Commercial Co-Founder in Residence, Innovating Agricultural Soil Restoration

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Job Description

ABOUT THE ROLE

At DSV we’re looking for future Founders, entrepreneurially minded individuals with industry-specific technical and commercial domain expertise eager to solve urgent unmet challenges through venture building.

You will join DSV’s venture creation programme as a Co-Founder in Residence (full-time) and work closely with the DSV team, using our methodology, to spin-out a new company. During the programme, you’ll work on all aspects related to venture creation in this opportunity area, including working out the optimal approach to solve for the desired outcome, building a team and building a viable business case. Once the new venture is incorporated with pre-seed investment from DSV, you and your co-founders will own the majority stake in the business and continue receiving support from the DSV team post-spinout.

It's a full-time position, initially, fully remote until company inception, after location TBD.

THE OPPORTUNITY AREA

We face a critical challenge: food demand is increasing and our agricultural soils erode 100X faster than their natural rate. If we don’t solve these conflicting trends, this will widen the gap in food security. Intensive agricultural practices such as fertilization, pesticide use, and heavy machinery (tillage) break up the natural soil bio-net that holds the soil particles together. Furthermore, these disturbances damage the soil biome, depriving it of its ability to rebuild the net that “holds everything together”. The intensive agricultural practices mentioned above make the soil susceptible to water and wind erosion, eventually causing the soil to be lost and unable to support ecosystem functions such as biodiversity maintenance, water-holding capacity, and carbon sequestration. It is estimated that 1 cm (0.4 inches) of topsoil takes 250-3000 years to form naturally. This means that once the soil has physically eroded, it can not be regenerated on a human timescale through its natural course. As a result, we clear natural areas and start cultivating them. We must solve the anthropogenic erosion problem to enable sustainable agriculture and support food security.

Current erosion solutions are limited in applicability and scalability. These solutions can be categorized into three main categories: (1) ground cover to avoid erosion (i.e., mulch); (2) avoiding further mechanical damage (i.e.,no-tillage); and (3) substituting the soil net with a synthetic polymer (i.e., polyacrylamide). These solutions can provide a reduction in soil erosion of 20-95%. However, these status quo solutions have significant drawbacks, such as: requiring large quantities for application (tons per hectare) making them expensive, negatively affecting crop yields by unbalancing the nutrient cycle, the unintended introduction of invasive species, and synthetic polymers that avoid erosion are toxic to aquatic life and human health. We need to create a novel effective solution for erosion that would solve the challenge.

OUR APPROACH

Inspired by the natural compounds that hold the soil together, we can solve this challenge by developing an environmentally friendly, scalable, cost-effective solution that integrates into the soil, mimicking the natural components that hold it together. This new solution is aimed to be compatible with modern agricultural practices but intended to enable sustainable agriculture. By recreating the soil net, we can solve erosion and promote sustainable agriculture.

Requirements

We're looking for a co-founder with experience in soil or other farm amendments, and strong commercial drive and technical expertise across the agricultural sector. You will lead operational and commercial execution, including strategic partnerships and fundraising.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Develop and implement commercial growth strategies, in particular, driving the go to market strategy and developing a path to profitability in multiple customer segments to combat soil erosion and restore soil health;
  • Identify and pursue new business opportunities in the agricultural and geotechnical soil industries;
  • Conduct market research and analysis to inform strategic decision-making;
  • Develop relationships with key industry stakeholders, including investors, customers, and regulators;
  • Lead techno-economic analysis pre-launch, and manage financial planning, tracking, and reporting to ensure the company’s financial health in the long-term;
  • Lead customer contract negotiation and fundraising efforts on the journey from pre-seed to series A, including contract development, deal negotiations, and relationship building;
  • Communicate the company’s value proposition to potential investors, partners, and customers;
  • Work in partnership with technical co-founder(s) to build and manage a high-performance commercial team to execute the company’s vision.

Required Skills and Experience:

  • Entrepreneurial mindset with experience in soil health or related startups, corporations, scaleup businesses or intrapreneurial activities;
  • Deep understanding of the agricultural amendment industry, including sales models to different stakeholders, value chain members, trends, challenges, and opportunities (including direct sales to farms or distribution models);
  • Strong business acumen with direct experience of business strategy, marketing, direct sales, distribution and operations;
  • Demonstrated ability to think creatively and strategically about new business opportunities occurring at the intersection of soil health, carbon sequestration and ecosystem services, including MRV;
  • Experience with fundraising, contract development, deal negotiations, and relationship building;
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills;
  • Strong leadership and project management skills.

Education:

We are looking for a highly business-oriented co-founder for this role, and are flexible on technical backgrounds, prioritising business experience in a relevant field.

However an M.Sc., Ph.D, or equivalent experience in agronomy, soil health, biochemical engineering, organic/polymer chemistry, material science, earth sciences or a related field is a plus.

Personal Attributes:

Impact-driven and resilient, comfortable with high degree of uncertainty and fast-paced startup environment.

Self-starter, seeking continuous personal development and growth.

Benefits

OUR OFFER

By joining DSV, you’ll be joining a team of operators who have founded companies and led translation of science at some of the most respected universities, charities, funds and government agencies. 2/3 of the team have founded or led a company at C-suite and 65% have a PhD. Our team dedicate several hours every week to each Founder or founding team to provide tailored guidance, resources and feedback covering every aspect of what it takes to successfully launch a new venture from both the tech and commercial perspectives:

  • We provide optimised, purpose-built, proprietary tools, resources and processes to help create high-impact ventures from scratch, using our venture creation methodology. Read more about one of our key tools here;
  • We draw on opportunity area-specific know-how provided by our network of Partners and Advisors;
  • We provide £250k investment governed by our Investment Committee to incorporate the new venture and develop early proof-of-concept data that’s needed to attract high-profile non-venture studio VCs. This funding is also key to getting grant funding, which most often needs to be matched with private investment;
  • We provide a guaranteed income of £4,166 per month paid to each Founder in Residence as a consultancy fee until the company is launched and the pre-seed investment is secured;
  • You and your co-founder(s) will own a majority equity stake in the company;
  • Co-Founder: you will join Dr. Rubi Simhayov as a co-founder to build and de-risk a venture targeting soil regeneration. Rubi has worked on various environmental and agricultural projects, from toxicity-driven native plant population die offs to post-mining site reclamation to the long-term impacts of municipal treated-wastewater irrigation on grapevines. He holds a Ph.D. in geography and environmental management from the University of Waterloo, an M.Sc. in soil and water sciences from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a B.Sc. in biotechnology and environmental sciences from Tel-Hai College. with 7 years of industry experience as an environmental consultant and head of R&D at an engineering firm;
  • We provide continuous support after post spin-out, including fundraising, commercial partnerships, recruitment and team-building (amongst other things); plus
  • There are dozens of Founders currently at DSV across sectors working collaboratively and supporting one another - a unique resource to draw on.

ABOUT DSV

Deep Science Ventures is creating a future in which both humans and the planet can thrive.

We use our unique venture creation process to create, spin-out and invest into science companies, combining available scientific knowledge and founder-type scientists into high-impact ventures.

We operate in 4 sectors: Pharmaceuticals, Climate, Agriculture and Computation, tackling the challenges defining those areas by taking a first principles approach and partnering with leading institutions.

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