How we lost millions… and why we would do it again


How we lost millions… and why we would do it again

Hi folks,

Entrepreneurship is an exciting journey, and we as investors accompany amazing teams in their way to building amazing startups. But VC involves taking risks, so as we are always happy to share success, let us also share our learnings when things get more complicated. 

Agricool, daphni’s first and iconic investment, has been sold to VIF Systems after a judicial recovery process. Investors have not touched a dime from this transaction. However, we are relieved that a solid industrial player such as VIF Systems is taking back the technology and the team who has worked so hard for the past 6 years. We hope VIF will manage to accelerate the commercial expansion of Agricool. 

We still share Agricool’s vision: we are convinced that our current agricultural system needs to be collectively reinvented. That’s why we invested in Agricool in 2016.

Fortunately, Agricool was not the only player to share our vision of a more sustainable and local agriculture. Companies like Infarm or Bowery have secured the financing needed to scale a hardware and tech model. We wish to see these projects accelerating their growth and demonstrating that this model is profitable at scale. Unfortunately, we have not succeeded in unlocking the investment we desperately missed… 

We have made mistakes along the journey: If we decided to go on leafy greens sooner, maybe… If we had attracted a season manager to scale up such as Jean-Christophe before (kudos to him btw), maybe… If we had shifted the containers to a full capacity farm in 2018, maybe… As we say in France “With Maybe’s, we could put Paris in a bottle”. It is a startup life to learn and grow from mistakes and the company has clearly evolved, learnt, and flourished from 2016 to 2022! 

A lot of money has been poured into the French tech ecosystem in the past 18 months. However, investors’ appetite was and still is on software companies with short sales cycles. Hardware is the ugly duckling of VC. We hope Exotec’s recent unicorn status will demonstrate that hardware is a VC play because we need it to innovate! 

We have positive signs showing that there is a willingness to go in this direction: the French Tech mission and the government are supporting investments in companies which are enhancing France’s agricultural independence (and importations on a larger scale, as Covid crisis has highlighted some issues).

We’ve been quite longer than usual folks but the situation was worth sharing. We highly recommend that you have a look at this article by Guillaume Fourdinier (Agricool’s founder). This is also the opportunity to cheer all the team for da ride we’ve been sharing together so far in our dedication to Build da City for Good. If we had to do it again, we definitely would! 

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” — Seneca 

The daphni team

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