Later-Stage Agtech Startup Lessons #2 - Paul Lightfoot, BrightFarms

“There's nothing as clarifying as asking someone for money.

When you ask for money, then people speak the truth. They don't always speak enough of the truth, but they'll speak the truth then.

Paul Lightfoot is a serial entrepreneur who has learned several lessons the hard way, from raising money to communicating purpose to hiring (and firing). After spending much of his career as a software CEO, Paul wanted to follow his “calling” to enter the world of sustainability and foodtech.

But this meant moving from a familiar career trajectory to an industry that, 10 years ago when Paul was entering it, barely even existed. In 2011, Paul founded BrightFarms, which uses hydroponic greenhouses to produce locally sourced packaged salads in the US.  Along the way, he has made several critical decisions for his startup’s success. This includes an incredibly rare and difficult decision for any founder to make- Paul voluntarily stepped back from the role of CEO and hired someone he believed could do a better job.

Now, BrightFarms has 300 employees, five greenhouses, and in 2021, it was acquired by Cox Enterprises.  In this episode, Paul talks about:

  • How to distinguish between what your ego is telling you and what’s best for your company.

  • How he raised capital in the early days, as well as more recent strategic partnerships to support the growth of BrightFarms.

  • Why establishing core values and purpose is not simply human resources ‘fluff’, but rather integral to success throughout every phase of a startup.

This is the second episode in our “Later-Stage Agtech Startup Lessons” series. Listen to the first episode with Michael Gilbert of Semios

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