Stenver Jerkku: “Even if everything seems to fail, always look for learning opportunities.”
Stenver Jerkku is a software engineer, a leader, a public speaker and an entrepreneur but most importantly – the co-founder and COO of eAgronom – a smart and efficient farm management system. eAgronom dreams of a world where farmers would be wealthy and happy, where there would be more time for family and decision making.
What are the personality traits that help a person to become successful?
There are many paths to becoming successful and the definition of success is also not universally defined. Do you want to be famous, respected, rich, entrepreneur, immortal, help with the breakthrough of some great scientific progress, have a good career or something else? Whatever you choose as your goal - the traits are vastly different. What they all have in common are steadfast resolve and thick skin. You need to hear a lot of no’s and still keep going. When a reporter asked: "How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?", Edison replied: "I didn't fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps”.
What have been the biggest victories along your or your startup journey?There have been many victories. If I need to single out some of them, then the first biggest victory was definitely when we released the first MVP and immediately had 15K hectares signed up. We were ecstatic and it showed market demand. We were ready to go all-in. The second one was when we managed to get 250K hectares in Estonia in 6 months. We thought we are invincible. We will just go anywhere and conquer the whole world in the next 5 years! Those were some wild-crazy, crazy times. Probably the most positive memories in eAgronom ever.
We thought we are invincible. We will just go anywhere and conquer the whole world in the next 5 years!
The third one probably was when we closed our first VC funding of 1M Eur. It showed that not only we thought it's a good business, but VC-s as well. We had global customers and global VCs. Suddenly in the small Estonian bond, we were no longer a bunch of nobodies and had a lot of responsibility on our hands. It was no longer about just building a good business, but also our reputation that's on the line. We want to make sure that in 10 years our employees, customers, and investors are happy - this is not something we want to fail with.
But if I had to be frank - the most important things are not the big victories. It's the small victories. If you consistently celebrate small victories, then this is what really keeps you going and will carry you through the rough times.
If you consistently celebrate small victories, then this is what really keeps you going and will carry you through the rough times.
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
In 2018 winter we had a terrible season. We expected to grow 10 times, but only grew 2 times! Since our expectations were unbelievably high, then it was demoralizing throughout the whole company. It caused widespread panic and reorganization through the company. However, it thought us to really think through our sales model, forced us to learn about unit economics, the deep details of fundraising, keeping our focus and not doing many things at once, and many other things that are essential for a healthy business. It was probably the most educational winter of my life. Even if everything seems to fail, always look for learning opportunities. In the long run, even though many people got hurt and we did many mistakes, I'm happy that we had this awful experience.
I'm happy that we had this awful experience.
How did you become an entrepreneur – was it something that happened naturally or was it a well-deliberated decision?
For me, it was a deliberated decision. I had taken many university classes on how to do startups, had worked in an international startup that scaled up, just graduated a master’s degree and I felt that natural next step is to create my own startup. At first, I planned to do it in legal tech, but life came into the way and I met Robin. We spent the whole week every day partying, visioning, discussing and learning to know each other. After a week we shook hands, put down basic terms and started working on it! The next day I gave the letter of resignation in my old job and 1 month later we were working on it full-time.
What tabs/apps do you have open right now?
Messenger, emails, our business associates dashboards for review, an article about new tractors, to-do list, Google Drive and article about how healthy soils are the key to feeding the world.
What is your startup doing in 20 years?
We will have autonomous tractors driven by eAgronoms software in the field growing grain with the best agronomic practices that grow the soil sustainably. The food is certificated and tracked by eAgronom from the field, all the way to your plate, so you know exactly what the food was grown with, where was it grown and what chemicals were used on it. The world soils are healthy and sustainable thanks to eAgronom, which will also be our contribution to the fight against climate change.
Tell me something you are learning right now.
Currently, I’m learning artificial intelligence - since I’m running the AI team. The algorithms, how to program it, etc. I have no educational background in AI, so I need to learn it all by myself.
Hero of the Week is a column focused on inspirational entrepreneurial people around us – their journeys, success stories and lessons learned from failures; goals, inspiration and everything in between. Get inspired and be the Hero of your own life!