Purpose Over Profit: ‘How I Work’ EP46 with Andrew Mullin

andrew mullin headshot and blog cover augurian


In this insightful episode, Josh Becerra welcomes Andrew Mullin, VP of Marketing of EarthDaily Agro, a pioneering Earth Observation Geospatial Analytics growth stage company with a revolutionary SaaS offering. Andrew shares his diverse journey in various roles, from working in agencies and M&A to serving as an elected official, all leading to his present position in building a global observation platform.

How I Work, Episode 46 with Andrew Mullin

Andrew Mullin’s journey at EarthDaily Agro highlights the power of purpose over profit, showing how companies can make a positive impact while pioneering groundbreaking technologies. By leveraging Earth Observation Geospatial Analytics, EarthDaily Agro brings essential insights to various industries, fostering sustainable growth and informed decision-making. Alongside their corporate social responsibility efforts, EarthDaily Agro demonstrates how businesses can create a better world while pursuing innovation and success. Plus:

  • Leveraging Earth Observation for Planetary Insights
  • Navigating Marketing Challenges: Account Based Marketing
  • EarthDaily’s Humanitarian Relief Effort: Assisting farmers in Ukraine

To learn more about Andrew Mullin and EarthDaily Agro, visit their website: https://earthdailyagro.com/

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TRANSCRIPTION: HOW I WORK, EPISODE 46 (Andrew mullin, earthdaily agro)

Josh Becerra: Hi, everybody. This is Josh Becerra from Augurian. Thanks for tuning into this next episode of How I Work. My guest today is Andrew Mullin, VP Marketing of Earth Daily, where he leads the marketing function of an Earth Observation Geospatial Analytics growth stage company with a SaaS offering called GeoSys. Thanks for being here, Andrew.

Andrew Mullin: Hey, good afternoon, Josh.

Josh Becerra: Yeah, so before we get into like what an Earth Observation Geospatial Analytics Growth Stage Company really is, I want you to tell your amazing story to this audience because when we were prepping for this, you know, you told me that you’ve been working in agencies before, then you went in-house, then you did M&A work, you did some nonprofit work, you’ve been an elected official, and now part of building this global observation platform. So. Tell us a little bit more, give us some details on that story.

Andrew Mullin: Well, thanks, Josh. Yeah, I guess I’m one of those guys that’s a utility infielder, you know, sort of master of none. But I definitely have had the privilege of doing a lot of different things. And I guess kind of how it all came together for me is a lot of people, you know, live their lives in stages, right. And the first stage of your career typically is learning, right? And if you’re a good learner, you tend to advance and move into a leadership role if you’re fortunate and you earn more. So that’s the next stage is your earning stage. And then your last stage in life is giving back. And I said, well, I don’t want to give back at 65 or 70. So I’m going to merge, learn, earn and give back into the same decade and do it all at once. And so that’s kind of how I found myself in all those different things.

Josh Becerra: Yeah, I think that’s very, very cool. And I’m a big believer in like, don’t wait to start doing something if it is like giving back or anything really like, I wanna do some traveling. Well, you may not be able to afford to do some big, huge, amazing, expensive trip, but go travel to a little city close to you and get out there, right? So always projecting that “I’m going to do this when I have this in my life or I’m making this amount of money or something” I feel like that doesn’t get people moving in the direction they want to go in their lives. So I really do love this idea of learn, earn, and give back. So that’s awesome.

Andrew Mullin: Yeah, thanks.

Josh Becerra: So I’m super fascinated by the idea of building a platform for planetary observation data. So in my world, everything is about Universal Analytics, shifting to GA4, right? That’s the big thing that’s happening in my world right now. And it’s just, you guys are building the GA4, but for our planet, which is crazy to me. So as a marketer of this service, who are your customers? Like who wants this data? And then how, how is it hard or easy to market to those people.

Andrew Mullin: Sure, no, great question. I mean, so EarthDaily and our Ag division, which is called EarthDaily Agro, which I operate in, we provide space-age data to the organizations and people who feed the planet. So in the world of Ag, it’s about not so much the growers, it’s everyone that supports the farmer, right? So it’s the people that lend to the farmer, the people that ensure the crops, the people that trade agriculture, so commodity trading groups, the very large vertically integrated food and beverage companies that actually are big enough that they actually own the sugar cane field if you’re Pepsi Corporation, right?

