Our guest today has created smart solutions to specific problems that have plagued beekeepers for centuries. Her and the Beecorp team are taking on some of the key issues around a dying community of animals that we actually really need. Ellie Symes shares her story, how BeeCorp is solving key issues for beekeepers, and what she’s learned from being a CEO.
Here’s an Overview:
Early Memories of Entrepreneurship
While Ellie never really saw herself growing up to be an entrepreneur, she did start a couple of businesses as a kid. Her favorite was a dog walking business when she was just six years old. Not very many people wanted to let a six year old take their dogs on a walk but it was Ellie’s solution to not being able to have a dog herself.
What is BeeCorp?
BeeCorp builds analytic software for beekeepers. Their first product can tell when a queen bee dies. The queen is the most important member of a hive because she has all of the babies and grows the community. When the queen dies the other bees go into major housekeeping mode instead of creating honey. Eventually the bees will just leave. BeeCorp helps beekeepers realize the issue sooner and solve it before the hive dies.
How have beekeepers responded?
They love the technology piece, the alerts are super helpful and the beekeeper are actually providing BeeCorp a ton of information so BeeCorp knows what new products to build. It’s been a team effort that includes some fantastic beekeepers.
How did Ellie come up with the idea?
Ellie has been a beekeeper for 6 years and she’s always loved it. She even started a Beekeeping club in college. Colony collapse was just starting to become a bigger thing at that time so she started thinking about solutions. BeeCorp is a result of tons of research into primary causes of colony collapse and a few lightbulbs going off about solutions.
What is the current state of the honey bee?
The world has one-third of the population of bees we had in the 1960s. Climate change, pesticides, globalization, and beekeepers themselves are all contributing to the problem. Ellie knows that she can’t necessarily solve the problem but her goal is to help beekeepers catch some of the results on their hives so they can diagnose the problem and fix it.
What about hive theft and vandalism?
Both are a significant problem in the beekeeping world.
Beekeepers actually steal hive from each other a lot. Beecorp clients have GPS senbsors in the hive so it can be found and the theaf could be prosecuted.
As for vandalism, the Beecorp sensors can tell the beekeeper quickly when a hive is knocked over so they can go out, fix the hive, and save it from total demise.
What was a major gut check in the evolution of BeeCorp?
They were raising money and they’d received a fair amount but they weren’t quite there yet. It seemed like they may not complete the funding effort and the business wouldn’t be able to get off it’s feet. Ultimately one of the founders asked their landlord who pulled through along with another few final investors. They ended up raising even more than they needed.
How does the feeling of business ownership change once you get funded?
The pressure of having other peoples money is a huge difference. Ellie always feels the pressure to succeed for everyone who’s invested in BeeCorp’s vision.
What do you love about owning a business?
Having control over what you do and how you do it and create the culture of a community.
What’s one thing you can’t stand?
Ellie can’t stand receiving all of the sales calls. But really who can? They break focus and are all around distracting.
Where will BeeCorp be 5 years down the road?
Ellie and the BeeCorp team have a clear 4 part plan:
- They want to be an employer that employees love to be at,
- They want to keep hives and do research in an innovative way.
- Have more technical solutions for the problems beekeepers face.
- Build a database of information that will grow the technical knowledge around bee colony solutions.
Special thanks to Ellie Symes for taking the time to share the BeeCorp story with us.
Mentioned in the show:
Music by Mark Vinten
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