I was entrepreneurial.

I did a bunch of little side hustles and all those types of things, and then went off to. To London. I was in London for about four years doing a few different bits and pieces. but I ended up doing some kind of legal and commercial work in a, in a technology based retail company, which gave me sort of my first experience into enterprise software, SaaS software, commercializing software, those types of components.

and then I ultimately met, the other two founders. So there's, so there's three co-founders at a AgriWebb. and we got together in 2014 and, uh, and I moved back to Australia then and, and then we founded AGB to, to get things, to get things off the ground. Yeah. And 

so the, the agricultural side of things in business was your passion.

What, what was the deciding factor where you've sort of gone, I wanna go down this path with software business rather than sort of working on the farm or doing something, directly related to the farm 

itself? You know? Yeah, good question. So, you know, we'd been, we'd been on the land for, for generations, you know, as I mentioned, basically five generations.

And my parents were always very encouraging of going and doing something else, experiencing something else, and, and if we eventually came back to the family farm even better. really opening, opening your eyes up, having a look around, having a look at the world and, and encouraged, you know, education and travel and, and those types of things.

So that was always kind of a big part of growing up was, you know, make sure you go and have a look at the world cuz hey, the farm's the farm's gonna be here for you and, and you know, I've got an old brother if, if you want that. that kind of gave a lot of, a bit of a weight off the shoulders.

Particularly in, in farming families. Sometimes you don't get that opportunity where there's a deep expectation that you're just gonna come back to the farm. and you know, as I said, Still very passionate about the industry and, you know, still got a very close connection to the family farm. Uh, and, and one day, you know, I'm still see a world where I get very actively involved in, in the family farm, but I've just got aspirations from a business perspective, you know, that, that reach above and beyond the farming business.

Yeah. So, and in terms of, the business that you've co-founded, um, with the other two, they've both got farming backgrounds as well, I assume. 

Yeah, so one, one of our co-founders, Justin Webb, uh, has a, has a family farm as well, very similar to, to my story, except he didn't, he didn't grow up on the farm like I did.

He, he grew up, uh, in a world actually, he describes himself as, as more of a math geek than, than a farmer. But, but ultimately, um, you know, his father was a multi-generational farmer. And, and Justin had come back to his family farm to make some decisions when his father got ill. he was sitting around the kitchen table.

He has a finance background, and he was like, great, like, you're asking me to make some pretty big decisions around some inputs and some costs. So he started asking questions around, well, what sort of return can we expect? And hey, where's the data? All these types of questions. And of course, it was sort of a blank face across the table, which was, oh no, like this is the way we've always done that.

So, um, for Justin, it was, Hmm. There's gotta be a better way here. I wonder if there's some software out there. Very similar kind of, discovery process of actually that there's no software. Uh, I wonder if there's an opportunity. He himself is very entrepreneurial. He's, built and sold three or four businesses in the finance space.

Okay. And so this for him was bringing together two worlds of, um, entrepreneurship, building businesses, but also some roots into farming. our third co-founder, uh, Kevin Baum has, has actually no ag background at all. American guy. And he sort of grew up in, um, Silicon Valley, basically did undergrad through Stanford.

He grew up with a bunch of his peers. That were going off. you know, this was kind of when Facebook and Twitter and, and the big social companies were getting off the ground. So his cohort were going off into these sorts of environments. Um, and he had those opportunities as well. But the way he describes that is, Hey, I wanna do something sort of more real and impactful with my life and, and, and sharing pictures with my, with my teenage mates at the time.

Didn't get him outta bed. Yeah. What got him outta bed was real industries, energy, infrastructure. Yeah. Food, those types of, those types of industries. so he went off, uh, doing some, some consulting into energy and then Justin and Kevin actually met together when they were doing their b a over, in the uk.

(Clip)

So they did an MBA over at Oxford, um, and decided they wanted to do something entrepreneurial. Then this sort of aha moment popped out of the, of the woodwork of, hey, maybe there's an opportunity in agriculture. Maybe you know, the most, the original. And most important industry, arguably for humanity being agricultural and food.

Mm-hmm. hey, it's the least digitized industry in the world and actually one of the most important, that's pretty impactful. We can get out of bed for that. Let's do something about it. Um, yeah. And so that's how all of our worlds came together. One of those scenarios where I got introduced to the two of them.

Over, over a beer, in London when that actually moved back to Australia. And, uh, we got on a couple of Skype chats this was before Zoom was around in, in 2014, we decided we were gonna, we were gonna kick this off and, and solve all the problems of the world. And, uh, I then resigned from my job in London and convinced my now wife to resign from her job in London.

she's a lawyer as well, so we had very good jobs and, uh, we resigned and, and got on a plane without actually meeting Justin and Kevin face to face. And everyone's like, oh, really? Everyone's like, you're, you're crazy. What are you, what are you doing? you realize this, this could fail or this could go nowhere and you guys are leaving your successful, um, kind of start of your, your successful career here in London.

and that was the start of it. So we jumped on a plane set up in a garage in Melbourne. Um, no one Australia. And we've never looked back, but, but most people thought we were crazy at the 

time. Well, it's funny, isn't it, because that's all comes down to perception. And obviously you've looked at it, weighed up the pros and cons and decided that, well, this is a reasonable risk to take if it doesn't work out.

