When I started at ISU in 2009, my calls to other university entrepreneurship programs revealed a conventional wisdom that undergraduate students weren’t ready in most cases to start their own businesses, certainly not technology businesses. ScoutPro was an early indicator that the conventional wisdom was, well, too conventional.
The Apple iPad was first released in 2010. Around that time, Co-Founders Michael Koenig, Holden Nyhus and Stuart McCulloh were working in a class I teach, Econ 334/Entrepreneurship in Agriculture, to come up with new business ideas. Michael’s startup idea was to use an iPad to assist crop scouts in identifying and tracking weeds, insects and plant diseases, what became ScoutPro. The following semester the three began to work together in earnest on launching the business. With the support of ISU Extension and many others, ScoutPro was launched.
Mentoring Michael, Holden and Stuart was our first effort at a more formal incubation effort at the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative, but one that has grown significantly. From the start incubating only ScoutPro, AgEI now has a formal Student Incubator program that usually is mentoring 10 to 15 new businesses or farms at any one time.
Koenig is now settling into a new role as part of Farmers Edge, but took time to offer some reflections.
“I think one of the most challenging aspects of starting a business is the timing of everything,” commented Koenig. “I think if I were to go back and give myself advice it would be to raise money earlier. We would have grown faster if we had more aggressively gotten ahead of eventual competitors and been selling when corn and soybean prices were much higher.”
Turning to the upside of what he’s learned, Koenig noted how creating value for customers leads to enduring success. “After closing ScoutPro's acquisition, we’ve seen just how entrenched our platform and services were with our customers. They want to ensure that even after we were acquired they can continue to use the platform along with looking at new solutions from Farmers Edge.”
And what about Koenig’s advice to today’s students? “Don't let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do. Being an entrepreneur is challenging and you will face many challenges, but I can assure you if you surround yourself with good people and commit to the process of building the business the ride will be worth it.”
And what can we at AgEI reflect on? To be thankful for the help of so many people contributing to Michael, Holden and Stuart getting ScoutPro launched.
- Murray Wise for his significant scholarship award
- Then College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Associate Dean John Lawrence
- Then College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Wendy Wintersteen
- Dr. Daren Mueller, ISU Extension Plant Pathologist
- AgEI Entrepreneur-in-Residence Dave Krog
- Then AgEI Program Coordinator Stacey Noe
- Suheer Pamuru of Concat System
- Dan Noe of Noe Studio Design
- Dave Sengpiel and Adam Koppes of Iowa Farm Bureau’s Rural Vitality Fund
And many others!