Listen Here

| |

Conversation
Highlights

 

Welcome to another episode of Category Visionaries — the show that explores GTM stories from tech’s most innovative B2B founders. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Michael Guirguis, CEO and founder of SESO, a workforce management platform for the agriculture industry that has raised nearly $30 million in funding.

  • Michael shares his background in labor economics and his journey from the White House to the world of startups, and how his passion for job creation led him to tackle the labor shortage in agriculture.
  • SESO’s origin story is rooted in Michael’s firsthand experience helping his cousin navigate the challenges of expanding her farm, and his realization that access to labor was the biggest constraint facing the industry.
  • Michael explains the differences between specialty crops and row crops, and how the dynamics of managing a farm and the role of government vary dramatically between these two segments of agriculture.
  • SESO has grown rapidly to become the third-largest provider of services related to the H-2A visa program, which enables farms to bring in foreign workers to address labor shortages.
  • Michael emphasizes the importance of focus, listening to customers, and speed in building a successful startup, and shares his lessons learned from fundraising in different market environments.
  • SESO’s long-term vision is to become the operating system for farms, expanding beyond workforce management to offer an end-to-end platform for compliance, payroll, and HR.

Actionable
Takeaways

Immerse Yourself in Your Customers' World to Uncover Opportunities:

Michael's deep understanding of the agriculture industry comes from spending countless hours visiting farms, shadowing workers, and listening to the challenges facing growers. By embedding himself in his customers' reality, he was able to identify the most pressing pain points and design solutions that directly address their needs. Founders should prioritize firsthand exposure to their target market to gain insights that can't be gleaned from afar.

Focus Maniacally on Your Core Problem to Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome:

While the agriculture industry presents a wide range of opportunities for technological innovation, Michael credits much of SESO's success to the company's unwavering focus on solving the labor shortage. By resisting the temptation to chase tangential problems or markets, SESO has been able to build a comprehensive solution that delivers clear value to customers. Founders should define their core problem and stay disciplined in pursuing it.

Adapt Your Fundraising Approach to Changing Market Conditions:

Having raised capital during both the peak of the fundraising market and the more challenging environment that followed, Michael learned the importance of tailoring his approach to the prevailing conditions. Rather than assuming that what worked in the past will continue to work, founders should be prepared to adjust their strategies and expectations as the market evolves, and focus on building relationships with investors who can add value beyond capital.

Prioritize Decisiveness Over Deliberation to Maintain Momentum:

Looking back on his journey, Michael wishes he had been more decisive in making critical decisions, such as key hires and fundraising moves. While it's important to be thoughtful and consider multiple perspectives, founders can often get bogged down in analysis paralysis, wasting time and energy on choices that ultimately align with their initial instincts. Cultivating decisiveness can help maintain the speed and agility that are a startup's greatest advantages.

Design Your Product Architecture to Enable Future Expansion:

Although SESO is currently focused on the agriculture industry, Michael and his team have built the underlying platform with an eye toward eventually serving other sectors that face similar labor shortages and compliance challenges. By creating a modular and flexible architecture, SESO has the potential to expand into adjacent markets without requiring a complete overhaul of its core technology. Founders should consider how their product design can accommodate future growth and diversification.

Recommended Founder
Interviews

Craig Rupp

Founder & CEO of Sabanto

Craig Rupp, Founder & CEO of Sabanto: Over $22 Million Raised to Build the Future of Autonomous Tractors

Mark DeSantis

CEO of Bloomfield

Mark DeSantis, CEO of Bloomfield: $8.5 Million Raised to Build the Future of Agriculture Robotics

Patrick Henry

CEO and Co-Founder of GroGuru

Patrick Henry, Co-Founder and CEO of GroGuru: $6 Million Raised to Build the Future of Water Management

Charlie Andersen

CEO of Burro

Charlie Andersen, CEO of Burro: $12 Million Raised to Build the Future of Autonomous Farming

Gabe Sibley

Founder and CEO of Verdant Robotics

Gabe Sibley, Founder and CEO of Verdant Robotics: $48 Million Raised to Build the Future of Autonomous Agriculture

Adrian Ferrero

CoFounder and CEO of Biome Makers

Adrian Ferrero, CEO of Biome Makers: $24 Million Raised to Bridge the Divide Between Natural Environments and the Digital World