Presumably you can just fly back and get jobs doing what you were doing before. It's, people don't think like that generally, though. I mean, that's presumably how you looked at it from a risk management point of view. But a lot of people think that's a pretty dramatic thing to 

do. Yeah, that's bang on. you know, it, it, it is, it is basically a risk management assessment of, of risk at the time and at the end of the day, be plenty of legal jobs out there, right?

That's not going away. And so what was the worst that was gonna happen? We weren't successful or we didn't get to where we wanted to get to. Our fallback was, could go back to, to what we were doing previously. Um, but the opportunity, the upside. Was so huge, right? I mean, the new skills, the new opportunities.

even if, if AgriWebb you know, wasn't as successful as it is now, or, or we didn't kind of achieve our goals, those opportunities and life skills are, are with you forever. Yeah. And, uh, and also, you know, it's, it's, you only, you only get one crack at it, right? So if you've got an itch, you sh you should go and scratch it because you don't wanna look a hundred percent true.

Yep. You don't wanna look back and, and, and wonder what if. and the other thing is, you know, people in professional careers, law being one of them, not the only one. Um, the further you continue and progress. In that career, the harder it is for people to leave. and so, you know, if people are very happy in the, in their said profession, great.

But if people have an itch they wanna scratch, um, you've gotta get on with it. Because the, the further you, you get, you get down that path, the harder it is to, to to, to make a call 

to jump. Yeah. Hundred percent. If you, if there's something that you wanna have a go at, just do it and it'll work itself out.

And at the worst case scenario, you've, you've got great experience, and absolutely. You, you learn from it and you move forward, but none of that stuff's gonna kill you. Yeah. You just, yeah. But you get the experience from it. It's priceless. And I don't think enough people put, put it in that perspective sometimes to, to just have a go.

And even parents as, as parents of, of, of adult kids and that sort of stuff who are coming through, it's easy to sort of say, take the safe route. But if you wanna try something, just go for it and see what happens. And you, you know, don't die wondering. 

Absolutely. Absolutely. And um, you know, I think you, you mentioned parenting there.

I think that's a great example. again, my parents were always very encouraging of going and trying, exploring new things. And as farmers, you know, they're risk takers. They're innovators. Yeah. They have to roll up the sleeves and do everything themselves. So that's kind of been in my upbringing and in my blood as well as, Hey, we've gotta figure this out.

And, uh, and I think that, that, you know, that is a great spirit to, to take on or, or, or to have as part of how you think about life. 

And how do, how do you find that with the, you know, going to your customers who are obviously farmers and, and station owners and, and you're talking to them, you've got the background.

because they can sometimes be extremely innovative, but they can also be very. Stubborn sometimes in terms of how they do things. So how do you, how do you, assuming that's right, but that's, that's been my experience. They can be the most innovative, and, um, creative people when it comes to solving problems, but they can also be very, um, stuck in their way sometimes.

How do you, how does that, how do you go managing that sort of issue and is it an issue? 

a funny one, isn't it? You know, every, everyone, uh, sort of asks this question around, and you are right. You know, our software is, is designed and built for farmers. So, you know, we, we sell our software to, to livestock, uh, farmers in Australia and, and globally.

we have, you know, about 16,000 farmers use our platform. About 25% of all of the animals in Australia are on our platform. but, from the day we got our first customer to, you know, the customers we continue to bring on every day, ultimately it comes down to change management.

And it's not just about farmers, right? People don't like change. and people are just stuck in their ways. And it just so happens that that can be accelerated or that can be concentrated, I guess in a farming environment because we're trying to sell a software product don't sit in front of a computer or every day.

Right. They're, they're out farming. Yeah. And they have limited time to come home, and use and interact on a computer with, with software tools so that then, you know, we need to think about the way farmers think, you know? So that's when we built our software, which we, we do all ourselves. We, we build it all in-house.

making it simple and easy, making it on their mobile phone, right? Making it work offline so that they can interact, in an environment that they're working in. Right. Sitting in the u sitting on a horse, on the motorbike, whatever it might be. overcoming the challenges of.

taking on technology, yes, we have a scenario where, look, the average age of of farmers in Australia is 58 or 56 or something like that, right? So there's, there's a bit of, a bit of an age barrier. but actually, it's not fair to always say, oh, farmers just don't adopt technology.

You know, often we see it's the, the opposite, right? Yeah. You know, they're very innovative, they're very willing to, to give something a go. They're risk takers. And so that provides a great opportunity, to really get involved. And, you know, I think the biggest challenge becomes that change management, right?

