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Transcript: Opening Doors for Farmers and Ranchers with the Power of an Ag Marketplace

EMILIE: Welcome to plow in pencil, the art of American agriculture where like, we recognize that farming looks mighty easy when your plow was a pencil under 1000 miles from the cornfield, the plow and pencil podcast will paint a picture of American agriculture. Today, we will tell the stories of the producers the products, the policies and the platforms that provide feed and fuel to our nation and our world. Join the movement of farmers, ranchers and agriculture advocates plowing new ground and pencil lesson to your weekly podcast schedule. This podcast is brought to you by hitch pin calm. The tool 1000s of farmers and ranchers are using to buy sell higher and work in agriculture. Hello hits Finn community Welcome back to plow and pencil the art of American agriculture. I’m your host Emilie Fink. And today I’m super super excited to have Bryce MacPhail, Product Manager here at HitchPin. Joining me to pull the curtain back and share with you how HitchPin is helping make farming and ranching easier. So first, just a little bit about our guest Bryce. Bryce is a self proclaimed lover of baseball startups, and of course, his beautiful bride. He’s been in product management for six years. And what that really boils down to his he loves building cool tech products and listening to podcasts. Right, so I and his fan in the summer of 2021. And he and his wife and their pups live in the DFW area. You can follow him on Twitter at BAMCPHAI l. And be sure to visit our show notes for links and resources cited in this episode. Welcome to Plow and Pencil, Bryce.

BRYCE: Hey, thanks for having me.

EMILIE: Um, well, I think you know, probably better than any of our guests that we’re going to have on here how much I love icebreakers. So, I’d like to start our podcast today with a little bit of ag trivia. Are you ready? Okay, gonna ask you a question. And you actually can have the whole episode and our listeners can think about what the answer is. And then before we wrap up, we’ll see what you come up with. All right, here we go. What percentage of food grown and produced in the US is never eaten? And yeah, so those of you who listened to our episode with our founder and CEO, Trevor, and you know, he’s an aviation fanatic. So to get things started, I’m going to use a phrase that I think you would appreciate, let’s start at a 30,000-foot level, tell our listeners what it means to be a product manager, Bryce.

BRYCE: Oh, yeah, you could probably spend a whole podcast talking about that on. But at a high level one thing, product management is best or easiest understood, or an analogy of, you’re the person who’s steering the car, and hopefully the right direction. So basically, my job boils down to taking what our users want. Or maybe they don’t know what they want, and making sure that we are building that and putting all of our incredible resources of our engineering team and design team pointing that in the right direction so that we’re creating the most value for users. And hopefully, in the most efficient way possible. So you’re kind of steering and guiding and hopefully creating a good environment that’s cohesive to quickly and efficiently building cool products.

EMILIE: Awesome. So you have been in product management for six years. And tell us what drew you to come to HitchPin last summer?

BRYCE: Yeah, so I was my previous company, I was running a product team around business banking platforms, which when I joined that company, similar to that trend, I didn’t know anything about business banking. And when I joined the trend, you know, I didn’t know a ton about agriculture. But obviously, I eat so therefore I get the fundamental part of it. But I wanted to learn more about it. And it was contacting through a recruiter that Trevor knew one of his personal friends, actually. And he told me, Hey, there’s a guy you need to talk to, I think you’d be a good fit. And initially, I told him, Look, I don’t think I’m the right guy for the job, because I don’t have a background in agriculture. So just talk to the founder, give it 30 minutes and see what you think. No strings attached. So I took a call with him supposed to be 30 minutes and started at 4:30 and we ended up talking until seven. And my wife was just outside that door waiting to go to dinner on a Friday. And she came out. She’s like, What the heck happened on there? And I said, Well, Trevor is pretty compelling. And it’s a pretty compelling mission. And I think for the first hour and a half of that call, he didn’t even really talk about the hedge funds. We just talked about sort of soft skills and what draws you to startups in the first place. And as you mentioned, startups are something I love because I think startups give you the opportunity to sort of I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, but I have seen it in the idea that you’re arming the rebels a little bit against the incumbents, and I’m a sucker for an underdog story. As you mentioned, I love baseball. So a lot of the underdogs that come out of nowhere for that Moneyball idea and I think that startups provide that opportunity. And then to have a founder that really gets that vision and a startup that’s literally founded to help out those underdogs of the small farmers to the midsize farmers that are fighting against these huge factory farming conglomerates that we need to help them so that they can continue their way of life and not just survive, but thrive.

