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AgTech's $120M Collapse

Why the world's largest climate data platform shut down.

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AgTech’s $120M Failure

Last week, the agricultural insights platform Gro Intelligence announced it was shutting down.

Why It Matters:

What Was Gro Intelligence: Gro Intelligence was a platform that provided its clients with climate and agricultural data and insights.

It gathered and recompiled data from various sources like weather agencies, governments, and trade organizations. Then, it analyzed this data and turned it into actionable insights for clients.

For example, if a food company needed to manage its supply chain, Gro Intelligence could forecast crop yields based on weather and soil conditions. If a drought was predicted in a key wheat-producing region, Gro Intelligence could alert the company to source wheat elsewhere or adjust production plans, helping them make informed decisions and reduce risks.

The Numbers:

Reasons For Failure:

  • Lack of PMF: A former employee claimed that the main reason for failure was “a fundamental mismatch between the product and the market.” Gro Intelligence had issues finding new clients interested in the data it provided. As a result, it had to rely on consultancy work, which was not a stable revenue stream. It tried improving its platform and adding AI features, but ultimately, the market was not very interested in the insights it was providing.

  • Undiversified Client Base: Gro Intelligence mainly relied on a few huge clients, like Unilever. They attempted several times to diversify their clients and engage with governments from different countries, but these efforts were unsuccessful.

  • Challenging Funding Environment: Gro Intelligence depended on venture capital funding to survive. They managed to raise emergency funds in March 2024, but the money was not enough. They were able to raise a lot of money back in 2021, but the AgTech VC deal activity has severely decreased since then.

Go Deeper:

Win or Fail?

Oda’s Scale Back Plans

Oda, a grocery delivery startup, has recently made a big decision to halt its expansion across the EU and concentrate on just two countries.

I'm unsure about this move and would like your input.

Quick rundown of Oda:

  • Founded in Norway back in 2013

  • It experienced rapid growth in 2020, thanks to increased demand during the pandemic.

  • In 2021, it secured a hefty $265M investment from SoftBank’s VisionFund.

  • At its peak, Oda's value reached $900M, but it has since dropped to $245M.

  • Last week, the new CEO, Chris Poad, announced 150 job cuts.

  • Poad mentioned that the challenges of online grocery are significant, especially with perishable items and complex supply chains. He noted that even top organizations have struggled with this model.

  • In line with this, Oda revealed plans to scale back its European operations, focusing solely on Norway and Sweden. They hope this will help streamline costs and improve their financial health.

  • Oda hopes that these decisions will help them cut costs and fix their balance sheet.

  • Despite their lowered valuation, Oda is in talks for a $57M deal.

You can read more about this in this article.

Is this a Win or a Fail for Oda? Why?

Win or Fail?

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Digital Twins

Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom, talked in an interview with The Verge about the possibility of having AI Digital Twins in the future.

What Is a Digital Twin:

  • Digital twins are AI-powered bots designed to "think" and talk like yourself.

  • The idea is that every person will have their very own LLM, which will be trained to mimic their ways of thinking, talking, and decision-making.

  • This twin could then help you automate different tasks, such as answering emails, managing projects, and even attending Zoom calls.

  • The twin should be able to say the things you would say, make the decisions you would make, and inform you of everything that happened in the meeting.

  • Additionally, the twin could help you plan your day by suggesting which meetings you can send the twin to and which ones you should attend yourself.

  • You could even modify your twin so that it has certain skills you lack. For example, you could instruct it to be a better negotiator or a better salesperson.

  • The goal would be for humans to focus more on in-person meetings and potentially work fewer hours.

How Far Away Is It: Yuan has a rather optimistic outlook, claiming this technology is 5 or 6 years away.

He says the twin could start as a voice-only AI and later become a fully 3D-rendered version of yourself. 

Already, Zoom has been restructuring its workforce and hiring many AI engineers to start moving towards this future.

Yes, But: Besides the fact that bots talking to each other in Zoom meetings seems downright dystopian, I think there are many other potential obstacles on the road.

  • Technical Challenges: The idea that digital twins are possible depends on so much technology we do not currently have that the whole concept seems more like science fiction. For starters, we would need a precise way of training an LLM to be like a person. We still know nothing about how we could train it and keep it updated to represent the person's changes.

  • Hallucinations: We know LLMs tend to hallucinate a lot and produce misinformation. This could be really problematic if you are letting your twin represent yourself or even make decisions for you.

  • People Don’t Like Talking With Bots: Yuan talks about how the twin could spare him from attending several meetings. But just imagine how annoying and demoralizing it would be to know that you are not really talking to your boss but to an AI that has the power to decide on your projects.

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