And then we work with some government NGOs that work on land use and agriculture policy, right? And then, you know, digital Ag. So the big crop input providers, the people that sell fertilizers, seed, the big agronomy advisory firms. So they’re all using earth observation data to look at change and to look at change in scale. So what do I mean by that? From space at very large landmass areas, you can track the progression of the plant, right? From when it’s planted to when it emerges out of the ground to is it growing on time to Is it time to harvest it? And through those stages, you can measure the change to the positive or the change to the negative.

Like starting with, is it planted at all? And the thing that’s really great about Earth observation is you can do it at scale and you can do it at many levels. You can do it at the field level. You can do it at the county level. You can do it at the regional level. You can do it at the continent level. And you can compare different parts of the world and you can do it within the same day. So our constellation satellites, which is scheduled to fly next year in 2024 on SpaceX, will actually take an image and record data of 98% of the Earth’s landmass every day, and then dump those data and images on the North and South Pole.

And what that allows people to do, like a commodity trader company, just to give you a concrete example, if you’re hedging wheat and there’s a major storm, or a major drought in a wheat producing area of the world, you’re gonna wanna know what the potential impact is to supply because supply and demand obviously indicate price. And if you can know it weeks ahead of somebody else and adjust your trading models to hedge one way or the other, it’s worth millions of dollars. Same thing goes for a food and beverage company. If you’re sourcing a raw material that you know the price is gonna go way up or way down in the future, you’re going to get ahead of the game by modeling crop production or crop health or whatnot. So there’s lots and lots of use cases.

And then outside of agriculture, we have a play in policy, land use policy. We have a play in the environment. We have a play in environmental social governance. We’re going to work with maritime. We’re going to work with forestry. And again, same principle, you’re using all of this data and grinding through it globally every day. And we’re actually hoovering the entire Earth. Most satellites are tasked. So they’re given a set of instructions, say, go take some pictures and gather some data here. We’re going the other way. We’re vacuuming an image of the entire landmass of the Earth every day. And then we’re having AI on the ground look for changes that might be interesting to our customers.

Josh Becerra: So, you know, this sounds super techie advanced, right? And so would you say that you’re creating a whole new category of observation data? So what I’m getting at is, are you spending a ton of time educating your buyers on what this platform even is? Or would you say the category is somewhat established and now your focus is with prospective customers, helping them understand your key points of differentiation? So like which of the two things are you kind of grappling with?

Andrew Mullin: Well, it’s both actually. So one of the interesting things about the space business is that there’ll be more satellites launched in the next five years than in the history of mankind. Why? Because the cost to put it up there has gone down by 90% thanks to Mr. Elon Musk and SpaceX. So that combined with the big providers out there that build satellites like Airbus. The technology is getting smaller and it’s getting more sophisticated and it’s getting less costly, which is the classic technology evolution that happens in almost every tech category. So what that’s done now is it’s made it, it’s sort of democratized space. It used to be that only these ginormous governments and big businesses of the world could take advantage of this because it was so darn expensive. Now it’s getting to a level where it’s opening up a wealth of new use cases.

So to answer your question concretely, in what we call the digital ag space. So these are the big, you know, the top 10 agribusinesses in the world. And remember, agriculture is the biggest business in the world. And so these big multinational players are very sophisticated remote sensing users. So they know the category. It really comes down to what’s the quality of your data, what’s the quality of your software, what’s your pricing model, right? So that’s sort of the mature part of the space. When you pivot to other areas like banking and insurance and food and beverage is a good one, that’s a little bit early in its maturity. And so it’s not that people haven’t used earth observation or geospatial analytics before, but they’re probably not using it at scale and they probably haven’t embedded it into their workflow and their own practices. So in those segments, there is a lot of education that has to happen on what’s the value of buying this data. What’s the value of investing and building analytics around it? And then probably the hardest play is how do we get them to embed this into their workflow?

Josh Becerra: Yeah.

Andrew Mullin: So I’ll give you an example. If you’re a big lender in Ag, what’s the number one thing you care about? Risk, right? Ag lending by its very nature is a very risky enterprise. Well,

Josh Becerra: Every lender, doesn’t matter what, every lender it’s all about risk.

Andrew Mullin: Yeah, for sure. So how do you de-risk that lending and by using Earth observation to look at the land that they’re lending against and say, well, how is it historically performed? How has this grower historically performed? Because we can look at every ag field in the world for the last 30 years and find out, you know, how they performed in the past? And that can be a strong indicator of what might happen in the future. And then they can even score the land or score the loan. And we have lenders now that have moved to a land-based sort of underwriting model versus just an asset-based model. The traditional way to lend money is, what do you got in your bank account? How many tractors do you have? Are you willing to put up your house, right, and we’ll lend you the money? Now they’re pivoting to, well, what might the land produce? And based on that score, we’ll decide what we’re going to lend you and at what rate. So it’s sort of like the FICO score for a farmer.

Josh Becerra: Yeah. So you probably don’t know this, but in my background, on my mom’s side, we got a family of farmers. And I remember stories from my mother about my grandfather sitting on the back steps, almost breaking down, because he thought he was going to lose the farm because of flood, or drought, or fire, or whatever you may have. And so it’s pretty cool that now we can, using this kind of observation data, we can get a better sense for, what’s the yield gonna look like from this field or whatever,

Andrew Mullin: Yeah, and you know, farmers, to be fair to them, generally know what’s going on through street knowledge and walking the fields and being in their fields every day. So they know what’s going on. But you know, the days of the family farmer in the world are less relevant than they once were. So when you move into these big corporate farms where you’re managing hundreds of thousands of acres, it’s not humanly possible to get across all. In some cases, it’s not even humanly possible to fly across in an airplane everything in one day. So enter earth observation and you can do it at scale at a relatively impactful cost. And so more and more people are turning to earth observation as the best way to manage things. And when you move into other sectors, forestry, right? If you’re a timber person, you’re largely managing large, large tracts of land, right?

And you can do things around land use too. Like one of the big things that’s out there in the world today is sustainability and making sure that the farming that’s happening is happening on lands that aren’t illegally being farmed, like cutting down the rainforest. Again, a great use case for earth observation. We can certify to financiers that a particular piece of land that they’re lending against, 100% we can verify that it’s not on deforested land.

Josh Becerra: Yeah. You can’t fake it when you’re doing Earth observation.

Andrew Mullin: No and the really cool thing is, for the people that are bad actors, you can stay on top of them. So like one of the things that, you know, like some of our bigger customers do is they have a change detection alert that says, if a road is cut in an adjacent protected piece of land, they know that that’s an early indicator that someone might go in there and cut trees. So they have an early warning signal around what might be happening in and around their land.

Josh Becerra: Yeah, that’s super smart. Well, I’ve been geeking out a lot about the kind of tech, but this is more about marketing. So let’s talk a little bit about the challenges that this kind of presents for you. Having a certain segment of your customers that understand kind of the category and are really deep and maybe these new customers in finance or banking that maybe you have to be educating. I don’t know, pick one or tell us a little bit about your marketing hypothesis and broad strokes and how you go about getting this, educating them and getting this information in front of them.

Andrew Mullin: Well, I can tell you where we started and I can tell you where we are now.

Josh Becerra: Yeah, let’s go.

Andrew Mullin: It was a startup, right? So you’re kind of starting from ground zero and building your entire marketing stack from ground zero. You got to get your name out there as you raise money, all the classical stuff. But I quickly realized that there’s probably about 700 companies worldwide that we want to do business with. And so we quickly have evolved to an ABM account-based marketing model where we have profiled the top seven, actually in our case. Then the next 55, and then the next 625. And we’ve –

Josh Becerra: Why did you break it up that way?

