As a former industry analyst who used to spend lots of time trying to calculate a market’s size from the bottom up through piecing together information from companies competing for market share, I always found it toughest to get founders in nascent industries to cough up shipment numbers.
Not that I could blame them. Being early to a market usually meant having to not only face the stiff headwinds of foraging into previously unexplored terrain, but publishing numbers also meant giving your competition a potential advantage.
Which is why when I saw open source CNC farming startup Farmbot recently published pretty much every possible detail about their company -- including the revenue and shipments of their product, employee pay as well as every type of software and technology used to run the company -- I was a bit shocked.
Of course I probably shouldn’t have been. Ever since company founder Rory Aronson wrote a white paper about the idea of precision agriculture via a dot-matrix like robotic farming device for “for small scale, hyper local, DIY food production”, he’s been striving towards openness and transparency through open sourcing pretty much everything about the Farmbot, including the hardware designs and software. Only now with the creation of meta.farm.bot, he’s moving beyond open sourcing of the technology to completely open sourcing a company.
For nerdy analysts like myself, the site is a fascinating read, showing off not only the number of robot farming kits the company has sold (804), what it costs to make a kit (average is $706) and how much revenue they’ve collected (~$2.5 million), but also goes into minute detail about company such as salaries, vendors, and even the company style guide.
Ok, so there aren’t that many companies trying to create a cartesian coordinate robot for farming, I still think the documents could serve as a helpful resource for those building a business in nearly any type of industry. And while not every founder is going to want to throw open the kimono as wide as Farmbot, the site could also serve as an potential example for other companies trying to build toward greater transparency, one of bigger macrotrends in the world of food.
Moving forward, Aronson and Farmbot plan to share even more info about the company. From the email announcing the move: “we plan to publicly document many more aspects of our business in the hopes that the information will empower and inspire other entrepreneurs and businesses on their own journeys.”
You can watch the Farmbot in action below: