Peris Bosire is co-founder of Kenya-based start-up FarmDrive, which has developed an innovative credit-scoring model that can be used by financial services providers to assess the creditworthiness of small-scale farmers, and ultimately give more of them access to financing to increase their yields and production.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
One of the toughest situations we have faced was the initial lack of willingness by financial institutions to be part of this – to use our data-driven credit scoring model to extend digital loans to smallholder farmers. We’ve overcome this by clearly defining and understanding what value proposition financial institutions need to see and what we need to do to show them that our solution actually works.
This means that we have had to take on some of the responsibilities of financial institutions to be able to get those results that we can then use as proof to show our model works, and that lending to farmers is actually a good business if you use FarmDrive’s alternative model of assessing farmers’ risks. With proven results, conversations with potential lenders are much more mature.
2. Which entrepreneurial achievement are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of having built a team that believes in FarmDrive, and who is helping us build to the scale we want to be. As a start-up, you often don’t have much money available, but you have to compete with top companies that are offering very good remuneration packages. Being able to attract great talent and creating the right team is not easy. But we now have a committed team of 12 people and that makes me proud; especially knowing that my colleagues have given up on the expectations of large remuneration because they believe in this and are excited with what we are doing, and want to be part of it.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
One of my biggest weaknesses is I have a limited attention span combined with a perfectionist work ethic. I tend to want to focus on one task, finish it quickly, see the satisfactory results, and then move onto the next thing. But that’s not the day-to-day reality at FarmDrive. At any given time, there are a lot of projects and tasks concurrently running on limited resources with hard deadlines. In such an environment, sequential delivery of tasks is not sustainable.
Of course this challenge has been addressed by delegating tasks among the team with clear responsibilities. I’ve also had to work on my multi-tasking skills, together with improving my time management. I abide by the The Eisenhower Matrix. For a start-up to thrive you have to be able to handle multiple responsibilities all at the same time and be comfortable with fast changes.
4. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you started?
I wish I knew that there will never be a day that something doesn’t go wrong – especially when you’re a start-up. So, no matter the good things that are happening, such as winning an award or signing a new client, I am always aware of something that still needs to be done or improved.
5. Name one business opportunity you would still like to pursue.
Well, some of my moonshot goals revolve around machine learning and artificial intelligence. Giving farmers loans – it is just scratching the surface. Helping farmers get the loans they need will improve their yields and incomes, but it is not the end of the mission. Our farmers are not producing optimally. To be able to produce at the level of some of the big farms in the US or EU, we need more mechanisation, we need more precision agriculture, and we need more machinery. We need to get to a level where farmers are controlling machines that are helping them produce. That’s the direction I want to get into: bringing in more mechanisation and bringing more intelligence into how farmers farm. So even going further, thinking of robotics – is that a possibility? Can we have robots helping farmers?