Andrew Mullin: Well, it’s based on potential value, right? So we use an ideal customer profile, research-based sort of mode to profile the top seven companies in the world that have the capacity, the appetite, the interest to buy at scale from us, then the next 55, and then the next 625. And so then we’ve got it broken down into five to seven personas that about 30 some titles roll up into those personas. And then we’ve got these six or seven ag segments, you know, food and beverage, commodities, fintech, digital ag, NGO, government, university. And our marketing efforts are personalized based on what tier of potential customer are they, what industry are they in, and then what persona is involved in evaluating technology such as ours. And that combination is how we go after the heavily engaged people that know remote sensing and the ones that maybe are early in their journey of understanding and applying it. So differentiated marketing based on industry, persona, the classic technology, are the early adopters, are the early majority, right? And so all of our marketing is tailored based on that profile.

Josh Becerra: I love that. That sounds super, super smart. So another thing from a marketing perspective that I thought was interesting, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think when we were prepping for this, I heard you say that there was like a kind of a legacy platform that you’ve used to deliver these services. And now you’re kind of deploying this new platform. You said that it’ll be up next year in space, but it isn’t fully operational yet. So. from a marketing perspective, how does that create challenges if you’ve got this kind of legacy platform and then you got this bright, shiny new thing, but it’s not quite operational yet, so talk me through how you’re tackling that a little.

Andrew Mullin: No, it is a really interesting challenge from a marketing perspective. I mean, we’re private equity backed and owned, right? And so the genesis of the company was to smush together three smaller legacy providers, right? They were called Earthcast, Geosys, and Demos. And basically we took those customers and platforms and merged them into an interim platform which is called the Geosys platform. And… The difference between what we’re doing now and what we’re doing in the future is that we’re virtualizing constellation data. We don’t own and operate our own proprietary hardware. We’re actually using the big iron in the sky that most people in downstream analytics that offer geospatial analytics, Landsat, Sentinel, MODIS, and other big satellites. We’re aggregating and synthesizing and fusing that data and that becomes the analytic platform that we’re selling today.

Then what we’ve done is we’ve identified gaps of data and quality of data and coverage. And we’ve basically curated a specialized system of 10 satellites that have 22 sensors hanging off of them that can measure the things that are most important to the industries that we’re going after. And my Fisher Price story of this in farming and agriculture is you need to measure soil, vegetation, water, and atmosphere. And then inherent across all of that is weather. And so our sensors that will fly next year have very sophisticated ways to measure carbon, water, plant phenology. It can detect when a plant is flowering. It can identify, is it corn? Is it wheat? Is it barley? So it’s very sophisticated in that way. So that is how we’re evolving from a legacy platform where we have a hundred customers that are on that legacy platform. We’d like to pull as many of them through to the new constellation as possible, but we’re moving from virtualizing others to adding our own proprietary sauce into the stew, if you will,

Josh Becerra: Love it. Yeah.

Andrew Mullin: And so then that is what’s gonna give us that value add and that distinctive advantage. And we’ve been very careful to only go after six or seven industries. We’re not trying to boil the ocean and be the… universal provider to all industries.

For example, we’re not going to have a super strong play in the military, right? Why? Because we’re providing, you know, resolution and data at five meters. In the military world, if you’re not at 50 centimeters, you’re not in the game.

Which means, like, if you took a picture from your iPhone at 50 centimeters, that’s the quality you can see from space.

Josh Becerra: Yeah, that’s amazing. It gives you like little heebie-jeebie big brother vibes sometimes.

Andrew Mullin: If you were outside, we could count the number of hairs on your head with a satellite of that kind of quality. Yeah.

Josh Becerra: There’s a lot of them, but yeah, I believe it. So you have these two different platforms. So what does that look like? Are you kind of slow rolling the messaging? Are you just talking to current customers and saying, hey, this is going to be coming up? How are you marketing this new, not operational, quite yet set of satellites?

Andrew Mullin: Yeah, I mean, we’re in game time now, Josh, we’re less than a year from having our satellites launched. So our sales cycle tends to be six to 18 months. So we’re selling the data as though it exists today, right. And we have built a virtualized data set. So we took other satellite data that’s going to be very similar to what we have, and built a sample data set to demonstrate, here’s what we have today. Here’s what we’ll have tomorrow. Here’s the value add. And the value add that we bring is frequency. So the number of visits that, you know, it’s gonna be every day by 10.30 a.m. The quality, we’re providing it at scientific grade. The virtualized satellite network that we use is anywhere between 10 meters and let’s say 50 meters. We’re gonna be at five up to three and a half. So you get that increased quality.