It becomes taking people from what they were doing to something new. And we see this all the time, you know, we. Meet other, founders and other leaders of businesses. And we talk about the challenges and we say, oh, you know, selling software to farmers is the hardest, you know, hardest sector to, to be in adoption's slow, all those types of things.

you know, someone in the medical industry, in, in MedTech, if you, if you want to call it that, says, yeah, if you think selling to farmers would be hard, try selling to doctors, right? Yeah. Okay. Yeah, yeah. You know, and then, and then good point. You go through sector by sector and you're like, yeah, it's just hard, isn't it?

Right? And it just comes down to change management ultimately. And people as human beings don't like change. then, then, you know, you need to take on ways of, of opening people's eyes of, you know, how can make their life easier, can make more money, et cetera, et cetera. 

And really there you're just talking about the user experience, aren't you?

And, and where you say they're gonna be in the use or they're gonna be wherever, uh, you're just gonna make the technology applicable and make the user case or the, the, um, the u user experience, I should say, uh, as 

seamless as possible. Yeah, exactly. I mean, no one wants to make anyone's life harder, right?

Yeah. So we've gotta make someone's life easier, and there's gotta be a value proposition or a benefit at the other end. Um, and so, you know, that that's kind of the, the key to 

it. A and in terms of the business, a as you've, you've gone along, you've had business experience before and it sounds like the other founders have as well.

How did that go when you first started the business in terms of your strengths and weaknesses? and how did they compliment with the other founders? 

yeah, great question. Topic. so I guess from my perspective, you know, I grew up on a farm, professional background in, in law, and a few other bits and pieces thrown in there.

Justin professional background off a farm or farming family professional background in financing and building businesses. Kevin, you know, background in commercializing technology, and really. understanding and taking on best practices around SaaS, you know, software as a service and building business off the back of best practices.

Interestingly though, in the mix of those of, of three founders, no actual technical person, so normally if you go into a, a software company or a technology company in a founding cohort, you're gonna get a C T o, chief Technology Officer. Yeah. Or a Chief product officer that's gonna bring that technical capability.

So often that's like, oh, interesting. You know, there's no, there's no technical founder in there. that, that was one area of, you know, is that necessarily a weakness or not? In, in the cohort, in the three of us? Yeah. And the, as the story goes, I, I mentioned before how we all met over Skype and kind of quit my job without meeting each other.

At that point in time, before Justin and Kevin had met me, they were looking for. A technical person to join the team. Right. They, they're effectively looking for a technical founder. And, the mutual friend that connected us sent my CV across and, you know, they're like, what the hell do we need with a lawyer?

We're after a software developer, right? Yeah. Right. so that's kind of how that discussion went. and then when we got together, you know, we just kind of, we just gelled and we just knew that, that there was, there was an opportunity here, you know, we then like went on to hire a C T O and bring in yeah, great technical talent that are still with us today, that are part of, you know, that early cohort, the early handful of, of folk that we have in the business.

we've gone on now, I think there's over 70 people in the business now, but, but you know, in those, in those early days. my strengths in this I've always been customer facing. whether it be, finding our first customer, whether it be working through, you know, challenged around what product to build and designing the product to supporting our customers to working, how to market our customers, to working, how to scale, our processes, scaling our teams, running teams.

I've always been focused on that go to market side. and my strengths in that have been, I come with a farming background, so I get it, and I know the problems we're trying to solve, and I can, you know, strongly relate to our customer base. And I spent many, many years of, that early time driving down driveways, having cups of tea across the table.

(Clip)

And I can't, reinforce how important it is in, in any business. Yep. Particularly in those early days to really understand who your target customer is. To understand what problems they're facing, to understand, you know, what some of those solutions might be. So many times there's effectively a solution that's created to try and solve a problem that doesn't exist.

Yeah. And then you wonder why you can't sell it, or you wonder why people don't want your product. and so, you know, we just spent a lot of time doing that and so important in, in really building that trust, building that integrity, and then of course you've gotta figure out how to scale that, right?

Yeah. But my strength in that was really building relationships, having trust, having integrity, people, finding people you wanna work with, and reciprocating that. and then in terms of, you know, it's hard to, start businesses, it's hard to get them off the ground. Those early months and years are so critical, and that's why unfortunately a lot of small businesses fail.

You know, whatever it is. You probably know the stats 95% in the first few years. First five years, yeah. Yeah. And you need to be, you know, you need to be tenacious, right? You need to have tenacity, you need to be creative, you need to be curious, and, you know, you need to get your hands dirty, right? And so all of those things is really, I guess, kind of my core strength, which, which then, you know, become the framework of, of how you, how you build this out.

And, and ultimately, in my role is, is ultimately heavily focused on sales. I, I now run a lot of our enterprise business, which is not selling direct to farmers. It's, it's more around data and. bringing in groups in the value chain. and so, I guess that's what I, what I do from a day-to-day basis.

