Industry: Agricultural Technology
Founding Student Name(s): Sean Callaghan and Brian Gonzalo
Brief Description of Solution: The work we do at Chameleon is compacting smart vertical farm technology into the most efficient product to create medium-to-large scale production in “small” spaces such as the restaurant and the home, to start. Our vertical farms produce the freshest and greatest variety of produce physically possible.
What led you to launch this venture? A long-standing interest in technology focused products, coupled with a period of educating myself on healthy eating and fitness about a year ago, inspired me to learn more about high quality foods through hydroponic farming. It was through that experience and mentorship from DeMario Vitalis at New Age Provisions Farms that inspired me to investigate the space further.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? The opportunities I’ve had, to get in front of and get advice from a variety of entrepreneurs, has allowed me to create a strong pitch and be awarded grant funding. This has enabled us to bootstrap up until this point, where we are earning revenue and growing.
How has your business-related major helped you further this startup venture? Having a background in finance and business generally has helped me greatly to be a generalist, having to understand each facet and oversee financing, accounting, and management decisions.
Which business class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Through my minor in entrepreneurship and classes such as New Venture Creation, I have been able to spend a lot of time not only learning about entrepreneurial people and their lives, but also kicking around and developing real ideas.
What business professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Sam Miller has been a professor of mine who reminds his classes of a quote from Steve Jobs that says, “It’s better to be a pirate than join the navy.” I appreciate his encouragement of ‘pirates’ like me and his support of Chameleon through feedback and coming to visit the booth over at the entrepreneurship center.
What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? There are many traditional entrepreneurs who have worked hard and been very successful, but have contributed negligibly to making the world a better place with the wealth
they create. Someone who inspires me to be a net benefit to the corporate world and the environment is Yvon Chouinard, who founded Patagonia in 1973. Before business was even seen to be intertwined with social and environmental outcomes, Yvon employed non-traditional management and operational practices that inspired customers and employees to be fiercely loyal over decades.
What is your long-term goal with your startup? In the near-term with Chameleon, I want to use technology to create food systems that drive production closer to the final consumer. By decreasing distance and time until consumption, our customers will enjoy the most nutrient dense and most flavorful whole foods of all types. In the long run, these food systems will be capable of providing up to 100% of the calories that a healthy person eats on a weekly basis.