Stanford Graduate School of Business
Industry: Climate Tech, Agriculture, Food
Founding Student Name(s): Nicole Rojas, Dávid Pardavi
Brief Description of Solution: Methane is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide at warming our atmosphere and represents 42% of the global warming impact of all greenhouse gas emissions. The cattle sector is the second largest contributor to human-related methane emissions.
While both brands and farmers in the cattle sector are making net zero commitments and implementing on-farm emissions reduction projects, scaling these projects remains slow and difficult. A critical hurdle is data. Collecting, managing and using on-farm data is manual and fragmented, preventing both farmers and brands from getting credit and funding for this emission reduction work.
Lasso’s software platform makes on-farm emissions reduction projects easier than ever to scale. It gives credit to those doing the good work to transform the sustainability of the more than 1 billion cattle on the planet.
Lasso automatically collects on-farm data, calculates carbon footprints, and monitors emissions across farms. Lasso then generates reduction recommendations, aggregates emissions reduction project data for verification, and connects farmers or brands with emissions reduction funding (e.g., offsets, government incentives).
Funding Dollars: Pre-seed – ~$1.4M
What led you to launch this venture? We both came to business school with the goal of working in climate-tech. Nicole’s roots in Wisconsin and personal connections with dairy farmers, as well Dávid’s McKinsey experience in implementing digital products with clients, inspired us to work on a software solution to address sustainability in the cattle sector. After working on the topic in several Stanford GSB classes, speaking with over 100 stakeholders in the cattle sector, and closing our first paid pilot in Europe, we saw a real need for data transparency to reduce on-farm emissions.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? After graduating from Stanford and closing our first round of fundraising, we refined our prototype and began testing it with both farmers and brands. It was thrilling to hear the magic words: “I would love to use your product,” sign our initial set of LOIs worth >$600k, and finalize our first paid contract. We are proud to make our customers’ lives easier, while also creating a positive impact on the environment.
How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? We both came to school interested in joining a startup, but the Stanford MBA gave us the confidence and skills to start our own venture. Classes like Stanford Climate Ventures, Startup Garage, and Lean Launchpad gave us the hands-on experience to talk to as many people as possible to refine and grow our idea. Other classes like Managing Growing Enterprises, Winning Writing, and Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital gave us a toolkit for recruiting, fundraising, and sales. Above all, the people at Stanford–professors, staff like Deb Whitman at the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, and classmates served as mentors and guideposts to our endless questions as first-time entrepreneurs.
What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Jorge Welch was Nicole’s former manager at a Chilean geoanalytics startup where she worked as his chief of staff. Jorge was the first person in my professional career who had a strong entrepreneurial “Get things done” mindset. His immediate feedback to me was that “Perfect is the enemy of progress” and that I needed to take a step out of my consulting training, stop strategizing, and start testing. Working with him inspired me to return to business school to take time to find what energized me and design my career around it.
Kathy Hannun, President and founder of Dandelion Energy, is also a climate-tech founder who inspired the team. Nicole interned with Dandelion Energy in 2021: I saw Kathy approach everything with a learning mindset and push beyond the day-to-day to put real thought into what’s next for Dandelion. Her passion for Dandelion’s technology and its climate impact was infectious. Kathy serves as an inspiration in the type of founder I would like to be, the organization I would like to lead, and the impact I would like to create with Lasso.
Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? While the Stanford Climate Ventures course kickstarted our foray into entrepreneurship, Startup Garage forced us to answer the tough questions before making the decision to pursue Lasso full-time. Our advisors encouraged us to use the Business Model Canvas framework and pushed us to refine our value proposition, test our assumptions, and pitch customers. We learned the importance of finding a “minimum lovable product”–understanding what your customer will need and pay for before developing a fully-functioning product.
What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? The Stanford Climate Ventures team–Jane Woodward, Dave Danielson, and Joel Moxley–were and still are invaluable mentors and sounding boards on our entrepreneurial journey. They have made countless introductions, provided the initial feedback for our fundraising pitch deck, and pushed our thinking to new heights. Above all, they planted the seeds of encouragement to make the leap and tackle a problem worth solving.
How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? We always joke with friends and family surprised by our leap into entrepreneurship that “It’s in the water we drink and air we breathe at Stanford.” From day 1 of the MBA program, we saw messages like the one on Stanford GSB’s campus: “Dedicated to the things that haven’t happened yet, and to the people who are about to dream them up.” The energy around innovation and creativity is infectious. Having weekly guest speakers like Whitney Wolfe Herd share their challenges and successes in building a startup gave us insights we incorporate into our own venture daily. Finally, programs like the Botha Chan Fellowship, where we pitched and received feedback from Roelof Botha, and the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy, where we received our first non-dilutive funding, expanded our network and gave us our first set of funding to kickstart our company.
What is your long-term goal with your startup? We have three long-term goals: 1) help set the standard for validating and monitoring emissions reductions in the cattle sector; and 2) support dairy and beef farmers worldwide, and 3) enable the cattle sector to become carbon neutral.
DON’T MISS: MEET ALL OUR MBA DISRUPTORS OF 2022 or WANTED: STUDENT START-UP IDEAS TO COMPETE FOR A $50K CASH PRIZE IN OLIN BUSINESS SCHOOL’S BIG IDEABOUNCE® ELEVATOR PITCH CONTEST
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