And I didn't get taught any of that. Like I didn't, yeah, I didn't go through and have a profession in, in sales or product development or anything like that. it was learning on the go, learning from people, getting your hands st dirty. And, and I guess that's kind of how I'd wrap my strengths up. 

But, and when you talk about u understanding the problem or understanding the customer and all those types of things, you're really talking about conversations, right?

You, you, I mean, I know that's probably pretty obvious, but in terms of, you hear people say those sorts of things that you need to understand the problem, but it's not, it goes beyond understanding the problem. To understand the problem, you've really gotta do what you were talking about, which was having those cups of teas with people and, and just really drilling down into those conversations.

Is, is that 

fair to say? I, yeah, I think that's bang on. I heard this the other day from our chief people officer, and I think it's absolutely correct. A lot of people say, oh, Relationships, effectively make businesses successful. Yeah. And it's actually not relationships, it's conversations, right. So it's conversations that build relationships that make companies successful.

(Clip)

Yeah. And then there's a, there's a, there's a whole theory, your listening base to, to look up is crucial conversations, some great content, great education around that, that can help people in all walks of life, whether it's conversations at home or whether it's conversations in a workplace or, or beyond.

and that really rings true to me, which is really around, getting the most out of those conversations. Again, whether it be peers, whether it be potential customers or customers or clients or prospects. And a big component of that, is active, listen. Right? Mm-hmm. Is the art of negotiation in helping people get to mutual goals I think that's a big part of it.

being curious, asking lots of questions, building lots of trust so people, people want to open up to you and, give you, you lots of gold along the way. 

Yeah. It is massively underrated, right? In terms of any industry, if you wanna understand stuff, you've really gotta talk to people and, and sometimes it's clumsy and clunky or whatever it might be, but they're the real genuine conversations where you go, oh, okay, I didn't realize that.

Now I get it, or whatever it might be. Like, those, those conversations really matter around 

any topic. Yeah. Ab absolutely. And actually caring about an answer of what someone has to say. So often I, I see and hear people. Not actually listening to what you've said, Dion or others, and just, I'm just ready for my response.

And actually, yeah. I haven't heard what you've said and I haven't been active in responding and, and digging into that. And so, I've failed to build trust and rapport, and then I've failed to actually get to the heart of the issue because I've just got an agenda over here that I'm trying to try.

Yeah. Right. Yeah. 

Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah. as you built the business or in, in the early, early days, was there, you've got the idea, you think it's got legs and there's some potential there. Was there a moment where whether it was with a customer or was with the sale or what, where you sort of thought, oh, this, really does have legs, this is what we thought it would be?

Was there a moment there where you sort of, 

yes. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. The, the a absolutely. like all these things, you kicked them off and. what you say you're gonna do initially changes over time and morphs into something else. Of course. I mean, you know, we, we had this grand strategy originally of trying to do a whole bunch of things, software being a component of that, but there are other components and now, you know, we've really narrowed in on, on software and, and what we do and what we do best, and we're the global leader of that now.

But, you know, in those early days before you have customers, before you've really got a product, you're kind of sitting there being like, is is this gonna work? And do people have what we want? And there is one very specific moment in time, well, there's two, but the first one is, is impactful. And, and so I'll respond by this, it was our very first customer that joined us.

as I mentioned, we'd spent lots of time driving down driveways, having cups of tea. Yeah. Understanding problems, going through product iterations and getting feedback. this one guy we'd worked with based in regional Victoria, right? A couple of hours outta Melbourne. he had found us, in the early days, uh, when we hardly even had a website, right?

So there was no marketing, there was no, there was no actual, you know, efforts to get our website out in front of everyone. And he'd still found us, right? And he rang, he, he put a contact form me in saying, Hey, I'm interested in the software. So anyway, we got in contact with this guy and said, look, how did he even find us?

But, but we said, yep, great. We work with this guy, for a few months actually, and we got product in hand and gave us a bunch of feedback and, you know, we get, got to know his family and his kids and all this sort of stuff. Anyway, after a few months, he invited us back to his farm and we got to a point where this was gonna be our first customer, right?

(Clip)

He was gonna buy, he was, or what we thought he was gonna buy our software. And we're like, this is it. So Kevin and I and the other co-founders, we were driving down. to meet James. we were going along and, and for, for those not, you know, from a farming background that's gonna be listening to this, we're driving along the main, main highway.

And onto that was his driveway to the farmhouse, right? Yeah. And every time we had been and visited James and his family at this point, we'd gone into the house and we'd had cups of tea and all sort of stuff on this day, which we were driving down where we thought we were gonna make a sale. James was parked in his ute on the, on the highway.

Right. The end of his driveway. Right. This is not a good sign. Right. This is not a good sign. Dan, you're, you're, you are from a regional background originally. You, you already know what's happening here. Yeah, yeah. This doesn't sound good. No. So I said to Kevin, I said, Kevin, this is not good. And he goes, well, what do you mean?