EMILIE: How do you specifically and I think having a background outside of agriculture gives you a unique perspective? How do you see a platform like HitchPin, really helping farmers and ranchers and then the associated ag businesses that are part of our platform today?

BRYCE: Yeah, to use a phrase you mentioned of traverse aviation at the 30,000-foot view, I think really comes down to what the power of marketplaces can do for people. And so you’ve seen obviously with Uber, with Airbnb, Amazon, eBay, fill in the blank Craigslist, anybody. What they do is they open up this opportunity and say, Okay, we’re no longer gonna have gatekeepers. And similar to before with Shopify, for example, it’s probably the biggest, hottest, marketplace in the world right now. We said, Okay, you no longer need to have a storefront, you never need to have a lease anymore. You just need to have good marketing and good products and people. And if you can get your audience and they can find you on Shopify, we’re going to help you create that presence. And I think that’s really what drew me to this its there’s a clear need here that there are people that are underserved in the market. And the way, in my opinion, to prop those people up is not to tell them what they need, but to provide them the toolset so they can go accomplish what they need. Because there are a lot of people and I think a lot of different industries, not specific to ag that will look at a challenge. And so we know what these people need. So let’s go build that or as with what we’re doing, and what we’re doing in a marketplace is we’re saying, You’re the expert here, you know what you need, let us just build tools so that you can go do what you do best, which is create the agriculture and create the industry and make sure it runs and feeds the country literally. And it’s hard to hard to find a more important mission than helping those people who put the food on our table.

EMILIE: I couldn’t agree more. And it’s also a lot of fun to see them then have successful transactions and to see the work that you and your development team are putting into building the product. So okay, you’ve been here a little over eight months. What surprised you the most?

BRYCE: So, right, I’ve been with four companies now. And I’ve been an all the really big companies that are listed on the the NASDAQ been publicly traded and earnings call and all that. And I’ve been with small companies. And I’ve been in the in-between of a late-stage startup where we IPO and all these different things super fast-paced, but this is my first opportunity to be at this really beginning stage of a startup. I’ve always been attracted to that. But I think once you’re on the outside, that you kind of conjure up an idea of what you think it’s going to be like, but once you get inside of it, there’s a little bit of a Oh, okay, this is actually how the sausage gets made. And for some people, that’s kind of God, I don’t want to be in that fire. And then for some people, maybe it’s there’s something wrong with the seven people but the stuff that fires me up, I love that. And so getting to be here, on the inside, just seeing how an actual startup is around seeing how we need to fundraise. I’ve never been a part of fundraising before, for example, was awesome. The ability that you get to really be in your position, but you also get to help out with your team, for example, and you may come to me and say, Hey, I’ve got this idea. I know it’s not your team, but just let me run by you. Let me bounce it off you What do you think about the ability to do that? So I wouldn’t say was the most surprising but the collaboration has been incredible. Probably most surprising would probably be I kind of went into this with a little bit of a, I don’t get intimidated super easily. But I did think wow, I’m gonna be around a lot of farmers and ranchers that know all this stuff. And families doing this for generations upon generations and my family never did any of that. These people are gonna look at me like a city slicker, in vans and a hoodie from a startup and they’re gonna be like, What the heck is this guy doing? But everybody was really open and able to give advice. And really one of the tech terms I guess that’s an Bogot’s first principles. Shout out to Elon Musk. But farmers I think, think in that mindset without even knowing that name, which is awesome, because it’s really easy for me to take kind of what people need in that first principles mindset and then turn it into the product. Whereas a lot of times in other industries people give you I want the moon and the stars, but really all they’re looking for is light during the night. They don’t actually need the stars. And so that was most surprising, but I think it’s also been the most beneficial as well.

