Agribody Technologies’ Jerry Feitelson stated:
We have two years of replicated field trial data in alfalfa (4th largest US crop) showing unprecedented 20–45% yield increases in an elite commercial variety with limited or no loss of quality.
Location: San Diego, CA
Product / Service Offering: Genetic crop improvement technology
Co-founder Interviewed: Jerry Feitelson, PhD
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you?
I have a technical background in molecular biology/genetics/biochemistry, extensive industrial research, licensing and intellectual property, business development, product management and entrepreneurial experience. I am motivated by operating at the intersections of scientific fields to deliver disruptive technology and products creating significant value.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
In August 2015 the company was established after I was hired as a consultant for a breast cancer therapeutics company that inherited substantial Ag Biotech assets (patents and licenses) as a result of a corporate merger. I was very impressed by the intellectual property, talked about their value, and subsequently asked to purchase all these assets instead of licensing on their behalf.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
Agribody Technologies’ patent protected genetically modified/genome edited (GM/GE) plant technology is a field-tested approach to increasing plant yields and tolerance to diseases and abiotic stress in many key crop plants.
< see related: Key to Startup Success: Customer Discovery >
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
It is very rare that any single transgene can boost yields of an elite variety by >10%, even under controlled greenhouse conditions. We have two years of replicated field trial data in alfalfa (4th largest US crop) showing unprecedented 20–45% yield increases in an elite commercial variety with limited or no loss of quality. We can now move toward commercialization of GE crops that has no governmental deregulation, yielding significant and rapid revenues with no GM risks. See blog.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was funding an Ag Biotech Startup in San Diego. The Yield Lab in St. Louis accepted us into their incubator, which helped us “prime the pump,” make valuable introductions, and help us get properly launched. I personally invested an equivalent amount and two angels co-invested.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
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What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
I have pitched many angel groups, VCs, micro-VCs, been accepted into CONNECT’s CapitalMatch program, and closed first new license with a major seed company. In the future, I’ll pass on angel groups, and focus on high net worth individuals, family offices, and strategic corporate investors.
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
I have not. It is my third startup. I have a very experienced team and advisors, and great external resources with The Yield Lab, cohort startups, and CONNECT, where I rent office space.
< see related: An Advisory Board: 7 Reasons They Are Critical to the Scalable Startup. >
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
Our challenge is closing our Seed Round of convertible notes and making rapid progress in closing licenses/JVs with established seed companies.
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What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
Two versions of “The Golden Rule”
- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
- S/he who has the gold rules.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
Personally, almost my entire career has led to this opportunity to co-found, lead and grow ATI. My extensive technical capabilities, continually honing business and interpersonal skills, passion combined with focus, and strong work ethic will help my team to spread a disruptive genetic technology that provides critical help in helping farmers deal with population growth, climate change, and little to no growth in cropland availability. See this article with embedded video. The Yield Lab also produced an interesting video.
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Want to learn about other businesses in the spotlight? Check out our Business Startup Spotlight Series.