When you hear the word “farmer,” does a female come to mind? It should. We often hear about male farmers, but most rural agricultures are actually managed by women — and often, women don’t get equal access to knowledge or resources. Tiambi’s vision? To even the playing field.
A few years ago, Tiambi Simms founded a startup called SheFarms: a mobile platform allowing female farmers to input data, measure progress, make more accurate seed predictions for future harvests and calculate potential sales.
Another benefit of this data? It’s a valuable asset when farmers apply for loans to buy things like seeds and machines. The bank must assess farmer credibility, but it’s often difficult for farmers to prove how well their previous harvests performed. The data from SheFarms’ platform allows them to show concrete proof of previous harvest performance and profits.
Serendipity in action: Discovering a team at Meet Berlage
Tiambi often worked on developing her startup from Meet Berlage’s Artists’ Foyer. When challenges arose with her developer in Nigeria, she needed somebody who could help her in-person — meanwhile, freelance developer Fransjo Leihitu was looking for new projects. After connecting in the foyer, Fransjo agreed to help Tiambi for free because he was drawn to the mission of the project: “As a programmer, I love technical problems and the challenge of trying to solve them,” he said.
Fast forward to today, and Fransjo is now the CTO of SheFarms and oversees the platform’s mobile and desktop versions. But the collaborations didn’t stop there: when they needed help with graphic design, Fransjo knew just the person — he’d noticed the work of Ricardo, a graphic designer in the foyer, but they didn’t yet have the money to hire him.
Tiambi (left) at an agriculture event in Nairobi, Kenya
“When Ricardo took a look at our work, he said that he loved the idea, but the logo and branding sucked,” said Fransjo. “He said that he wanted to do it for free, but with one demand: that he could be our brand officer. And now he is.”
Fransjo fully believes in the power of serendipitous connections. “We have a saying in Holland, ‘tiny cups, big ears’ — when I’m here at Meet Berlage, I’m always listening to what everybody’s doing,” he said. “I hear people talking ‘social this, social that, gender equalities,’ and so on. We met an anthropologist who I connected with Tiambi, and she also helped us for free. We even found a second anthropologist here — by the time we moved to a temporary office, we had a designer with two interns, an anthropology team, an agriculture team with two interns, a social media volunteer, and two junior developers.”
“Meet Berlage is a nice environment to connect with people and see what they’re doing — and as an entrepreneur, it’s nice to see how I can fit in with that,” he said. “I try to come here often just to talk to other people and see what they’re up to, and try to relate that with my own business — how can I start a new product based on their idea or maybe collaborate? People underestimate the power of that. Just talk to people and see what happens. If the magic is there, things will happen.”
Until they’re able to gather more funds and find another permanent working space for the team, Fransjo is still developing the app to show investors that it’s not just a concept, but a fully working application. Their goal? To have a pilot ready by January.
“We hope to have a presentation about it here at Meet Berlage, because it all started here,” he said. “And we learned a lot.”
“We say, ‘All the way up.’ Reach for the sky. All the way up. Don’t stop.”