Interview | Ilias Sousis, CEO & co-founder, Wikifarmer
Ilias Sousis is the CEO and Co-Founder of Wikifarmer. Before co-founding Wikifarmer he worked in managerial positions at Google for 11 years. He previously worked in the field of advertising and had started his own startup in the field of clothing. He studied Economics at the Athens University of Economics and Business and has an MBA from INSEAD. We met with Ilias and discussed his experience growing Wikifarmer to a strong service provider in the agrifood supply chain. Here's what he told us.
Tell us a few things about Wikifarmer. How did it all start? How did you discover the market opportunity for your technology, and where are you today?
It all started when my good friend and agronomist, Peter Sagkos, introduced me to the idea of creating the “Wikipedia of Farming”. At the time, I was super surprised that there was no universal source of agricultural knowledge and information, so we started working on that. The more we were deep diving into the agrifood industry, we realized many more problems, such as agricultural commerce being a very inefficient market that has not been digitized yet. As a result, we decided to solve these inefficiencies by creating a marketplace that optimizes the agricultural value chain.
What value are you bringing to the clients and partners? What differentiates you from the rest of the industry?
I think that the main value is that we make an agrifood transaction happen with fewer steps, which greatly benefits suppliers and customers. On the one side, producers make higher profits as they sell with fewer intermediaries, which allows them to re-invest these profits into their farm and become more sustainable and efficient, and on the other side, buyers buy fresher products at better prices in a transparent and trustful way. In order to further help this model succeed, we offer added value services such as trade financing, logistics support, and quality control, covering most of the needs that a buyer or a seller has during an agrifood transaction. Essentially, we act as a sales team for farmers/ producers and as a purchasing assistant for buyers. Of course, we continue investing in our Library as well, which helps farmers upgrade their knowledge and implement new technologies and techniques when cultivating their fields.
You have recently raised capital. Tell us about the experience. If you had one recommendation to make to other founders raising money. What would this be?
Indeed, we raised capital from one of the most successful and specialized funds in the field of B2B marketplaces. Fundraising is necessary when building a startup business that aspires to go global and grow very fast. My advice to founders would be never to get disappointed by NOs but rather make use of each meeting they have to improve for the next meeting. I would also recommend looking to potential investors from all regions to increase potential investor candidates. For very early-stage companies, I would suggest they make their effort with angel investors, which are a great alternative to funding.
What would you consider to have been (or are) your biggest challenge so far?
I think that the biggest challenge is always getting the right people to the right positions. Working for a startup successfully requires a combination of skills, experience, and attributes, such as the ability to adjust, entrepreneurial spirit, technical knowledge, and huge determination, as the journey is full of ups and downs and large challenges.
What are the biggest learnings from your journey so far?
I can’t really separate one big learning, as the journey is full of learning. You learn continuously as you get outside your comfort zone almost every day. New challenges or opportunities arise all the time, so you need to learn new things again and again, which is super exciting, and it really helps you evolve as a person.