Dr. Marrone’s accomplishments have had an extraordinarily positive impact on the agriculture and food industry. Dr. Marrone started three successful, high-impact agricultural natural product companies (Novo Nordisk Entotech, Inc., AgraQuest, Inc., Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc.,) to bring sustainable, eco-friendly pest control to farmers. At AgraQuest, she developed eight products from three active ingredients (two microbials and one adjuvant). Serenade® Biofungicide for vine, fruit, nut, and vegetable crops became the biofungicide industry standard. At Marrone Bio Innovations, she commercialized ten award-winning products from six active ingredients including one to control invasive zebra and quagga mussels. She also developed a nematicidal/insecticidal seed…


At the Activate fellowship program, last week’s topic was the product-market fit and value proposition: How do we convince the VP to pay for our product? Among many amazing entrepreneurship programs at accelerators and business mentorship programs, none of them presented the value proposition the way the Activate fellowship program panel did. The panel’s take on presenting the value proposition was very different!

During customer discovery, our goal is to identify the customer’s pain point. For example, we might talk to the technical people within a company and identify a pain point. Now we know what to focus on for…


Reimagining regenerative agriculture. It was amazing to see how regenerative agriculture was practiced on a farm at the Bottens Family Farm, Moline, IL. The Bottens family has five generations of experience with all kinds of farming practices. They understand firsthand that soil health is important for improved crop yield. Monte Bottens, the current farmer, is a long-term thinker, like 50 years ahead. He really cares about the farms’ soil health and uses farming practices that nurture topsoil and its microbiome. Among these practices is no-till farming. …


Don’t say, “I’m going to double your yield”

And other things I learned from a panel of large California growers.

Pheronym’s founders Dr. Kaplan and Mr. Schiller.

Another amazing THRIVE AG accelerator meeting: We met four large growers and listened to their unmet needs, how they find new technologies, and what not to say.

Western Growers ran a panel of four large growers in California. They covered every sector of agribusiness from growing a very large spectrum of crops to dairy, packing, shipping, and marketing. Even though their main farming operations were in California, some had operations in Arizona and Mexico. Since Pheronym is developing solutions for…


It’s incredible how much the insight from one hundred interviews can focus your market entry strategy and position your startup for success.

Pheronym develops pheromone products from microscopic roundworms, nematodes to control agricultural pests. By controlling nematode behavior, we can control both pest nematodes and insects. Our goal at the 6-week NSF I-corps team program was to identify the beachhead market for our product entry.


The challenges, up and downs, surprising discoveries, and meeting amazing people on the way to completing 100 customer discovery interviews.

Pheronym is developing pheromones from microscopic roundworms, nematodes, to control agricultural pests; nematodes, and insects. Our end users are growers, conventional and organic farmers. Our task was very simple: “Talk to 100 growers to understand their pain points with respect to difficult pests”. Traditionally, at I-corps participants get out of the building or go to conferences to meet people for in-person interviews. We could easily go to a few grower conferences and a couple of industry conferences and maybe meet…


How Pheronym is doing it

The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike any disaster we have seen in our lives. Our first coping strategy was to understand the disaster as much as we can. The consequences of COVID-19 multiply the disaster’s effects. Unfortunately, our governments were not prepared for this pandemic. Our hospitals do not have enough beds or equipment to take care of the sick. We do not know when we get sick whether we will be taken care of or triaged to die alone or with family. …


Nothing could have prepared us for this

Being a preseed/seed biotech startup in Agriculture is a challenge all by itself. The COVID-19 pandemic makes it even harder. Four weeks ago we were informed that the COVID-19 pandemic had arrived in the US and we needed to self-quarantine and start social distancing. This was an incomparable challenge to our resilience.

Pheronym’s founders (Dr. Fatma Kaplan and Mr. Karl Schiller) lived many years in Florida and were accustomed to dealing with natural disasters (hurricanes). We learned to continue to work without any disruption, take care of ourselves and families. The State of…


I often have to convince people that I am the right CEO for Pheronym, an ag-biotech startup.

Dr. Fatma Kaplan, CEO of Pheronym

Frequently I hear, “You would make a great CSO.” I know I would be a great CSO, but I am the only one who can be Pheronym’s CEO.

Let’s start with “What does a startup CEO do?” Everyone knows that the CEO is the person in charge, but what does that mean for a small startup? Startup CEO’s can play very different roles depending on the type, stage, and founding team. For example, digital healthcare, digital agriculture, biotechnology, consumer-facing and B2B startups all…


How a marketing advisor helped transform our company!

“I became a scientist and researcher because it was my passion — why would I ever need marketing?”

I would soon realize that the best ideas don’t always win, but the best marketing does. The realization hit me hard when attending a marketing panel shortly after I started the IndieBio accelerator in San Francisco. Before 2017, my technology development training at the University of Florida (UF) prepared me to use the scientific tools to develop a technology from the laboratory to the field. However, business development, commercialization, and marketing were totally new…

Dr. Fatma Kaplan

CEO of Pheronym, Inc.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store