And then the last deal is we’ve picked the sensors that measure what’s most important to the target markets we’re going after. So our entire story is we can start you today with analytics and data from our virtualized constellation and get you started. And it will only be enhanced when our new network goes live next year to bring that to the table. And we’re offering what we call foundational partner program pricing. So if you’re a customer that has bought into the proposition and wants to contract now, we can offer you special pricing of the new constellation data that will not be there once it flies. And so as an incentive to get folks to jump in, and we’ve had several big businesses that have done that. Now they’re not, they’re LOIs, right? You know, they’re subject to the satellite being turned on, but you know, our customers believe in what we’re doing and have pre-negotiated a price that others will not be offered once the Constellation applies.

Josh Becerra: You know, I think that sometimes marketers don’t, don’t think enough about the idea of price being like a really interesting kind of good motivator for customers. And I think you’re explaining the perfect use case. It’s like, you want to be kind of our early adopter, our premier partner. If you’re willing to go there with us and you believe in us because we’ve been delivering value all along, then we’re willing to recognize that with a pricing discount. And yeah, so anyway, I just comment about how smart it is to think about pricing could be a really easy and good hook to get your adoption.

Andrew Mullin: Well, the second thing that we’re doing is really thinking about the environment in which these big companies are operating in. So what do I mean by that? Any big giant business has a huge infrastructure cost in IT, right? And when you start to bring earth observation into it, I mean, we’re downloading, we’ll be downloading 64 terabytes of data a day, just for our constellation, not to mention all the other third-party sources. So we’ve partnered with Microsoft and Amazon, Azure and AWS to provide a way to make it easy to ingest our data into those hosting platforms. If you’re one of these ginormous agribusinesses, you’ve already partnered with either Microsoft or Google or somebody else and we’ve built hooks and are making it easy to make that transition. You start with the data that we have today, you get it tuned up and ready, and then you’re ready for when the new constellation flies.

Then the last thing that we’re doing is we’re giving these customers a chance to give us a wish list of downstream analytics so that it’s about the data, it’s about services, and it’s about analytics. So these pre-built analytics become something that they don’t have to build, right? And so we’re taking that off their plate. So it’s a total cost of ownership play as well.

Josh Becerra: Love that. That’s so smart. So I want to shift gears a little bit, and we’re getting to the end of our time. But one thing that I thought was so inspiring about the work that you’re doing is that you’ve organized kind of a humanitarian relief effort for farmers in Ukraine. So I want to just hear about that, like how it got started, challenges you’ve had to overcome, because I can’t imagine, like humanitarian efforts in Ukraine are probably hard to come by right now. What you’re kind of most proud of and where the project is today.

Andrew Mullin: Yeah, no, thanks. I mean, so as many people know, Ukraine is a breadbasket to the world prior to the war. So, you know, the biggest producer of sunflower, one of the largest producers of wheat and barley in the world. Right. And so when Ukraine came offline, the rest of the world really hurt from an ag perspective spite prices spiked. Fuel prices went up and Russia. A lot of people don’t know this is the largest phosphate producer in the world. What’s the number one ingredient in most fertilizer? Phosphate. So instantly, the price of fertilizer went up. So really, the downstream impacts of the war were huge. We were fortunate to be doing already a lot of business in Ukraine. We had already had contracts with three out of the five largest agribusinesses in Ukraine. And these are some of the ag businesses in the world.

And so when Ukraine went down, we’re like, wow. we got to do something. And we had Ukrainian employees as well. I happened to have a Ukrainian team member on the marketing team even. And so we said, okay, when the war happened, we exited our business in Russia. And we had a lot of business there too. And we said, we got to do something. So putting purpose over profit, we started offering our service for free in Ukraine. So to any farmer that wanted to use it or any agribusiness that wanted to do that, we offered our service for free to try to give them some relief to their current situation. But we didn’t stop there.