And I said, well, every other time we've visited James, we've had a cup of tea over the kitchen table. It's been great. Yeah. The fact that he's at the end of his driveway Means I don't think we're gonna get a sale today. 

Yeah. And you're not getting a cup of tea either. 

We're not getting a cup of tea either for, for our two and a half hour drive.

So sure enough, we kicked the dust around, around the gate of his, of his driveway and he said to us, he said, lads, look, it's, it's not right for me. I'm, I'm not gonna buy it. And we said, well, well why not? And look, he listed off all these things of the features it didn't have. Right? Yeah. And, and we said, yep, righto.

No worries. So we drove back to Melbourne, it was on a Friday and we basically didn't speak to each other, Kevin and I in the car cuz we were so rattled, right? Yeah. We were like, it's over. If this guy has found our website, which can't be found, he's made the effort to contact us. He's spent months with us on product iterations and product feedback.

And if he's not gonna buy it, who's gonna buy it? clearly we don't have. Something that people are interested in. So that was on a Friday. It was a dark afternoon. Anyway, I came back in on Monday when I said, Kevin, I'm gonna call him. I'm gonna call James and I'm gonna see if this changed.

His mind had a discussion of, oh, what's the point? Blah blah. Anyway, gets back to, you know, I guess me being tenacious and never saying no. Yeah. Never take no for an answer. And I called him and I said, James, look, I know you said you weren't gonna buy it, but I just wanted to call you back to see if you've changed your mind.

And, and ultimately I just, I just want to hear, hear from him. And he said, you know what, John, I have changed my mind. I, I am gonna buy your software. And at this point I was like shocked and surprised and excited. And I was like, Gavin, we're gonna, we've got, we've got this, our first customer. and he said, you know what?

It still doesn't do all the things I want, want it to do. it still doesn't solve all my problems, but if people like me, don't believe in people like you, this industry will never go anywhere. Right? Yeah. Right. And if people like me don't invest in companies like you, this industry will never go anywhere.

Yeah. And so at that particular moment in time, we said, we've got something here. Right? Yeah. We've got enough here that we can iterate on. We have got a very impactful vision that we're trying to execute upon, and that's what we're gonna leverage. Right. And it was, it was that moment in time that gave us the confidence to say, yes, we are on something here, and this is, this is what we're gonna do and this is how we're gonna run at it.

so that was the moment in time, right. Yeah. 

That's an awesome story. I mean, and the fact that you, you could be, would've been easy not to have called, I mean Correct. Many people wouldn't have. I mean, I, I think. I'll probably be like yourself, I would just wanna make that extra call just to, to find out for sure.

Or just to see. But plenty of people would just be like, oh, well he's, he's a no and move on. sound like he might've been gonna call you anyway, so, 

yeah, I mean, you never know though, right? A absolutely. And, you know, early days of businesses, you gotta pick up the phone, you've gotta make that phone call, you've gotta make that one too many phone calls.

It gets a bit awkward. You have to do it right. And if you don't, you're not asking enough questions, you're not being curious, you're not learning enough, and you're not gonna hear what's actually happening from your market. There's one other moment in time, really stands out and it's a quick story.

(Clip)

but because we are a, a SaaS, software company, it's a subscription monthly or annual, based fee that, that's our model. in that first year when we were finding our early customers and they were signing up to, you know, a year plan. There was a critical moment in time of do we have something valuable or not on the basis of will they renew, will they renew for the next 12 months?

Because I just mentioned before that it gave us the, confidence to sell the vision and the dream and the vision, right? Yeah. But when rubber hits the road and a customer's gotta put their hand in their pocket again for the next year, are they getting value? That was the next moment in time. Right. And, you know, we had an unbelievable renewal rate.

Right. Our, our churn rate was, was hardly, was non-existent. And still to this day, right. Still to this day, our churn rate is 0.8% is under 1%. Oh, 

okay. Wow. 

That's, that's, extremely good. so we know that when we take people through change management, we've got a very sticky, sticky and loyal customer base that are getting a lot of value.

But until you see that 

and after that first year, you don't know, do you? And you're quite right. Yeah. A lot of people will give you a go. Yeah. That doesn't mean anything necessarily. Yeah. Until they renew. So yeah. That, that would've been, uh, a 

critical time. The critical thing for that in, in early stages for people is you've gotta support your customers and make them successful, right?

Yeah. So it's one thing to find them and get them to, to buy your product, whatever that is, regardless of whether you have a renewing subscription based product and company or not, right? Yeah. Because you need those early customers, those early evangelists, right. You need them to refer business, you need them for case studies.

They are the heart and soul of your company, right? Yeah. And so you can't forget that. And you know, I still see a lot of businesses today that, that. You know, don't focus on the success of, of their customers enough. And there's so many easy ways of doing that, which generates business for you later. Right?

