I'm happy to share the exciting news that on January 24th, Jeff managed to make FarmZee's first match between a buyer and a farmer in Harare, Zimbabwe. This was an exciting event for us, since it confirms many of our initial assumptions about informal agricultural markets. Most importantly, we have confirmed that:
1) Both buyers and sellers are indeed looking to expand their current set of options
2) They are both able to share and receive enough information using what's in their hands - mobile phones - to engage in a new transaction
While this was an important milestone, we keep learning more about our customers. McCullough sold his tomatoes to a buyer in his local market based on information that we shared with him after contacting the buyer. But he was still hesitant - he didn't bring ALL of his tomatoes, as he wanted to make sure it worked first. And while the buyer was happy about the quality of tomatoes, he's not entirely comfortable setting his price before he sees a sample. So we're working on an approach to send samples to buyers a few days before the deal.
While this is exciting news, we have hardly had time to celebrate. Since Jan 24th, we have made other similar matches and are learning more and more. This week, we contacted two large buyers in Harare - FoodLover's supermarket and FreshPak - a wholesaler to supermarkets - and are beginning to find matches for their needs.
Another surprise is that FarmZee is not just for small-scale farmers. Tomorrow, Jeff is meeting with a larger-scale farmer who has 300 tons of butternut squash and 100 tons of watermelons, and who has agreed to pay 5% commission if we match him to buyers. We connected with him after our inital SMS message was forwarded to him.
We're now starting to develop a prototype mobile-friendly website for buyers to search for their supply, and beginning general software development for our matching algorithm.
Just trying to keep up!