Kevin Kung, co-founder of Safi Organics. Safi Organics won the $3,000 Audience Prize at the ACCELERATE finale last year.
Can you present Safi Organics? Which problem do you try to solve?
Many farmers in emerging markets are paying 2-3 times the world price for their fertilizers, and we thought that this was unacceptable. We identified that most of the costs are in the logistics of transporting/importing fertilizers from centralized fertilizer production. We figured that if we have a way to use technology to downsize the fertilizer production such that it can be implemented on a village-level basis, we can save significant costs and derive additional value for both the farmers as well as ourselves.
Why did you decide to participate in MIT $100K ACCELERATE?
Mostly to get feedback on and validation of our business model.
How did participating in MIT $100K ACCELERATE help you move your start-up idea forward?
We got very good feedback through the different stages and learned to craft our message much more clearly. Our target market and our value proposition did not emerge until very late in the competition process, but that story has stuck with us ever since. Thanks to the visibility that MIT$100K provided to us, we also got into the finalist round of MassChallenge, which we ended up participating in summer 2016 and obtained extremely valuable feedback and additional acceleration to our project. Now we are up to 1,000+ customers.
What is your best memory of MIT $100K ACCELERATE?
It turned out that the event was a great publicity boost for us. After the pitch night, we talked to as many people as we probably talked to during the whole semester. We managed to identify 2-3 partners, as well as one co-founder who stayed with the team (even though we weren't particularly looking for one at the time).
Which advice would you give to this year finalists?
ACCELERATE is only the beginning! Definitely plan to succeed in it, but the long-term execution beyond the contest is much more important.
What are the next steps for Safi Organics?
The company has since grown to 7 full-time employees and 1,000+ customers. We have just expanded to our second village location, and after almost 2 years' of work, just got the green light from the government certification body to sell certified fertilizer.