MapMyApple is a mobile application based on machine learning that supports apple growers by equipping them with daily recommendations for orchard management, to help them achieve higher yields and better apple quality. Today I talk to the founder – David Blazevski about his and his management teams’ – Jovana Djdorjić and Mihajlo Milenković – experience with developing a business model for their application.
Agnieszka Węglarz: David, how did you come up with the idea of such an application? As far as I know, these were your real life experiences with growing apples. What were the observations that have led you to formulate the idea?
David: That’s right, there’s a long tradition in my family when it comes to growing apples. It all started from a conversation with my family and friends when we came to the conclusion that people engaged in agricultural production generally use formulas written down by their grandparents in various notebooks and books. We have witnessed that a lot has changed in the last 100 years, starting with the climate, the choice of varieties that are grown today, the method of cultivation and even the business itself. As my grandfather used to grow apples, it is not enough for me to continue in the same way. Today we are able to collect and process a much larger amount of information, both from orchards and weather parameters that can all help us plan the season more accurately and provide the required quality and yield. Thus was born the idea of developing the MapMyApple application, which collects and processes a large amount of information from orchards and turns that information into optimal plans for growing apples.
Agnieszka: What was the initial concept? How did you work on the MVP (minimum viable product)? What were the most difficult moments, the biggest challenges?
David: At the beginning we decided to develop an application for one segment of users, namely apple growers. Apple is the most represented produced fruit in the world, which was the reason why we started with this fruit culture. This decision gave us the opportunity to develop a unique solution that is specially created for the needs of one segment and as such is the only one on the market that offers a complete solution and in the background is a team of experts with many years of experience in this field. On the other hand, it was a business challenge to limit the product to only one segment given that fruit growing is a huge industry and that for every other fruit crop there is also a need for this kind of technology.
For this reason, in the future we plan to work on educating farmers even more, in order to point out the potential they can gain by applying technology. The plan is to develop mobile applications for other fruit crops such as pear, lemon, cherry …
Agnieszka: Your application was developed in Europe – in Serbia, but you operate also on the US market – how did you start to commercialize your MVP? Who was your target group, what was the offer? Did you first work on commercializing your app locally, or were you thinking about larger scale from the very beginning?
David: Cooperation with large companies such as Delta Agrar from Serbia gave us the opportunity to see what principles are applied by masters in this industry and the opportunity to transfer their knowledge and experience into the application. The largest number of users is from Serbia, considering that in the beginning, due to the location of the team here and the proximity of users, we were focused only on local testing of the application. Very quickly, we made our application available on the markets of Macedonia, Bosnia, then Turkey and Brazil.
Collaboration with Cornel University in New York gave us access to the latest scientific knowledge, but also the opportunity to test the application in the orchards that are partners of Cornell University in New York.
Agnieszka: What is unique about your application? Are those the ML algorithms?
David: The first thing that makes MapMyApple unique is that it’s specialized on one segment of fruit production, which are apples. MapMyApple collects and processes a large amount of information. Based on machine learning and early detection of disease and pest risk technology it creates an optimal protection plan for each manufacturer individually.
Agnieszka: What new business challenges appeared as the business started to grow? What were the incentives to join the Business Model Mastering Program and to start working on the business model of your app?
David: The first challenge we are currently facing is the need to expand the segment. So far, we have focused the development of the application exclusively on the needs of manufacturers who were our only segment of users.
Now there is a need for other segments such as agronomists and consultants to use such a platform to serve a larger number of users.
We started working on a business model to get a clearer picture of how to divide the segments and what are the channels we should use in communicating with each of them, what are our key strengths and what are our weaknesses.
Also thanks to the Program we got the chance to meet other successful startups and find out how some of them coped with the problems we have today or what are their successful practices that we can apply in our business.
Agnieszka: What were the key turning points when working on your business model?
David: The main thing that opened our eyes working on the business model is the market of consultants that can open new doors for us. We realized that this group of users can be for us both a communication channel and distributors and a new segment of the end user. We will definitely work on developing a strategy for this market in the future, starting with the creation of a separate business model canva.
Agnieszka: If you were to sum up key benefits of using the business model canva and approach – what would it be?
David: The business model canva helped us, above all, to see better our strengths and weaknesses. After the workshops, we saw a space for expanding our customer and distributor segments and redefined the value proposition for each segment. Also, the choice of the archetype of our brand helped us to change the tone in which we address the messages through different channels.
Agnieszka: What would you recommend to startups at the beginning of their road? If you were to begin once again with your current knowledge and experience – what would you do differently?
David: The recommendation for all startups starting with workshops is that the whole team participates in the process of creating a business model canva. More heads are always smarter than one head. We always came up with great results after completing homework and materials during the workshop together, when the whole team was involved and when we exchanged ideas and made synergies.
Agnieszka: What are your plans for the future, how do you intend to grow further?
David: Our plan for the near future involves researching the consulting market, given that we have seen the great potential of this market as a segment and as a distributor and communication channel for our priority segment and that is the manufacturers.
We will work on developing a strategy for new users and expanding the business model for other fruit crops too. So we hope that in the near future we will have the platform for consultants and also the mobile applications MapMyPear, MapMyCherry, MapMyPlum, MapMyLemon…
Agnieszka: Thank you very much for this interview and for sharing your experiences. I wish your team successful implementation of your new strategy.
Agnieszka Węglarz is an independent consultant, business strategist and practitioner in B2B and B2C, as well as lecturer, speaker and blogger. She has over 20 years of professional experience working as manager in both large corporations and SMEs, where she was responsible for strategy, marketing and business development. She uses her long term executive experience and training expertise to assist companies and their managers in building their business strategy using a workshop methodology. She specializes in business modeling, segmentation, value proposition, sales and marketing strategies as well as consultative selling. She runs her own consultancy business, as well as cooperates with Google for Startups Campus in Warsaw as the leading expert in Business Model Mastering – a Program for European startups providing founders and their teams with a structured approach to run their company and accelerate their growth. Agnieszka is an author of many business publications. You can read her writing on her business blog on www.agnieszkaweglarz.com and watch her business content on her YouTube channel – Biznes Ring by Agnieszka Węglarz. You can contact her by writing to: email@example.com or directly by sending a message via LinkedIN.
David Blazevski is the President and Chief Executive Officer of a startup company Fresh Agriculture Technologies (FAT), Inc. Together with his team, he is working on transforming agronomist knowledge to powerful technology solution, with the aim to help apple growers overcome everyday problems in their orchards. After being rewarded and recognized as the best Economics student in his generation in Serbia, David has started his career in Strawberry energy, where he has joined as a business developer, and has worked on creating a go-to-market strategy for the UK market. He has then moved to the telco industry, and has joined the business governance team in Telenor Telco, one of the biggest companies within the industry worldwide. He has worked on development of Telenor Bank, the first digital bank to appear on Serbian market. Finally, before joining FAT, he has worked for the British American Tobacco, as Factory Performance Improvement Manager, covering factories in Serbia and Romania. His focus was on improving the business supply chain and factories performances for the region. In addition to that, David has completed a number of specialization courses and has gained certificates such as Prince2 Project manager, Lean Six Sigma and Lean management, Big Data & Analytics Architecture and Google Digital Marketing.