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Mooney: Building

If you’re the non-technical co-founder of your startup, like me, you may be asking yourself how to best be making progress at times. I wish I had known the answer to this question many years ago. The answer is, BUILD. 

Build what? I can’t code to be building Nebullam‘s dashboard which runs our food growing equipment, and I can’t build our food growing equipment. Thankfully Mahmoud and Danen lead the charge with their years of expertise, as builders of the products.

For me, I’m in one of two build modes. 

1. Building the Bank Account

As Nebullam is raising its third round of investment, most of my time since wrapping up Y Combinator’s Demo Day in March has been carrying our fundraising torch. From meeting to meeting, city to city, and state to state (maybe even one of these years, planet to planet). And not all locations are the same, in terms of how people invest. 

For example, we’re raising our current round using Y Combinator’s Post Money SAFE. A SAFE is different from a convertible note (one difference is that a SAFE is not debt, while a convertible note is debt). Some investors want a priced round. Some investors want to use convertible notes. Some investors want to use SAFEs. 

One of the biggest reasons we’re using a SAFE is in the name. Simple Agreement for Future Equity. With the SAFE, we’re able to avoid time and costs in fundraising, which allows more time to be spent with our customers. Everybody wins. 

To make sure we can achieve Nebullam’s next phase, my mission is to find the money. Once we have that magic number in the bank (it only ever counts once it’s in the bank), I’ll happily switch to my other build mode.

But first, a small piece of advice: This build mode will likely require MUCH more of your time than you can imagine. Fundraising is a full-time job. You’re either in fundraising mode or you’re not. 

2. Building the team

Building team for me includes working hand-in-hand with current team members to help build up their strengths, as well as finding additional team members who want to build a better and healthier food supply chain. For everyone. 

Some days the meetings are 1:1s. Other days, it’s with the hardware team, the software team, or a combination. No matter who it’s with, my focus is on running the meeting as simply as possible, so all parties know clear next steps. 

One of our core values is to be Daringly Simple. 

Examples: What does Nebullam do? 

“We create indoor farming equipment with a faster payback.”

^This one liner is simple. There’s no confusion over what Nebullam does. There’s no fluffy language such as “aeroponics,” “automation,” “artificial intelligence,” or “plug-and-play solution.”

Simplicity starts to pay off when team members can recite what we do, to a general audience. The simpler, the better; for conversation starters, efficiency, marketability, and overall health of our team.

How else can we keep team dynamics simple? A really simple dashboard (pictured below), so we all know where Nebullam stands. For some leaders, radical transparency works. For others, it doesn’t. Do what’s best for you and your team.


Whether it’s keeping fundraising simple, or it’s keeping the day-to-day simple, I’m building. I hope you are, too. 

Mooney: Building | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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