EMILIE: I love it and you touched on having that background that’s different than ag. And I don’t know if you remember this or not, but I love the fact that you have a different perspective. And I think I’ve told you this in the past, it’s just really great. Because no matter what industry you’re in, I think sometimes you have blind spots or biases, right? Like, this is how I grew up doing something. And this is how the generations before me did it. And so I’m gonna keep doing it the same way. And I love how, you know, you’ll come in and ask, Well, why are you doing that? Why does somebody think that way? And it’s a great opportunity to pause and really reflect on how can we maybe make this better for users. And I think that’s the really cool part about HitchPin is or kind of intertwining technology and something that’s been around since the beginning of time, right, creating food for people to eat, so okay, we’re going to drop down to the 5000-foot level now, and I want you to get a little detailed with our listeners about what exactly it is that you do and who your team is here at HitchPin?

BRYCE: Sure. So probably the best part of my job is the people that I get to work with, and the people that really my job is, I think my parents rose, I have an amazing group of parents that really instilled in me this idea of service. And the best thing you can do in your life is to serve other people. And then I went to university that was their main calling, you had to take a servant leadership class. And I think there were probably some days where I was like, Man, there are classes here that don’t matter. And I don’t need to be taking, but that class, I look back and go, I am better for having taken that class and being at a university that has that as their mission. And so the best part of my job is really serving my team. And my team consists of four developers into engineers on the QA side. So QA stands for Quality Assurance. So in total, that’s six engineers. So the people who are actually building the products on whether that’s on a mobile device, or whether that’s on your desktop, they’re actually building and creating these things. And one of my favorite quotes, I don’t know if he gets attributed to Steve Jobs, but I feel like every quote doesn’t talk. So who knows who actually sought it, but that good engineering is in is indistinguishable from magic. And I think that’s what we get to do every day is we get to wake up, and we get to create magic for people that are underserved. And there’s not really a cooler mission than doing that. And then we also have an absolute Rockstar have a designer on our team, Jamie. And so in total, it’s me a designer, and those six engineers, and we get together every day, and we just figure out, okay, what big feature can we deliver, that’s going to help these agricultural professionals do their day to day job in a more efficient, better, easier way than they had to do beforehand? And what tools do they need? And how can we set them up for success, and then we just keep building, and then there’s never a never stops, which is great. If you’re somebody with that mindset, who just likes to keep challenging, keep going, keep pushing. So it’s an awesome profession. But on a day to day, that’s what it looks like.

EMILIE: So I imagine you get feedback from people constantly. And whether that’s our founder and CEO, Trevor, or investors that we’re working with, or our business development team, customer support team, or actual users, with so many ideas, right, like, well, what if you added this category? And what if we could do something this way? So talk us through a little bit? How do you prioritize what you call your product? roadmap?

BRYCE: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think the hardest thing in a startup is choosing what to work on. And there’s like to use another quote, If you can’t tell I like quotes, I’m trying to remember them. But from a product professional, I think it was a product blog I’ve heard it from for first time is that the number one job of a product manager is to say no. And that’s because you or your team, or Trevor or whoever else will have very valid very good ideas. But when you’re in a start-up, and you only have four developers, you have to be ruthless on what you can do. Because everything that you say yes to, you’re now not only saying no to something else but there’s also the opportunity cost of what happens when you don’t work on that other thing. So it’s almost every win has two losses as well. So you can never really be going fast enough. So that’s interesting. But I can say I’m incredibly lucky to have somebody like Trevor and our team who are very understanding and trustworthy. And I can tell you even just this week, Trevor said, Hey, I have this suggestion. Let’s walk through it. We walk through it, and at the end of it, he goes, I hired you because I believe that you can do the job. I’m not here to put you under my thumb. After the discussion and evidence I gave you, go make the right call. And it’s incredibly great, I’ve had both sides of that before I’ve had the good and the bad. And I can tell you Trevor’s on the good side of that it’s a great environment to work from. But as far as the nuts and bolts of how do you actually decide that really, it just comes down to what it’s going to give you the highest ROI. And what’s going to provide our users the most value in the shortest amount of time. It’s not always that simple. You can put it in, you know, a consultant matrix of a two by two, or you have value in time, and whatever has high value and low amount of time is on the top right-hand corner. And that’s what we’re gonna go do. But then there are different things like some of the stuff we’re working on right now onboarding, where you have to get, you have to do that. And you have to nail onboarding because that’s the first time a user is going to interact with us the first time they’re going to see our product. And so our product has to make a good first impression. Just as you know, somebody talks to a ton of people that first impressions are incredibly important. And if we screw that up, we may never get a second one. So it’s a little bit of a mix of art and science. But we like to use data. And we also like to use our gut. Because to use a sports analogy here, you’re not always throwing the ball to where they’re standing, you’re throwing it to where they’re going to be. And in the same way, the user knows what they want. I can say, hey, let’s make better, faster, more secure transactions. But we may be able to cook up something that they don’t even know they want. And I’ll teach you without telling you what that could be. But be on the lookout for some pretty cool stuff. So from here.

