How it all started
I’ve many times revisited the different problems we’ve faced over the last three years, in order to understand how we ended up building a marketplace for grains. It’s not a straight path. But we’ve never diverged from our purpose.
Help farmers bring better food to more people through technology.
In order to help the market to become more dynamic our hypothesis was that the market actors needed more information. Our first solution was to request price information from the buyers, where we met what seemed to be immovable objects.
The most obvious solution was then to reach out to the people we saw needed the information the most — the farmers.
We created a company called Skira (in English: “clarify”) and we named our new service Skira Prices. The concept was easy: if you report your information to us, we’ll distribute statistics and price information.
Good idea? Sure. Problems? Oh yes.
When we look back, we’re really fascinated by how much attention and interest we got, even though we quite quickly evaluated our service to be deficient. Not only did we demand too much work from the farmers reporting in the information, but we also failed to standardize and visualize the statistics in a reasonable way.
This was truly intriguing. How could it be that we got so many farmers’ attention, but still failed to give any value back? At first we started adjusting our application; we tried different visualizations, iterated our forms, tried to add biases intelligently, but nothing seemed to work. How could it be that all our users did the best they could, but still reported in their numbers in so many different ways, sometimes using diametrically opposed standards?
The answer, in hindsight, seems quite simple: there are no standards.
Sweden’s first independent grain trading platform
The consequence of non-existent standards is that there can be no comparison. So what should we do?
During the time working with Skira Prices we’d received many requests and questions from people asking if we bought or sold grains. We always told them that’s nothing we will ever do. A promise we’ve kept.
It was however curious; why do they ask us this, since there are already so many potential buyers and sellers everywhere? We meet them every day?
The reason became more and more apparent.
Everyone owns. Everyone risks everything.
All existing actors trading with grains always owns the product during a certain period of time, which inevitably means that everyone risks everything when trading — legal ambiguities, quality issues, transportation problems, payment delays, etc. Not only the big actors, but also the individual food producers. Trading grains with unknown actors is therefore considered a huge risk. Our conclusion: the grain market desperately needs an independent trading platform.
We started out with Skira Prices and ended up with Skira Trade. Since our idea wasn’t good enough, we added the experience and feedback we had obtained during our work, went back to our purpose, and came back with a new idea. Skira Prices has officially been taken back to the drawing table, but will be back shortly, hopefully much better than before.
So, maybe we did fail. Only, it wasn’t that bad.
I started this article with paraphrasing one of the greatest thinkers of all time by saying that we didn’t fail, only that we’d found ways that didn’t work. I like the meaning behind those words, but I feel that the wording could be changed.
We will always fail. And celebrate the failures. Then we will evaluate, revise, improve and return. Hopefully much better than before.
So. What now?
As of 2019, we’ve successfully deployed Sweden’s first independent digital grain trading platform, and only four months after beta launch we’ve already made grain transactions worth millions of SEK, using a method that no one said would be possible. By giving all our customers payment security and grain quality assurance, we’ve also managed to maintain 100% customer satisfaction. During 2019 we will continue to drive innovation in the green industry by growing our trading platform, as well as starting one of the biggest AI/ML-projects the Swedish agricultural business has ever seen.
And we’ve only just begun.