It’s been a long winter, so I’m thrilled that things are warming up here in Canada. On this beautiful day, I’m hosting another episode of I’m a Millionaire! So now what?, bringing you Alberto Aguilar as our guest, a Carleton University business graduate and entrepreneur who launched Plantaform.
At 23 years old, Alberto’s had a full life. Fluent in four languages, he’s lived across the globe and launched three startups. This young entrepreneur exited his former business, selling out to his equity partners to work on Plantaform when his high-school friend Kiwa Lang, an industrial designer based in Australia, reached out with the idea to grow plants in an automated indoor garden.
And so Plantaform was born – a biotech startup that uses fogponics to grow food with the least human input. Their device, named Rejuvenate, uses no soil, 95% less water and helps plants grow faster and healthier.
Perfect for those of us who have the opposite of green fingers!
What makes Alberto tick
“I’ve been an entrepreneur ever since I was growing up in Spain, or in places like Indonesia, where there were such poor conditions. In every country I've lived I've always tried to build something and sell it to other people. What makes me tick is the desire to contribute to society and make something impactful that not just I can be proud of. But something that can really help contribute to the world.”
How Rejuvenate works (and why failure made this team stronger)
I am not really keen on gardening, but Plantaform’s Rejuvenate sounds like my kind of solution!
It’s a fully automated indoor garden that you can use and grow flowers or plants or any sort of vegetables from your kitchen, with seriously minimal maintenance. It uses a technology called fogponics, which I’ve never heard of before, have you?
It turns water into a fog-like mist state, to nourish the plants without soil. The high-tech, egg-shaped device is roughly 60 centimetres high by 60 centimetres wide – a bit smaller than a mini-fridge! Rejuvenate can grow up to 15 plants at a time, running itself for up to three weeks before you need a water top-up. Best of all, harvest time is within 35 days.
The two co-founders weren’t fazed by a few startup troubles. “The initial design completely failed. And then COVID hit.” This prompted Alberto to exit his previous startup and dedicate himself to the project full time. “I saw a big need when it comes to sustainability. And we weren't thrown out by the failure of the first prototype. We thought, well, we're actually pretty close to getting something really cool here. So, we put our hearts into it, designed a new prototype, and built a team.”
A soft launch and investment drive
So, by now you might be wondering where on earth you can buy this device? Alberto is running a soft launch with an early bird special for $200 dollars less than the retail price of $599. Or you can reserve the product now for $99 and pay the rest prior to the delivery of the device.
It’s a smart approach.
“One of the most challenging areas for any startup is to raise capital, while retaining as much equity as possible in the company. And investors need to see some traction; the startup cost is big, just the moulds alone are between 100 - $150,000 to produce the plastic. The purpose of the soft launch was to get some early adopters and prove that people want this, the company is alive! And then raise the remaining capital to start manufacturing and fulfill the operation.”
Ultimately, Plantaform aims to release three different product lines (including the first cannabis indoor garden) before selling or launching an IPO in the next five years. And of course, moving onto the next big project.
Fun, Frank Advice?
“The less commitments you have in life, the less you have to lose, the more you should be willing to start a business and go all in. And you're not going to nail it the first time nor the second time. But if you're committed to just having a plan A (without any plan B), you will find the answer.”
Alberto is a fantastic example of a particular group of entrepreneurs who have really strong startup ideas and want to make a big impact. His main drive isn’t to become a self-made millionaire, but this could be the outcome of their innovative, sustainable solution.
There’s much more to our conversation on the podcast, I hope you’ll have a listen!
Are you an entrepreneur looking to exit, or at the helm of a thriving business or startup? I would love to talk with you about your stories! You can drop me a line here.
And watch this space for more details about future Elevated Conversations.