EMILIE: Yeah, it’s awesome. Pretty exciting. So walk us through some of the latest features. I know you can’t talk to us about things coming down the pipe. But what are some of the things that you and your team of developers have launched recently, that either people who are already on HitchPin can be using or those who haven’t joined yet might consider?

BRYCE: Yeah, so the team’s been incredibly productive. Like I said, for people turning this workload out is pretty undeniably impressive, I would say, the team works their tail off. If you remember nothing else from this interview, just remember that there’s an incredible engineering team behind what we do here at HitchPin. They’re great people. But what we built recently, I’d say is pretty exciting. A couple of different things. The first one is a matching algorithm. So anytime that a user creates either a listing that says, hey, I’m looking for alfalfa, hay bales in this radius, or if somebody says, Hey, I’m looking to sell alfalfa, hay bales, and here’s where I live, or here’s where my offices, we now match that. So we find the inverse of it. So if you’re looking for, hay, we’re going to show you within seconds to be creating that listing, hay, that matches exactly what you’re looking for. So we’re taking out the search component of the product. And just hand-delivering that to you with white-glove service. The second piece is our referral program. So it’s a way to allow our users to share the good news of HitchPin. I guess, in a way, that’s really easy, and hopefully a little bit of fun, too, because they’ll be getting a core reward, I won’t spoil what that reward is, I would say go check out our referral program on Pitch calm. And then probably the biggest addition that we’ve done so far is our new chat application. So as you know, communication is key in any transaction. But communication, especially for farmers, a lot of times you’re not just doing a, you’re buying a HitchPin t-shirt, you’re buying a huge piece of equipment, you’re buying a ton of hay, you’re buying an animal that you helped raise, and you care about. And you want to not just text that person, but you want to talk to that person, make sure that one you can trust them too that they’re a trustworthy person, we’ll take what was your property, and now call it there’s so we actually built calling directly into the platform itself, when you’re on your mobile device. So either on mobile, web, or on the iOS app. And within that, there are a couple of different things outside of just calling. It’s the calling piece that’s really cool. But it’s also the added security of, hey, I’m Emilie, and I’m talking to this person. And I don’t want them to know everything about me, because in the off chance that they are trying to do something nefarious. Well, now it’s blocked. So it’s on my actual phone number. And we have people like your team that are relentless at tracking people down so our users can make sure that they feel safe and secure at any time. So I think that’s the biggest gift that we’ve done so far that I’m most proud of. And right now we’re working on some really cool onboarding stuff. And by the time this is out, there will be a new landing page for users to check out. Or if you already are a user on HitchPin, you can check out the new landing page as well. And then there’s a new signup process that we’re working on. So it’s pretty cool stuff going.

EMILIE: Yeah, that’s awesome. And we are so appreciative of the work that you guys are doing, and that’s where my team is out visiting with the HitchPin community. And, you know, we get lots of questions about exactly how it works. And so this is a great explanation of how they can integrate HitchPin into what they’re already doing and finding a new network of customers and then having transactions go through successfully. So what advice would you give someone who is considering listing their products and services on HitchPin?

BRYCE: Yeah, I would say the number one thing that I’ve seen as far as what’s gonna make you successful, obviously, you know, pricing and different things like that are going to come into it, but take really good pictures. And if you can really, I mean, if you can invest in a newer iPhone that has a better camera on it, and you can take great pictures, you are going to sell that thing, at least twice as fast. And if you don’t believe me, and you think I’m selling you on we all know who Airbnb is, they actually went around to people in New York and taught them how to take pictures of their apartment to list on Airbnb, because every single one that had professional or semi-professional photography done on it, they were selling exponentially faster. And so the best thing you can do is go out there at sundown and take picture of your cow and post it on. HitchPin can make it look attractive. A couple of us have made a joke, it’s not tender, but it’s tender for your cows out there, try to make it look the most attractive it can be or combine or whatever you’re selling, but pictures, pictures, and more pictures. And if you don’t have a phone, maybe your grandson or granddaughter does and that works, they can help you get it done right.