And, and, you know, there's just so many simple things, you know, set up email, edms, right? Mm-hmm. Call your customers and see how they're going. Ask for referrals, ask for case studies. Give them something in return. These are basic things that people are often not doing. They're just chasing the new customer every single time.

And you're forgetting about the most powerful thing in your business, which you have, which is your, is your current customer base. Again, whether you're selling a one-off widget or an ongoing subscription model. and I say this to our team all the time, that are having thousands of conversations with our customers all the time, right?

Not to just be very reactive, be very proactive, be curious, learn something, right? And, and there will be mutual gain for. For our customer. There'll be mutual gain as you, as an individual to learn something and there'll be mutual gain for, for you as a company to, to have an opportunity that you, that may not have existed if you, if you weren't curious and you didn't ask those questions.

Yeah. It's amazing, isn't it? Just the simple stuff, like having those conversations, calling the customer, those sorts of things. Often if I have someone come across and, and join me from an investment perspective, they've got a portfolio, they're with a big firm or whatever it might be. Often the comments are around they, no one called them or they didn't hear from people and you know, the sort of fees that they're paying and the amount of money they've got.

You, you just expect that would be not the case. You know? And, and it's just incredible that that's in, but it's across every industry. People just, get, comfortable sometimes and they don't, yeah, don't call the customer. That's absolutely 

business 1 0 1, right? Well, it should be. 

Should be. Yeah, exactly.

Now and, and in terms of, um, The best decision you made along the way with the business? What's, what's something that stands out as, as one of the key things that you, you worked out early?

I think we continually need to make this decision, but it's around focus, driving focus, I mentioned earlier that, that we were trying to, ultimately when we started with this big vision and strategy and we were, we were ultimately creating a hardware company, a software company, and an eco almost company.

And there were three of us in a garage, right? And to look back, you're like, that's just completely crazy. You know, why were you doing that? It's like, because we were trying to get over here and we thought we needed all these pieces, and we eventually end up focusing purely on, on software. Yeah. But, it's so easy to go outside of the core or jump in an opportunity or take something on and you've just gotta.

Remain focus. You've gotta drive focus. and you know, I remember this one advisor a while ago, we did one of the accelerators, his big thing, he, he was called Mr. Focus. He had this like, you know, word focus on his iPhone and he'd stick it on his forehead every time someone said something that was, was deviating.

And he'd be like, bang. 

This is probably is name, is his name Mick? Yeah, Mick. He's been on your, been on your podcast. He's been on our he's been on the show a couple times. Yeah. Yep, yep, yep. That would be 

focus. Yes. Yeah. So, but it's true, right? Yeah, it is true. So, so I think that that's, that's one thing, time and time again, very difficult to do because, you know, you need to, you need to also be getting your opportunities and moving the business forward and you can't stagnate.

but really just focusing on, what's important, focusing on the core as, as an overarching piece. Definitely. And 

how do you do that in terms of like, it's easy to say you focus on the core. What, what are, what are the, systems or the, the principles you've got in place that help you just come back to that within the business and individually?

I guess what, what do you, how do you do 

that? Yeah. I mean, look, I think you can set up a whole bunch of different frameworks and ways to think about it, but, you know, you, you need to think about who your core customer is, right? Yeah. What your core product is. you know, why you are, why are you getting outta bed?

Why your team's getting out of bed and, do all things lead to, to that bigger picture that's, that's implanted on the wall or where, or whatever you're running at. and so, thinking about it like that, you know, is this right for our core customer? Is this right for our team? Is this right for our company?

I say that knowing that sometimes you do need to take on things that maybe outside of the core focus to get to another point in time. A prime example is raising money, right? Yeah. If you are going down a path where you're raising money and, and you know, at Agro we have raised a number of rounds of funding through, through venture and family offices and, and alike.

And sometimes you might go and take on, you know, a new segment or open a new geography, or I'm talking about quite major things here. Mm-hmm. Which you might think is like, well, that, that doesn't sound like you're focusing, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, right? Because Yeah. Yeah. You might need to take a visionary step, you might need to step outta your comfort zone.

so you can't be dogmatic about it. But, you know, you need to be thinking about if you're gonna step outside, like why are you doing that? And, and, you know, what, what is that gonna lead to? Yeah. And 

now I think I've read, you guys raised about 30 or 40 million over the last year or two. Is that about right?

Yeah, I think over the, over the years it's probably north of that now, you know, we've raised a number of rounds and some extension rounds and those types of things, but, but that, that is true. We've, we've raised a, a good chunk of, of money along the way. Yeah. 

And, and is that the, the process around that is, you, you wanna accelerate, the, and scale up the business as quickly as possible.

Is this from a global perspective, do you have a footprint in other countries or is it really just Australia at this point? 

Yeah, all of the above. So, we have offices in, head offices in Sydney, but we have offices in London, uh, in the UK and in Denver in the us. So there are three hubs where we've got people based.

