AgLocal has raised the first $1 million of a potentially larger seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz and OpenAir Equity Partners, AgLocal CEO Naithan Jones said in a phone interview Thursday. The seed round also involves a variety of angel investors based in Kansas City and in Silicon Valley. The Kansas City contingent includes AgLocal advisors Thad Langford, Sarah Gambach and Dan Carroll, VinSolutions and Stackify founder Matt Watson and Tradebot Ventures partner Andy O’Hara.
Based in Prairie Village, Kan., and co-founded by Jones and Jacob McDaniel, AgLocal is building a marketplace for connecting independent farmers and producers to local businesses and consumers. Jones said the startup plans to use the capital infusion to make new hires in engineering and operations, acquire office space and “go out and meet the market.”
Jones declined to discuss a timetable for product launch, which he has suggested in a previous interview could happen by late summer. But he offered this: “We’re developing all the must-haves in the most efficient and lean way possible, and as soon as we can do that with a product that works and works correctly, we’ll be out in the marketplace. It’ll be soon.”
In Andreessen Horowitz, AgLocal has the backing of one of the biggest names in Silicon Valley. The startup first caught the eye of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based firm while participating this spring in the NewMe Accelerator, a minority-focused residential accelerator program.
“I got a chance to meet Ben (Horowitz) … and just kind of tell him what we were doing and come to find out he’s a huge barbecue enthusiast,” Jones (left) said, chuckling. “So it’s just coincidence one of the top VCs in the world also happens to love meat.”
Andreessen Horowitz was drawn to AgLocal by its founders’ backstory, which included Jones and his wife selling most of their belongings and moving to opposite coasts to help the startup get off the ground. Jones said the firm also was also attracted to other indicators — market size, consumer demand, competition in the space, pre-launch buzz — and wasted little time in moving forward. “Their investment thesis is that they don’t believe in the long and painful round,” Jones said. “They believe in short and sweet.”
And, apparently, in meat.
In Kansas City, Mo.-based OpenAir, AgLocal is allying itself with an active if less ballyhooed firm from its own backyard. OpenAir managing director Lance LeMay (left) said his firm was drawn to AgLocal because the startup uses technology to facilitate commerce in what he views as a fragmented, inefficient market.
“There is a big opportunity to apply this new technology to significantly improve supply chain efficiency, deliver supply to meet the growing consumer demand for locally sourced meat products, and develop data models that better predict the dynamics of future supply and demand,” LeMay said in a statement. “Naithan and his team have the focus and resolve to tackle this challenge, and build a large scale business.”
Jones said the pool of investors backing the company serves as evidence of a couple encouraging things.
“One, we’ve absolutely keyed in on something that is of value and that the market wants,” Jones said, “and we’re going to have a tremendous opportunity in the next year to bring this thing to market and to fulfill the promises that we’ve put out there as we’ve pitched this thing far and near.”
“And, most importantly, it’s a vote of confidence in the team — great advisors, great team”
Credits: Photo of Photo of LeMay from openairep.com.