EMILIE: Is there a particular product or service category that really surprised you when you first join HitchPin? Were you like, what is that?

BRYCE: I would say the thing that surprised me most, and it’s not like surprising on its surface, but we sell a lot of puppies. And I don’t think many people would label me as super emotional happy-go-lucky talking with a guy, pretty stoic, I guess. But I have a massive soft spot for dogs. And so I see in German Shepherds are like my, my heart and soul, there’s one sleeping in the office. And you can probably see a dog but down there for my own. But they are I love them. And every time that we see one of those go there, I get like a little extra bit of pride because I know that those dogs are going to a good home. So not necessarily surprising in that way. But it was pretty cool to see how many puppies go through there. And then also to understand that what makes me happy is that these dogs are not just going to, say an apartment, or they’re not gonna be able to move around or anything, but they’re going to get to work. We’re going to get out of space, and we’re going to get around it. And so on the ethical side, I think that’s something that’s a nice side effect.

EMILIE: Yeah, absolutely. So if people come to HitchPin, they’re going to see buy-sell higher and work. So talk us through just a little bit what that whole discovery pieces like and what their experience they can expect if they were to come to HitchPin?

BRYCE: Yeah, so like I said, we have a new landing page that’s coming. And that should be out by the time that this is available. But we have several different tools on there, that’ll explain all the different ways he can use his phone, whether you’re a buyer looking to find something, whether you’re a seller looking to get the best value for your work, or whether you’re looking to hire somebody or perform a service. All of those are represented on our new landing page. So I think that will be a big help to our users. We also have a new video out there, that’s it’s only a minute long, highly recommend taking advantage to see that. Because the marketing team put a really big effort into that and it looks great. And it does a really good job of explaining at a high level, why we do what we do. And then we also have some fun things like gifts and different artwork that’s on there, that explains it also. But and I say that cuz they can do a better job than me explaining. But what I would say is, what they can expect is you can expect the ability to quickly find what you need either by searching for something specific, I have said alfalfa hay bales so let’s just keep going down that roll, I can look at hay and then I can drill down into organic alfalfa hay bales that look a certain way. And I’ll be able to see that all across the country. Or I can say that I believe and I’ll be so I’m gonna put my circle on a map and we also have a map function there that allows me to see what’s available in DFW and I may not know exactly what I need or I may need multiple things for who knows I may have money burning a hole in my pocket and I just want to see what’s available in the same way that sometimes you are really looking for something on fill in the blank marketplace but you know, you want to buy a grandson a toy for a birthday and a couple months or something and something pops up and you’re like oh no, he loves monster trucks. Let’s go get that. I think that’s probably the coolest feature when you first land on the site and you haven’t experienced it before. And another teaser here, we are working on some pretty cool search enhancements on that map directly. So I will say, when you use that map, please give us any feedback you’ve got because I’d love to hear and hopefully it’s, it’s good. But even if it’s bad that that helps us make the product better. But cool, cool new stuff coming with that map, I would say that’s the number one thing you can experience.

EMILIE: So if I am coming to HitchPin looking to buy hay, and I find something within that radius that meets the different qualifications I’m looking for, and you referenced the chat function earlier. So I can use that to reach out to the seller?

BRYCE: Yeah, yeah, on the listing itself, you can just click chat with seller, it’ll take you to our brand new chat window. And within that, you’ll be able to see both the listing so you can go directly back to it, you’ll be able to see the terms of service there right there, those are there to keep you safe so that you know that the other person you’re talking to as a verified user, and you’ll be able to contact them directly on the platform, whether you just want to text or whether you want to call them and if you’re not sure what to say we even have pre-written messages for you to start out the conversation with too.

