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Mooney: How we’ve built a rocket ship at Nebullam

Guest post by Clayton Mooney.

Startups are hard. My mentality when building companies is that every day is day 1. I’m bad at celebrating wins.

So, here goes a couple of brags about how we’ve built a rocket ship at Nebullam because of our team.

In 2020, our software team was all remote, and no one was dedicated to Nebullam full-time. It was not productive. In Jan 2021, we recruited our top candidate to lead all of our software engineering, full-time. Our software team has never been stronger. And no one is remote.

In May 2021, we recruited our top candidate for leading our production. They were also a perfect fit to expand upon our #BuildingInPublic initiative. Their dedication is huge—I think this is because they grew up on a dairy farm. Dairy farmers know how to work harder and smarter.

In June, we let our delivery team member transition to PR because they wanted to land all the stories. They’ve landed us every major Iowa publication and news channel because they care about and are passionate about our mission.

In July, we embraced one of our subscribers who was looking for a career change, for an operations role. Now, about 6 months in, the processes they’ve built are compounding and they’ve helped me to think in terms of scaling 10x more clearly. From subscriber to Operations Lead.

By August, we had a dedicated delivery lead join us. They embraced the chaos and have now set an unparalleled level of face-to-face customer success. So much so that they’re likely transitioning into a Chief of Staff role and will train other delivery leads.

By September, we had recruited our top candidate in horticulture. They’re an expert in indoor tomato production & have helped us go from reactive with growing, to proactive with growing. This is now a necessity, as our tomato demand has grown 13x in the past 4 months.

By October, we had recruited our top candidate for our Chief Data Officer. Their expertise and abilities have already set us apart from most other indoor farming companies. Their work is reducing CAC, labor, and increasing our knowledge base exponentially. They also invested.

By November, we had recruited our top candidate for VP of Logistics. They’ve built and executed upon the architecture for companies going from 1 location to 100s. On their 2nd day, they showed me why we should have already launched in CR. They also invested.

This past week, we recruited our top candidate for VP of Finance & Procurement. They’ve previously helped us secure 6 figures in capital. Their technical & soft skill set combination is unmatched. Margins will improve, and buildout costs will decrease, thanks to their leadership.

Nebullam has a 100% different team than it did 1 year ago. That’s because we’re a different company. The new business model brought new opportunities.

We are now a supply chain and logistics company, on top of a data company, on top of a vertical farming company.

In the past 4.5 years, Danen and I have gone through 2,000+ investor rejections. 2 floods. 1 fire. And we’ve run out of money 3 times.

Danen is like Wolverine. I’ve watched him design & build until the job was done—sometimes pulling multiple all-nighters in a week. He’s put literal blood, sweat, & tears into building Nebullam. He’s a mad combo of plant biologist and engineer. But also a family man and good dad.

Me? I run in the woods for 50 miles at a time, have been beaten up in boxing more times than I can remember—from Denver to Dublin to Iowa. & as a former poker pro, I know I make my own luck. I’ve also previously built a co & launched a physical product in >50 countries worldwide.

The rocket ship has been built. We’ll be searching for the fuel (VC money) soon, as we’re about to hit 500% subscriber growth in 2021.

If this sounds like the craziest team you could ever join, and you understand the demands of a startup, maybe we’re looking for you. In 2022, we’ll have many positions opening up. From horticulture and production, to mechanical and software engineering, to logistics and city launches.

Reach out if you’re looking.

A players only.

We’re building indoor farms that will replace the produce aisle.

Clayton Mooney is the co-founder of the Ames-based company Nebullam and is a familiar face in the Iowa startup ecosystem. This story was originally published on Substack.

Mooney: How we've built a rocket ship at Nebullam | 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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