Who says farmers don’t need their own SaaS tools?
Ganaz just raised $945,000 to build a platform that helps companies manage workers in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors. The Seattle startup is premised on the belief that mainstream technologies for workforce communication and management — such as Slack, Gusto and Zenefits — don’t work well for blue-collar industries.
The seed funding is a follow-up to the $2.1 million it raised last year from the same group of investors, including Seattle-based Founders’ Co-op, San Francisco venture firm 122 West, and Taylor Ventures, the investment arm of Taylor Farms.
“Every major agriculture and manufacturing sector in the world is experiencing a labor shortage,” said Ganaz CEO Hannah Freeman. “These employers are having to figure out how to attract, retain and more efficiently use the talent that they have. And they don’t have software tools that help them with this yet.”
Ganaz’s platform lets companies communicate with large numbers of workers via text message from a central dashboard. It is also creating onboarding tools, worker retention software, and a service that will allow workers to receive payment through a dedicated debit card. Eventually, the startup plans to offer a built-in remittance feature so that workers can send their earnings abroad easily.
Freeman sees a massive opportunity to build software for industries that employ people who are relative newcomers to technology. Many of them are seasonal foreign laborers, who comprise a large and growing share of the U.S. agricultural industry.
“You have to be aware of both the limitations and of the huge opportunities that are in these tech deserts,” she said. “There are billions of people that are somewhat connected if you know how to build for them.” Freeman previously worked at Fair Trade USA, where she ran partnerships with major grocers like Costco and Whole Foods.
Ganaz graduated from the Seattle Techstars program last year. Freeman credits the experience with helping the startup to pivot away from its original concept, which was a Glassdoor-like platform to connect farmers with seasonal workers.
“I think [Techstars] just sharpened our focus in a really important way,” said Freeman.
Ganaz co-founder Sri Artham left the company last year and went on to found plant-based meat startup Hooray Foods in San Francisco. Kyle Johnson, co-founder of local services startup Expertise, joined Ganaz as chief technology officer last year.
Founders’ Co-op Managing Director Chris DeVore is on the board of directors, along with former Whole Foods executive Matt Rogers, and Mary Jo Cook, the former chief innovation officer at Fair Trade USA.
Ganaz has seven employees and is hiring engineering talent. It has raised $3.3 million to date.