There are kind of three core geographies. but we do have customers in, um, in 18 countries now. Okay. as of this week actually, we're just launching down in Brazil with a strategic partner down, down in Brazil. So we have a global presence. we have some, some regional BDMs in South Africa as well.

So we absolutely are a global business, global reach. so, you know, raising money has been around scaling globally, investing in, in growth, uh, and we've made that decision from day one. So, you know, rather than growing organically, we've wanted to invest in, in scaling up. We do everything. In-house.

So, the whole life cycle of our business is, is in-house, go to market teams, product and engineering, et cetera. Yeah. And it's expensive to, to get that off the ground. It's expensive to enter geographies and, you know, we're taking a right from day one. We wanted to have impact at scale.

We wanted to have impact globally, in core regions to, to, to do that. So, that's largely what it's, what it's been around, to invest in people, as a software business. The majority of our cost base is people, uh, related. 

John, what would you say the best advice you've been given along the way has been?

Well, look, we've spoken a bit about how important I think it is around conversations that are around rolling up the sleeves and getting your hands dirty and, and really understanding the problem and, building a solution for those problems. We've spoken about that, but. In line with what we've just spoken around in terms of raising capital.

one of our advisors, he's been with a long time. He is, he's a, he's a good friend, dear friend now, and he said not that long ago. He's like, you need to survive, right? Mm-hmm. Survivability. and you know, it was in the mix of, you know, what's been happening in the last 12, 18 months around, the financial climate, right?

Yep. And, how critical and how important it's to survive. And you need to do whatever it takes to survive, right? don't be another one of those statistics of, of, you know, where it hasn't, hasn't ended well. that really rang true around, don't underestimate it, right? Yeah. And it may sound obvious, but take a step back and think about that, right.

What does it, mean to. If you can't raise another round of funding, what does it mean if you can't close that pipeline that, that you're thinking about? What does it mean if, you know, your, your sales targets are, are not gonna come through by an external factor that's out of your control. so for me that would be, that would be one thing pretty impactful to take a step back and be like, okay, what comes from that is what's your plan A, B, and C and those types of things. And what are the risk factors and you know, what are the things outside of your control? But yeah, that, that would be, that would be one piece.

Well, it's just having cash too, right? I mean that part of the, ability to survive is, is having cash. And that's a probably not so much now, I think everyone's sort of working out that this is a big, big deal is to have that cash. But go back two years ago, when, when it was very easy to raise money or get money whenever you need it and anyone could get it.

different ball game now, right? 

So that's 

very good advice. All right, I've got, final four quick questions to run through. who's a business person that inspires you the most and why? 

Well, you know what? I'm gonna say the same person because, your listing base probably has a lot of the high profile folk that, people have always heard of.

But, one of our advisors, that, helps business and personal and everything is a great friend. Now, he's a guy called Steve Schramm. he has built and sold, and founded about eight companies. Now he's, he's outta Silicon Valley. He's been a CEO a number of times. and he.

is so influential because he's worn so many different hats. Right, okay. Yeah, yeah. Software development, business, CEO sales, and so you can pretty much ask him anything and he will give you some amazing nuggets and advice to, to, to go on your journey with. And for those interested, there's an amazing documentary called General Magic.

(Show notes)

for everyone out there, go on Google General Magic, watch the documentary. Steve was one of the executives in that, he's actually in the documentary as well. general Magic was the company, that basically was well before its time, before iPhone for Android, before eBay, before the internet.

And these guys were trying to create the smartphone before any of that existed. it's really this, Unknown story, an unknown company that back in the day raised enormous amounts of money, had all the talent in the world, and they were just too early. But the people in that company all went off, right?

Yeah. So founder of eBay, founder and creator of iPhone and, ipo, founder of Android, all came out of this company. so I recommend go and Google General Magic, watch the documentary, and you will not be disappointed. I'll have to 

get 

(show notes)

that put in the show notes as well, because that's, that sounds like it's well worth watching.

good recommendation. What about business books? Any, uh, particular business books that you, uh, have resonated over 

(Show notes)

time? Yeah, I I love reading founder stories and. Founder books. You know, I, I, I love all that stuff. shoe Dog, you know, on on Nike. Yeah. You know, those, I, I just love those stories cuz there's, there's so much gold in there that, you know, that I can really get behind.

But one I, I really enjoy, is a book called Never Split the Difference, by Chris Voss. And really, I mean, this was his journey around being a, lead negotiator through the fbi. And, and it tells great stories around high stakes negotiations and, and really the, the theory and practices that come out of that, that you can apply in everyday life, that you can apply in business, that you can apply in sales environments, is really, really powerful.

And a lot of the playbooks and methodologies that we've created internally, there's a lot that have come from that. And it's just a great read. Um, yeah. Yeah. So, so I would, I would say, I would say it's that. Okay, cool. One, 

What about, uh, favorite quote on life or business 

or leadership? Yeah. My favorite quote and, I don't want to be quoting myself.

