Aviel Ginsburg He splits time between getting calls from the startup founders and taking care of his farm.
Software engineer, entrepreneur, and investor is a longtime technology leader in Seattle and currently serves as a general partner at the Seed Ventures Fund. Founders Collaboration.
But recently, a young self-described “city boy” decided to add a farmer to his resume after buying an impromptu property.
Ginzburg and his wife were joking about buying real estate in southern Oregon — and made it a reality after they came across a listing that ticked all the boxes.
Their 40-acre property has a wide variety of features: a vineyard, orchard, alfalfa field, flower garden, and horse stables. It’s even tied to gig fibers.
Ginzburg, who co-founded a social media analytics startup acquired in 2017, launched a new venture — Double Dinosaur Farm — and reignited some entrepreneurial sentiment.
“A lot of companies are founded because you get really excited about something and you handle your skates,” Ginzburg told GeekWire in a recent interview. “And I haven’t felt this way in a long time – and now I do.”
Ginzburg isn’t the only tech vet who finds business guidance outside the company. In Silicon Valley, Mark Zuckerberg and other executives turned to martial arts as a new lens to deal with deal-making and competition, and to exercise their discipline and masculinity, the information I mentioned last month.
In many ways, the lessons Ginzburg learns on the farm can be passed on, providing guidance to the founders in his portfolio on how to adapt and stay grounded amid economic downturn.
This first lesson came to Ginzburg right away. Enthusiastic and naive, he and his family spent their first three days adding plants and flowers to their gardens and orchards. They were also able to establish an irrigation system connected to a nearby incense.
But just two days later, an unexpected frost struck, smothering all the new plants in the ice. Furthermore, the pipes in the irrigation system burst from antifreeze, causing water to flow in every direction.
“All I could think about was that we’re entering into this recession,” he said. “The founders in the portfolio thought they had big growth numbers and they were going to get that easy raise. All of a sudden, people cancel their meetings. They don’t make their rounds. They’re like, ‘Are we going to run out of money?’
The chaos on the farm was a tangible reminder of the sudden ebb and flow of the market.
“It’s just a wonderful reminder that we have so little control,” he said.
There were other lessons. The Ginzburg tractor was constantly breaking down. He was also learning how dangerous it was to drive and work – he had scarred from trying to fix the machine.
“We are constantly working with things that malfunction all the time and may be malfunctioning while they are in use,” he said. “You have your plan B, your plan C, and at the end of the day, it’s just: ‘Have you worked in the field, by the time you need to plow the field? “
Meanwhile, Ginzburg said what he learned from his 15 years in the startup world provides perspective on the farm.
“The lesson that might serve me best,” he said, “is the recognition that things in startups are always sloppy internally.”
Something always breaks, or is in the process of failing, as a company grows, Ginzberg said. The same thing happens on the farm. Equipment faltered. Crops die. Nature and wild animals constantly challenge your well-thought-out plan.
And that’s totally fine.
“You focus on the things you need to solve in front of you to reach your goal in the afternoon or day, and you let the other things stay put,” he said. “You can reach them, you can’t. Breaking them might not matter either.
“The same goes for startups, but with their customers and not their crops.”
Ginzburg also found context for the meaning behind the phrase used by fellow Founders’ Co-op, Chris Devore: “Make the hay while the sun rises.”
In order to grow hay successfully, he said, farmers must cut the alfalfa and let it dry in the sun for three to seven days, depending on the heat, before they can take out the baler. The timing of this process is critical. If alfalfa is cut too late, it loses all its nutrients. If it rains while it is set to dry, it will rot and the entire crop will be damaged.
It reminds Ginzburg of the founders who know the right time to acquire or raise more funding.
“We have to take this crazy risk of finding that window,” he said.
industry attracted “agtech” $11.4 billion in the value of a venture capital deal in 2021. So far Ginzburg has not come across any exciting tech ideas while working on the farm.
The family farmers of the generations he spoke to are not doing their best to acquire new technology that might bring more efficiency to their jobs.
“A lot of them really like their work and have a complete understanding of how their tools work toward their goals,” he said. “The ability to at least fix on their own and get the job done is critical to speed and efficiency. The idea of taking that freedom away from them, even for the prospect of higher efficiency, is not an attractive one.”
Ginzburg eventually wants to expand the farm, adding a stand with vegetables, orchards, and flowers. There are plans to establish a collaboration with a local winemaker.
He also hopes to build a few cabins on the property. The idea is to build a makeshift camp and lure the founders of his portfolio to the farm for a retreat.
Ginzburg has already been trained in his technique: “You might get injured. But there are gig fibers.”