Because of that effort, we realized that we were in a unique position because we had connections to these agribusinesses and farmers. We said we probably could set up a way to get direct relief to the farmer. And just like the United States, you have the large farms in Ukraine and then you have the little guys. And of course, the people that are most forgotten in a wartime situation are the little guys. So we partnered up with Syngenta and Land O’Lakes and Kernel and some other very large businesses that we had relationships with and launched a program called Farmerhood. And what it is, is we’ve created an on the ground network for farmers to ask for relief with fuel cards. So, you know, to get gas, because fuel is hard to come by, to get seed and inputs, so fertilizer and seed. to get repair services. Many of these farms have been bombed out and so their tractors don’t work or their facility has been bombed out. They need help getting back up on their feet and then direct cash.

So we set up a peer-to-peer network that’s live today at farmerhood.org where any individual, any farm, any farming community, any agribusiness can give money to these small farmers in Ukraine. And there’s roughly 300 farmers out there right now on the platform asking for help. We expect it to get to a thousand very quickly. We’ve been able to start the program with about a quarter million dollars and we’re actively out there trying to get other agribusinesses to support it and farmers around the world to adopt a farm and give them money. And if you go to the website, you can actually see the farms. We have their profile, we have pictures of the farmers, we have a map of where they are. So if you give money to Farmerhood, you know exactly where it’s going. You know the families, you know the locations.

Josh Becerra: Yeah, it’s just wonderful, super inspiring. So any advice for other marketers about getting traction on these types of corporate social responsibility efforts? Because I’m sure that there had to be some convincing, what’s the advice on getting traction on these kinds of things?

Andrew Mullin: I would say be patient, pick your spot wisely. You know, everyone, not everyone, but people generally want to do good. But when you’re doing something like this, if we didn’t have the relationship with these big businesses, it would have been very hard for a company of our size, particularly a startup, to do it. So we knew, and this is kind of marketing in some ways, like segmenting, what could we bring to the table? And what we could bring to the table is a direct access to the farming community in Ukraine. And so that’s what we offered up. Some of these big corporations, you’ve got money, you’ve got resources, you’ve got ability to promote to these networks of farmers. And so that’s what they brought to the table. And we found a way to collectively walk something out.

What were the barriers? Everything you can think of, money, policy, in order to get something off the ground there, you have to have something that is legally binding in country and outside of country. And what I didn’t know before I got into this, and it makes sense, there’s a lot of rules in wartime parts of the country. There’s a lot of shenanigans happening with money, right? There’s lots of fronts that say they’re helping farmers, but actually they’re buying weapons to go bomb the Russians, right? So we had to really validate that everything we’re doing was clean. So we have a fiscal sponsor. which is a multinational humanitarian organization called the light. They are the sponsor of our project, so they help with audit and disclosure. And then we have a very large charitable partner on the ground in Ukraine called DAR. Those ingredients are what you need. So just standing up a GoFundMe site, no, not going to work.

Josh Becerra: Yeah, no, I get it for sure. And I mean, I guess that just shows there’s got to be a level of persistence and, like you said, patience. Anyway, I just think it’s an amazing effort. It’s so cool that it’s up and running, already impacting 300 farmers.

Andrew Mullin: Yeah, well, and hopefully a thousand and you know, many hundreds before that with our other efforts. But what I will tell you is kind of a funny story, like as a marketing person, head of marketing, the way this thing happened is, you know, our board said, Hey, we got to issue a financial disclosure statement about getting out of Russia. And then we got to shut down our Ukraine operation and notice that. And I raised my hand and said, Well, yeah, we need to do that. But I don’t think that’s where we should stop. And then the board said, Great, Mr. Marketing guy, now it’s your problem, figure out what we’re going to do there. And my point of that is, be careful what you ask for, but also I have to get credit to our board. They put purpose over profit. There was no reason that we had to give away our service for free. There’s no reason we had to get involved in this program, but they believed in purpose over profit. And we want to be in Ukraine in the long term. Certainly we have self-interest in doing it, but we said, hey, we got to do something. And so we did.

Josh Becerra: Wow. Well, I think that’s where we should end for today. Thank you for being a guest here. Thank you for all those efforts on the kind of corporate social responsibility side and for yeah, just telling, educating us on how much we’re being observed from space.

Andrew Mullin: Yeah, no, thanks for having me on Josh. I appreciate it.

Josh Becerra: Yeah, thanks Andrew. Bye.

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