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Meet AgLocal, the online market for local meat picked to pitch at SXSW

AgLocal is one of 48 companies chosen from more than 670 entrants to participate in the SXSW Accelerator March 12-13 in Austin, Texas. 

With South By Southwest Interactive and the fourth annual SXSW Accelerator on the horizon, a Silicon Prairie standard bearer has emerged. It was announced on Monday that AgLocal, a startup based in Overland Park, Kan., was chosen from more than 670 companies as one of the 48 that will participate in the Accelerator on March 12-13 in Austin, Texas. AgLocal will compete in the “Innovative Web Technologies” portion of the Accelerator.

Co-founded by Naithan Jones (left) and Jacob McDaniel (below), AgLocal is a marketplace that connects independent farmers and producers with the demand of local businesses and consumers. Through a website and mobile app, AgLocal aims to provide producers better local options for selling their product and to supply consumers with cheaper, higher-quality meat, thus bringing “power to the meat lover.”

We’ve given brief glimpses of AgLocal in recent Prairie Moves posts, and we intend to provide a more complete picture of the startup once that comes into focus. But for now, we caught up with Jones to get a snapshot of the startup at an early stage in its rapid development. As it turns out, the Accelerator invitation is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of early milestones for AgLocal.

The company was founded in May of 2011 but has ratcheted things up a notch in 2012. “In the course of six weeks we’re up to eight employees and two interns and interviewing to fill roles …” Jones said in an email earlier this week. “So ya, I’d say we’re growing.”

More growth is in the crosshairs. AgLocal plans to launch a private, pre-alpha test product in Kansas City to a select group of users early this month and do the same in San Francisco in early March. Jones said the startup plans to be in 3-5 cities by the end of May and 30 by the end of the year. 

Jones played it close to the vest regarding certain SXSW details. “We may or may not launch the full on BETA product there,” he said. “You’ll have to stay tuned to find out.” But he was far more forthcoming about other aspects of SXSW and the company’s direction. Below are excerpts from an email interview with Jones conducted earlier this week. 

On what inclusion in the Accelerator says about the progress AgLocal has made so far and the potential people see in it …

Naithan Jones: I believe what it says is people are moving more and more towards the web and mobile devices as an acceptable replacement to the usual way of doing things, as opposed to just a novelty. …

Startups are quickly getting with this change in consumer behavior because it becomes easier to disrupt or augment other older business models, and it favors the consumer. In our case, we see the carnivore buyer community and producers (farms) as viable because of the sheer size of the market and the ability to address it in better ways. Consumers are getting increasingly expectant of the transparency and subsequent power that technology is giving to their buying choices. This is why we’re doing it; it’s to use our service to give “power to the meat lover.”

On what the exposure and feedback AgLocal gets at the Accelerator can mean to the startup going forward …

NJ: SXSW is absolutely huge for us. All of us at AgLocal are longtime tech startup fanboys (laughing), so we’ve all followed the successful launches that came out of SXSW over the years. For the festival to say that AgLocal is one of the 50 best ideas out of 700 or so submitted says a lot. When I look at it as the founder and CEO, and get very transparent, in that all founders and early employees thrive from the feedback to their creative output and work ethic. Startups are like a new car engine coming off of the assembly line. You know it starts with a spark, the idea. Then the energy from the spark ignites the engine; that’s the initial feedback. Then momentum follows that. SXSW is a good byproduct of our efforts to date, but it’s just a beginning place. Now we have to go out and actually, you know, execute and deliver a great product like we’ve promised.

“SXSW is a good byproduct of our efforts to date, but it’s just a beginning place. Now we have to go out and actually, you know, execute and deliver a great product like we’ve promised.” – Jones

On how AgLocal is looking to differentiate itself …

NJ: Well, first let me say this, I know we aren’t necessarily the first to sell farm to table using the internet, so we get that the base concept itself isn’t that sexy or groundbreaking. We see the existing sites as generation one validation, and we only want to build on that and further the concept in much the same way that Facebook took over for MySpace. We want to be generation two. So what IS new or interesting here? A couple of things. One is that we can fill a niche for the lack of consolidated service into one giant sized market (in this case meat) to consumers who are ready for something cool and new. We’ll do this by establishing a macro brand (AgLocal) that will act as a conduit for all of the micro brands (the farms). The old way of doing things is dying, and we have to look at how the upcoming generation is doing things. Peer validation and openness, is the new economy. …

Our approach to user experience is to see it as an ecosystem, in that it’s as much people-powered as it is feature-powered, and the technology matches and facilitates this. This is our approach to creating a user-powered web and mobile marketplace that gives the power to the users … the meat lovers.

Image credits: AgLocal graphic from aglocal.com. SXSW Accelerator logo from sxsw.com. Photo of Naithan Jones courtesy of Jones. Photo of Jacob McDaniel from linkedin.com.

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