2022 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Future Farmers, Dartmouth College (Tuck)

Future Farmers

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth

Industry: AgTech

Founding Student Name(s): Elena Nikvashvili

Brief Description of Solution: A two-sided, app-based marketplace connecting farmers with retailers in the country of Georgia.

Funding Dollars: $17,000.

What led you to launch this venture? I grew up in the country of Georgia after the fall of the Soviet Union. This meant that, growing up, we had no water, gas, or electricity. Due to my parents’ hard work and some luck, I was able to receive an education in the U.S. and pursue a successful career. At heart, I am just like any other farmer in my grandfather’s village, Matsimi. These are farmers who are honest and hard-working, but luck is not on their side. They, including my grandparents and my cousins, have struggled their entire lives to make ends meet. When I think about giving back to my home country, helping these farmers is the priority. This desire led to the creation of Future Farmers.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? The two biggest accomplishments have been the following:

1) Development of the mobile app and web app for the beta test.

2) Winning the Steve Kahl D’91 Entrepreneurship Award at Tuck.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? Tuck helped me discover that I am an entrepreneur at heart, and the way I approach life decisions is remarkably similar to a design thinking process. So how did it all start?

It’s 2 a.m. and the year is 2020 I have been in quarantine for a week alone in Georgia. I need to prepare for my U.S. Visa appointment, arrange my travel documents, book my tickets, say goodbye to my family, and finally be in-person at my dream school, Tuck. But right now, it doesn’t matter. My eyes are fixed on the Zoom screen. We are discussing design thinking at Tuck Launch. Our team had to design a face mask for students and the excitement of creating this product kept me awake and energized. I knew that I wanted to engage in the design thinking process even beyond Tuck Launch.

During fall semester, I participated in MBA design thinking challenges and learned more about how to create products while focusing on meeting customer needs. I also learned that design thinking is often used in entrepreneurship. This got me interested in startups and I began attending events organized by the Tuck Center of Entrepreneurship. As a result, I learned about the Early-Stage Project Exchange at Tuck, which connects students with early-stage companies to contribute their skills and gain live startup experience. I volunteered for Arctic AI—a startup working on an AI device in the oncology space. I was inspired by the team I was working with and how much they cared about helping people. This made me realize that I want to work on something I am passionate about, which is creating social impact.

I decided to take Entrepreneurial Thinking with Daniella Reichstetter to explore entrepreneurship and determine whether it was for me. This is where the idea for Future Farmers was born. I had to think of a startup idea to work on for class and I remember I had a tough time coming up with one. I finally had an idea when I asked the right question: Who do I genuinely care about and who do I want to help? The answer was very quick and clear. I want to help Georgian farmers because my grandfather is a farmer and I know how he has struggled. I started the customer discovery together with my class team to understand the problems farmers were experiencing. This involved customer interviews in Georgia and it was an extremely fun and interesting process.

Since then, I have worked with teams through an eFYP (entrepreneurship-focused First-Year Project at Tuck) and the Tuck-Magnuson Startup Incubator during 2021-2022. I also recruited my brother, who is a full-stack developer, to work on the first MVP. I was lucky to find my current COO, Yukta Sinha, through a demo day organized by the Incubator. Our team is passionate about helping farmers in developing countries across the world and we hope that our first product, a two-sided marketplace, will improve their lives.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? The founder who inspired me is Lubomila Jordanova, CEO and co-founder of Plan A and co-founder of Greentech Alliance. She was one of the speakers in the Entrepreneurial Thinking course I took at Tuck. She felt passionate about issues related to climate change and decided to pursue her passion after witnessing beautiful nature that was filled with ugly plastic. She inspired me because she is action-oriented and follows her passions.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? The Entrepreneurial Thinking course with Daniella Reichstetter. The biggest lesson I learned was that entrepreneurs are not risk-takers, but instead smart about risk-taking. Whenever anyone thinks of an entrepreneur, they think of a person who was tired at their corporate job, quit, and started their own company. This is not what most entrepreneurs are like. Most start their venture while in school or working a full-time job to maintain stability. They test and retest, they measure 100 times, and then they make the leap. This lesson gave me the courage to pursue my own entrepreneurial journey at Tuck and find my own entrepreneurial persona (one that is nothing like the traditional image of an entrepreneur).

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Eileen O’Toole, director of the Tuck Center for Entrepreneurship, and Daniella Reichstetter have been my supporters and coaches throughout this journey. They taught me everything from design thinking to experimentation and managing people. Both are heavily involved in the Tuck-Magnuson Startup Incubator that provides resources and opportunities for student startup founders. With their help and guidance, we participated in multiple pitch competitions and obtained funds. Through the Incubator, we also connected with experts in finance, product development, legal, entrepreneurship, etc.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? See above.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? The long-term goal is to expand to other developing countries where farmers and retailers face similar problems.


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