We’re gonna need a bigger boat!

Today we wanted to share some interesting insights about right-sizing the opportunity. 

It is crazy to think that the COOKO idea is only 6 months old. What have we achieved in this time?

Done a patent search, then submitted and received a provisional patent.

Conducted extensive field tests in two cocoa-growing regions in Cameroon. Roughly 600Kg of dried beans.

Ran multiple community sessions (with an excess of 300 farmers in total) for feedback, community building and foundational business process research.

Registered a GmbH in Germany.

Registered a Limited company (100% subsidiary) in Cameroon.

Registered three approved trademarks.

Raised €390 000 in less than a month (UK, USA, Nigeria and Germany).

Contracted a Technology partner who has built demo’s of the sales app and scoped the IoT solution.

Hired staff (and negotiated the German Visa application process).

Joined the European “ISCO” working group on traceability. This is a joint working group of the Dutch, Belgian, German and Swiss sustainable cocoa boards.

Met and presented to the head of Cameroon’s national cocoa board. Submitted an MoU to build an international 1st Mile traceability task force with them.

Purchased 2 hectares of land and rented two more. Started construction on an MVP fermentation centre that will handle 10 tonnes a day.

Purchased our first company car.

Set up an advance field office with accommodation for field staff and testing personnel in Ntui.

Been selected as a finalist in the DIGICON conference awards (announcement on 17 November).

Built an incredible network of international experts and supporters who are helping us navigate the challenge.

All of this for under €100 000.

Why am I writing about all of this? For those who follow our posts, you’ll know that we don’t blow our own horn, so what is up?

Because in doing all this work we have come to realise that we have totally underestimated the opportunity. We are riding the tail of a tiger.

Martin Short is the new president of the World Cocoa Foundation. During the interview process, the number one topic was traceability, and he stated his clear commitment to the cause in his first address.

Martin Short outlining the importance of understanding this from the farmer’s perspective.

The USA is currently negotiating the FOREST act, and in Europe, they’ll soon announce legislation that forces the industry to declare all sourced cocoa comes from deforestation-free farms. 

The industry is scrambling to find solutions. As an example, Puratos, a Belgian cocoa trader, recently closed a $1 Billion round of funding to accelerate their “cocoa Trace” program. A program that focuses on building fermentation centres for farmers. Cargill and Barry Callebaut, the two biggest players, are spending hand over fist to capture farm polygons and improve their digital systems.

Everybody we have shared our idea with has responded with a resoundingly positive push for support, engaging partners, introducing us to new connections and looking at ways to join or fund the business. 

Because our idea starts with the farmer. 

When it comes to changing farming practices towards sustainable solutions, we are not talking ABOUT farmers; we are talking TO farmers and giving them a voice. 

We need to scale COOKO to live up to the expectations, trust and potential that people see in the team, technology and, very importantly, timing.

So…

we are officially opening the next round of funding with a focus on raising €5 Million.

What will we do with the money:

  1. Build the right team. To accelerate the pace of development we need a bigger team. An excellent product experience person who seamlessly blends digital scale with human interaction. A marketing professional who understands social franchises and African business. A CFO that understands and relishes OHADA compliance, international tax harmonisation and helping unbanked farmers with our payment schedules. We need to scale to at least 20 people in Europe and 200 in Africa within the next 6 months.
  2. Scale the prototype. Besides our “owned and operated” cocoa testing facility in Cameroon, we can test in multiple locations right now. The funding will help us put more IoT devices, more mobile money transactions and more learning into West Africa (and beyond).
  3. Build alliances. The 1st Mile Traceability Task Force is an important initiative to safeguard farmers’ data privacy and security in vulnerable regions. Recent international events have clearly demonstrated what happens when precise individual data get into the hands of the wrong actors. We already have several partners signed up but will need funds to scale and convene this task force as soon as possible.
  4. Put money in the farmers’ pockets. Unlike other tech start-ups, we don’t have to wait for an “app” to start delivering an impact. We can buy and trade cocoa long before we have ironed out the details of our interaction design. A working facility is our “build to think” model for delivering impact at scale. Our MVP receives 10 tonnes of beans a day. This means we’ll be putting between €180 000 and €200 000 into farmers pockets every month. This will be at a significant premium and reduced cost to their current sales.
  5. Engineer demand. As a B2B business, we must always focus on the fact that traceability will only make sense if the end consumers can see the impact their purchases have made. Our efforts to build consumer awareness for the benefits of “SOURCE fermented cacao” needs to start now. European and American confectioners will buy 1st-mile traceability when the market demands 1st-mile traceability.

This has been an incredible journey so far. Augustine and I are fully committed to accelerating the pace of change we are bringing to the industry. There is so much more work to be done, and we’d love to give you the opportunity to join our mission. Please reach out if you feel compelled to get involved.

The COOKO boat is no stick in the mud.

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