I'm not saying that I, I dunno where I got this from. Maybe Yeah. I've used it so much now that I either created it or I got it from somewhere else. I, I don't know. But everyone in our company knows, knows this quote and knows me for it. And it's basically a lot of what we've talked about during the time just now, it's, it's don't ask, don't get Yeah.

Simple as that. Right? Yeah. Us, you, you don't, you, you don't know. Right? What's the worst that's gonna happen? And so that, that there, we've got that hashtag that's, that's part of my persona. and people, you know, even very senior people, say, you know what? I just one, person that's, just left our business, to go and explore other, other opportunities.

great. She's awesome. And I said to her, I was like, oh, what's, what's some things that you've taken away from working at AgriWebb? And she's like, yeah, one thing I just, just taken with me. And it's just amazing what can come from it is don't, I don't get, so anyway, that's, that's, 

no, but I, I think that's, that's brilliant.

I mean, because it's so simple, so easy to remember, but it's so profound at the same time. And I can imagine that even within the organization, that it actually influences the way your staff and your people think. I can think of other businesses where they might wanna talk to the, the founders about something, but if you've got that as your primary focus, don't ask, don't get, well, you're much more encouraged or empowered to ask those questions and see what, what you can get done and what can't be done, because you That's the philosophy.

I, I like it. Yeah. 

There you go. Perfect. 

what's next for AgriWebb? 

So, you know, we've talked a bit about, you know, we're a global business and we're, you know, opening and attacking new markets. one thing that, you know, we are just on the cusp of now, which, which I find very exciting, which our team finds very exciting, which we get outta bed, you know, every single day.

We, we started this business not to create, a little a a better looking mousetrap, right? We, we get out of bed to, to really move the needle and, and impact farming, impact our, our food supply chain at scale. And a big part of what we do around that is, is on sustainability, right?

And, and this is really around, as an industry, how are we reducing emissions? Right. I mean, there's, there's a lot out there around, cows are bad, stop eating beef, those types of things. Yeah. And there's a lot of education that, that needs to happen around the benefits of, of ruminants and benefits of livestock production.

What, what does that mean from a carbon emission environmental sustainability perspective? Not that we've got time to go, go into that now, but, but our strategy and our position around this is we're still, we're still the tool for the farmer. but what we have, and what the farmer has is a whole bunch of, data and a whole bunch of ways to improve.

And so we can then represent to the value chain, the supply chain food companies out there, and we can work with them on their net zero targets, right? I mean, we're in an unbelievable time period right now where, most of the corporates globally, the biggest companies in the world, the biggest food companies in the world think of McDonald's, you know, are making these.

goals and claims around were gonna be net zero by 2050 and we're gonna reduce our emissions by 30% by 2030. basically every corporation out there has made these sorts of claims and they have no idea how to solve for it. and in a lot of cases, they need to get back to, what's called Scope three emissions, which is the start of one's value or supply chain.

And in, in food, in meat, that happens to be the farm, right? Right. So a group like McDonald's, as an example, would say, well, we've never had to get, you know, close to the farm cuz we make Big Macs. Right. But now we do need to engage at a farm level and we need day. To prove that we're doing, great by our, goals and great by the environment.

And so that for, for AgriWebb, that for our farming base is a huge opportunity to have impact, at scale, impact for the world, impact for our population, um, and, you know, playing our part in, in how we do become more sustainable. Yeah. 

 That's awesome. John, thanks very much for joining us and sharing your story.

can't wait to see what happens next and, a AgriWebb goes 

into the future. Appreciate that. Thank you so much for having me, Dion. It's been great. Thanks, mate. 


Thanks for listening to this episode. I hope you enjoyed the show. If you did, we would really appreciate if you would leave a five star review and share with family and friends. Thanks.

Highlight Clip
Introduction
John Fargher's Background and How AgriWebb Began
How Technology has Impacted the Agriculture Industry Over Decades
Why John Fargher Went Down the Software Route with AgriWebb to Assist the Agriculture Industry
The Background of AgriWebb Founders
The Moment that led John Fargher to leave his Lawyer Job and Started AgriWebb
How AgriWebb deals with Change Management with their Farmer Customers
The Strengths and Weaknesses of John Fargher and how they Complimented the Other Founders of AgriWebb
The Importance of Having Crucial Conversations with your Target Customer
The Lightbulb Moment that led AgriWebb to Success
The Critical Metric that AgriWebb Requires for Success
John Fargher’s best decision they ever made in AgriWebb and what resulted from it
The Advice that led John Fargher to make AgriWebb Successful
John Fargher's Business Inspiration
John Fargher's Favourite Business Books and how Reading Them Impacted the Success of AgriWebb
What's Next for John Fargher and the Future of Agriwebb
Outtro