EMILIE: So then, it’s not done there, though, right. So if the buyer and the seller agree, this is what the price is being asked for. And that’s the price that I’m willing to pay. The great part about HitchPin is transactions also take place.

BRYCE: Right, right. I think perhaps Trevor said this, in his podcast episode. But the impetus behind why Trevor had the idea was the fact that his dad would sometimes have to wait weeks or months just to get paid for something that he’s already put work into, and Walter. To write, and also he may know that that that person is good for it, that doesn’t really change the fact that that’s limiting the liquidity of the farmer. And so they’re sitting there going, well, technically, I have $10,000, but can’t actually spend it. And we all know, you have the money on paper, but you can’t do anything with it, it’s the same thing. It’s not really happening. And so the ability to put transactions on a platform to move them as fast as the bank will let us and do it securely, I think takes a whole lot of risk for the user out and provides a better experience overall.

EMILIE: That’s awesome. So what’s something that you wish everyone knew about building tech products like you do at HitchPin?

BRYCE: I just wish more people knew how much effort went into it on the engineering side. Because of the people behind the products, there are a lot of people. I’m gonna take a second to shout out the team. We have Walter, Jennifer, Sid, Seth and Stephanie. And then we also have John, our front-end engineer who’s also an amateur comedian at times. And they put together just amazing work. And they, I guess I’m full of metaphors, but they pound the pavement on a daily basis to really create value for people. And I think it’s at times a very selfless position, because you’re, whereas my job is to both serve our HitchPin users and serve my team. Their job is really just serving users day in and day out, creating value as fast as they possibly can. So the number one thing I would say is that there are a whole lot of people behind the scenes that maybe don’t get the limelight of a Steve Jobs character would. But those people definitely deserve it as much, if not more. And then the second thing I would say is just that it’s a lot of fun. I think a lot of people see that. It’s tough. And while I can’t imagine doing this, don’t let people that are negative really bog you down on this stuff working in tax incredible. It’s, I look at it as my controversial opinion, I guess is the most American thing you can do in the world is join or start a startup because you’re really fighting against the incumbents to create new value for people who are underrepresented. And why the heck wouldn’t you do that for a company like HitchPin that has an incredible mission and the right people to fight for?

EMILIE: Well, there goes a mic drop, perfect. If you are listening and you’re not already part of the HitchPin community, allow this to be your official invitation from Bryce and I both to come and join us. And if you do, go through the signup process. Be sure to enter the code podcast “podcast” into your coupon code and you will get one to waive the transaction fee. So we are excited to have you join us and explore all the products and services that are available on HitchPin and give us some feedback. Let us know what you think. Okay, so you’ve had some time to think about our ag trivia question, Bryce. Well, as a startup, I have to give credit where credit is due, we have been really fortunate to partner with a lot of ag industry organizations, specifically here in the state of Kansas, where we’re headquartered, but also throughout the country. And a lot of these ag facts are going to be credited back to those organizations, you’ve compiled that information. So again, be sure to check out our show notes, and you can see the links to learn more. But to ask you the question, once again, what percentage of food products grown in the United States are not ever eaten?

BRYCE: So this question scared me because now I can just hear my grandma in my head, like a happy player or whatever. And then I think of all the people that are hungry, man, I really don’t want to say something too low and then make it sound like, I’m insane. But also, I don’t want to say something too high. And then think of all the implications of that, but maybe that’s the point of the question. So to not be on a diatribe anymore. I’ll say 30%.

EMILIE: Oh, you’re so close. 40%

BRYCE: Well, I know I was gonna say 40. But I was scared to do 40. Yeah, I should have gone with my gut.

EMILIE: Yes, I was shocked. I was shocked. So our friends at Farm Bureau have put together some ag trivia, and that’s where I pulled that information from. And if you’ve got a second, be sure to check it out. Because it’s pretty fascinating to just really think about what this what the food supply is like here in the United States and how fortunate we are. And to see that high of a percentage go uneaten is shocking. So, yes, fun trivia question for today. Thank you, Bryce, so much for being my guest today on plow and pencil. And we look forward to seeing all those things that you’ve teased here today down the road.

BRYCE: Awesome. Thanks so much. Thank you to all of the farmers, ranchers, and everyone else involved in the agriculture community. We obviously wouldn’t be here without you so thank you.