Two Years After TechArb—U-M Alum’s Agriculture Tech Startup Reshaping Beehive Industry
University alumnus and TechArb graduate Nick Zajciw, founder of Hivelend, now has 500+ hives registered across website
- Two-year old startup develops an online platform to connect beekeepers and farmers
- Service offers geolocation technology to increase for most efficient coordination of pollination contracts
- Over 500 hives added to platform to locate new contracts
- Accepted into ag-tech focused pre-accelerator program
March 26, 2018 – Deemed the “Uber” for bees, a new online service platform is connecting farmers with local beekeepers to reshape the traditional negotiation and business models within the pollination industry. The startup, called Hivelend, is a one-stop shop for farmers who need crops pollinated and beekeepers to contact local farmers.
Whereas traditionally beekeepers and farmers were limited to either attending beekeeper clubs, making endless phone calls, or paying for costly pollination brokers to make their businesses run, now, they can connect online through Hivelend’s streamlined process.
“The benefit for these beekeepers who travel around the country is that we can increase their efficiency by having everything hosted on a single system,” said co-Founder of Hivelend Nick Zajciw. “We aim to help beekeepers who are getting into the pollination business more easily find their first and subsequent contracts. We want more people to get involved and think there’s a clear benefit to more pollination for both beekeepers and farmers.”
To sign up, beekeepers and farmers simply register their farm or hive onto the platform, and Hivelend connects them to a local vendor in need of their services. From there, Hivelend helps both pollinators and farmers negotiate contracts online, eliminating paperwork and time from the process.
Driving the idea behind the platform is 2017 University alumnus Nick Zajciw, and Dawn Musil, a highly skilled and longtime beekeeper in Baltimore, Maryland. The two met just short of 1 year ago as fellows of the 2017 Venture for America Fellowship, a prestigious program connecting college graduates with growing startups. Currently, the team is based out of Baltimore, Maryland.
Since the HiveLend’s inception just short of 2 years ago and with the addition of Musil’s expertise in the fall of 2017, over 500 hives have been registered across the country on Hivelend.
Currently, the startup is seeking development funding through their IndieGogo campaign, with the goal of raising $7,500 in seed money. Contributions made toward the startup come with a range of perks. For a $15 donation, users can receive Homemade Natural Milk & Honey soap and for $500 you can sponsor your own Baltimore-based beehive.
The Road To & From TechArb
Prior to joining TechArb, Zajciw had explored several opportunities to get involved in the entrepreneurship community here at the University. He helped found a professional fraternity on campus, Epsilon Nu Tau, for students interested in entrepreneurship. In establishing some resources for students in the fraternity, he was introduced to TechArb.
“I thought about when I was one of the founding members and was thinking about what are some of the goals we have in mind, I scoured all the resources that were available for students in entrepreneurship at U-M and heard of TechArb,” said Zajciw.
Later his junior year, Zajciw said he continued to find himself at TechArb, attending events and listening to to guest speakers from leaders in the entrepreneurship community. Then, upon hearing guest speaker Jesse Vollmar, CEO of Farmlogs, talk about his farming software startup, he got the idea for developing Hivelend.
“I thought it was really interesting, taking an industry like farming and being able to help advance it with technology,” said Zajciw. “At the same time, I was involved in the University of Michigan Beekeeping Club and I had gotten some hives of my own and I saw an opportunity with Hivelend to help beekeepers and farmers better connect through crop pollination online.”
All throughout the summer of 2015, he worked on developing his startup and received advising from Dr. Matt Gibson, Educational Programs Director and Tom Frank, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship.
When Zajciw was a senior at the University, he applied and was accepted to be in the Winter 2016 cohort of the TechArb Student Venture Accelerator, where he’d further develop and soon launch the service platform for his startup.
During his time in the TechArb program, Zajciw began facing some of the initial challenges entrepreneurs face in developing their businesses. Not only that, he was tasked with developing his business while also being a fulltime student at the University.
For his startup specifically, he said TechArb helped him recognize the benefit of having a platform and website that was highly accessible to gain information and drive traffic to use their services.
“I realized the value in having a site that was intuitive and easy to use,” said Zajciw.
He noted, that through his challenge of being both a student and entrepreneur, he was able to gain skills that he wasn’t learning inside the classroom.
“I became more time oriented and began setting goals for myself that were achievable,” said Zajciw. “I began seeing the importance of mapping out small milestones so you can continually monitor progress.”
Since leaving TechArb, Zajciw has not only teamed up with a local beekeeper to further develop his business, but is continuing to discover the potential for his agriculture tech startup.
For Zajciw, if it weren’t for his challenges and failures he had during his time at Michigan, his startup wouldn’t have continued to where it is today.
“Being at Michigan provides a real support network. I made many mistakes as a student entrepreneur. It was my friends, family, and the resources at Michigan that allowed me to push through and continue working on HiveLend today.”
TechArb is the student venture accelerator at the University of Michigan, a joint initiative of The Center for Entrepreneurship and the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies (ZLI). This out-of-the-classroom program empowers student ventures to bring their ideas to life through an intensive and structured entrepreneurial experience. Teams involved in TechArb are highly motivated to build and launch their own company, and strategically leverage resources and mentorship from CFE and ZLI to reach their goals.
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