Mickaël (left on the picture) is a former student of the first developer session of September 2016 in Orleans. After his training as a PHP developer, specializing in Symfony, he co-founded GreenPonik, a growing startup. I asked him a few questions about his company.
Hi Mickaël, can you tell us about Greenponik?
We have created a product to assist the gardeners of tomorrow. They live in urban areas and work in urban farms or collaborative urban vegetable gardens.
These projects are generally carried out through off-ground cultivation and more specifically hydroponics, which consists of growing plants in a neutral soilless substrate by providing the right dosage of nutrients to the plant through water, contained in a closed circuit.
To put it simply, a hydroponic installation is a structure (tubes, gutters, tanks), a reservoir that contains the water of the installation and circulation of the water. In this water tank, our product, the GreenPonik Hydroponics-kit, intervenes. It automates the supply of fertilizers so as to never over or underdose, leading to either deficiencies or death of the plant. Then, in order for the plants to grow and produce in an optimal way, the pH of the water must be controlled. Our product also allows automatic injections of the pH stabilizer to ensure that the plants grow in the best conditions.
Is this product accessible to everyone? Could I easily get into hydroponics?
Today it's a product designed for gardeners who are familiar with hydroponics - whether they are in their learning phase or confirmed. Our medium-term objective is to convert anyone to this method of cultivation, with the most user-friendly application possible and with automatisms that make the complexities of hydroponics imperceptible to the user.
What makes your product different from the others?
The competition has been around for a while now, and as a result, they offer products that are quite old in terms of ease of use or even connectivity. Our goal is to offer a product designed by growers for growers. Being able to control your hydroponic system from your smartphone is something new in the field. In addition, we have some features that make us stand out from the crowd, such as the history of constants, monitoring of fertilizer consumption, the ability to purchase fertilizer directly from the application etc...
You are two partners, co-founders, how is the division of labor going?
Well, in my opinion, it's one of our biggest assets at GreenPonik! Charlie's background is in IT sales and business management. He is also a "geek" (that's how he calls himself) which has led him to master electronic design, 3D modeling, 3D printing, and so on. He is in charge of the hardware. I focus on general development. I'm in charge of IT: the firmware of the modules, the application of the modules, our platform GreenPonik.com which includes the showcase site, the e-shop, the user dashboard, and our ERP. Of course, our roles are not limited to that, as co-founders, we share the daily tasks of a company's life.
From a coding point of view, which programming language do you use and why?
Wow! That's quite a question! So far for GreenPonik.com, I used Symfony because it's both what I learned at Wild Code School and there's nothing more to prove about its robustness. Then, on the product side, we first experimented in C++ on ESP32-based platforms, there are very nice little modules that allow you to do a lot of things. For our beta version and for the first commercialized products we developed in python for the CORE and used Django for the application side.
When required, how do you train yourself to a new programming language?
Actually, it's quite "easy". I read a lot of documentation, articles, repository on GitHub in order to immerse myself in the environment, the practices of other devs. In order to validate if I am able to understand fast enough and not waste too much time in the learning phase. Then, I decide if I will use this or that language. In any case, I never hesitate to make tutorials (on Odyssey, Grafikart, or YouTube) and online pieces of training (on Udemy for example - paid or not) to learn faster.
In this entrepreneurial adventure, who were your partners? Those who were able to help you financially or advising you?
In the entrepreneurial adventure, we already have the chance to be two partners and that's very important. Sharing our moments of doubt, blues, and difficulties.
Between entrepreneurs, the dialogue is super easy, you find yourself talking to bosses you've never met and everyone has a piece of advice to give. It's really the fun part because sometimes you have bosses who take the time to give you an hour to exchange and give you tips that are really important for the orientation of your company. I think of the two founders of G-Keep, Mathieu and Toufik, who gave us advice during a period of doubt and that opened our eyes and unblocked us in our reflection. It's typically the kind of incredible support that feels good when you're working on a project in your corner.
For the financial part today, we used our own funds for R&D. That's why we're doing our first fundraising in order to cross a milestone.
What stage of development are you at? And what do you need, now?
In terms of development, the product has reached the public beta stage, we have made 15 products that have been sent around the world (USA, UK France). The next step is to adjust the product according to the feedback from this beta, which lasts 3 months, in order to have a product at the top for the marketing launch!
We are going to launch a pre-sale campaign on Kickstarter.com to sell our products to the 350 prospects who are all waiting for their copy.
At the same time, we have launched our crowd-equity fund-raising campaign (15% of the capital for €100,000) in order to obtain equity capital. This will be a real boost in activating the growth levers that will enable us to recruit staff and acquire equipment for mass production and therefore to carry out this commercial launch properly. For our fundraising, we have chosen to be accompanied by AYOMI which supports us in the management of the fundraising and on the financial aspects.
You can find all the details of our fundraising on our website. (www.greenponik.com)
Any advice for Wilders who want to start a startup project?
Honestly go for it! Trust yourself and don't let go of anything you learn all the time. Question yourself as much as possible in order to become more competent. Surround yourself with people you trust who will help you in case of difficulties.
Thank you Mickaël for all your answers. I wish you a great development and the support of our community for this beautiful project!
More about GreenPonik: