As a result of being a thought leader in the AgTech and farming industries, I have been fortunate to have been presented with many opportunities. From speaking to audiences at large forums across industries such as TEDx, to meeting people in intimate settings and being interviewed on podcasts, I have been able to share my knowledge as well as learn from those around me. Every engagement, no matter the platform or size, brings opportunities and helps people become familiar with the Taranis’ disruptive farming technology. A specific example of how being a thought leader helped our business grow, occurred last year when I was approached by an investor after speaking at an AgTech conference in Ireland. This investor ended up joining our Series B funding round and has been instrumental in helping Taranis grow. No matter how big or small, you never know what speaking opportunities will bring!
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ofir Schlam, CEO and Cofounder of Taranis
Taranis CEO and Cofounder, Ofir Schlam is a fourth-generation farmer. Raised in Israel, he comes from a family of farmers who has grown cotton and wheat for the last 4 generations. His professional career started when he began his B.Sc. in Math & Computer Science at the age of 16 as part of a program for outstanding students at BIU and graduated Summa Cum Laude at the age of 19. For his military service, Ofir served in an elite technological unit of the Prime Minister’s Office, where he was involved in developing and leading groundbreaking technology projects. During that time he also earned his M.Sc in cryptography at the age of 22. Ofir moved up in the organization and in his last position before starting Taranis he managed an R&D department of 15 software engineers on classified projects. Ofir and his 3 Cofounders started Taranis in 2015 with a mission to help farmers protect their crops more efficiently. He has been featured in top tier outlets, such as Forbes, The Economist, and ZDNet, as well as trade outlets, from Future Farming to Agriculture.com. Ofir has been chosen to speak at numerous tech and agricultural events such as TEDx, participating in a variety of panels and presenting on Taranis’ groundbreaking technology to thousands of consumers.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I come from a background deeply rooted in tech and agriculture. As agriculture has been a part of my family for many years, as my grandmother’s side of the family originated from a farming village near Kharkov, Ukraine, and relocated to Israel in 1910, where they established one of the first agricultural towns. Four generations later, my family expected me to continue on their path of farming in Israel. However, at the time, I was more interested in technology, computer science, and math. After studying computer science whilst still in high school and serving in an Intelligence unit in the Israeli military for nine years, I gained a wealth of technology and management experience. I felt ready, together with my peers, Ayal Karmi (COO), Eli Bukchin (CTO), and Asaf Horvitz (VP Architect), to merge our skills of tech and agriculture together, forming Taranis.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
Since the launch of Taranis in 2015, I have been fortunate enough to share my take on the future and current state of farming with audiences worldwide, ranging from business and farming novices to agricultural experts. I have been featured in top tier outlets such as Forbes, The Economist, and ZDNet, as well as trade outlets, from Future Farming to Agriculture.com. I have been chosen to speak at numerous tech and agricultural events such as TEDx, participating in a variety of panels and presenting on Taranis’ groundbreaking technology to thousands of consumers.
Through it all, I have brought a lifetime-worth of knowledge with me, seeking to educate the masses on how precision ag can solve many of the larger issues within the farming sector, and society as a whole.
Having been recognized for its impact on technology and on customers’ businesses, Taranis was chosen by The Atlas Award committee as the 2019 Ayn Rand Annual Award Winner for Best Israeli Start-Up.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
A few years ago, after a conference, I began speaking with another individual. Our conversation was going well so we decided to share an uber to our next destination. We quickly began discussing the challenges emerging in the farming industry and I brought up ways that Taranis uses AI technology to help modernize the farming industry. The passenger told me he was very interested in staying in touch and so we exchanged contact information by the end of the ride. This individual became a prospective client and helped Taranis close one of our biggest deals. I learned to always be prepared to meet another prospective client or investor.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When establishing Taranis, my co-founders and I decided to write our own founders’ agreement. Although none of us had a background in law, we believed that we could write a contract without even the guidance of a lawyer.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?
A thought leader is someone who demonstrates expertise and leadership by providing insights that are published in various mainstream outlets and trade publications. Thought leaders may differ from typical leaders as they are an active member of the community, often inviting interest, participation, and engagement from his or her followers. Moreover, thought leaders provide a wealth of knowledge to their community members, pointing to forward-thinking ideas and trends; this differs from your typical influencer, who is more focused on current trends and habits.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
Becoming a thought leader provides you with many benefits, from increased credibility and trust to greater visibility in the public eye. By investing your resources into thought leadership, you can build a brand with strong recognition, demonstrating to journalists and industry players that you can provide added value.
Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?
As a result of being a thought leader in the AgTech and farming industries, I have been fortunate to have been presented with many opportunities From speaking to audiences at large forums across industries such as TEDx, to meeting people in intimate settings and being interviewed on podcasts, I have been able to share my knowledge as well as learn from those around me. Every engagement, no matter the platform or size, brings opportunities and helps people become familiar with the Taranis’ disruptive farming technology. A specific example of how being a thought leader helped our business grow, occurred last year when I was approached by an investor after speaking at an AgTech conference in Ireland. This investor ended up joining our Series B funding round and has been instrumental in helping Taranis grow. No matter how big or small, you never know what speaking opportunities will bring!
Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.
Many thought leaders that I admire are in fact disruptors in their field. I think that to become a thought leader is not a goal but rather a by-product of bringing real change. As you bring change to the world, there is great benefit in sharing the knowledge and insights, which in the long run translates into thought leadership. My methods for spreading my insights and know-how include:
- Speaking at as many agriculture events as I can (recently this has included AgTech Nexus, PrecisionAg Vision 2020)
- Participating in tech events outside of a specific niche industry, such as Nvidia, Big Data Expose, etc. This is helpful to meet other thought leaders in the tech industry and share, as well as learn new skills.
- Additionally, even more, general and wider scope events such as TEDx has allowed me to meet people from various backgrounds
- I also try to accommodate as many podcast invitations as possible, no matter the reach.
- Lastly, I tried to write thought leadership pieces in as many gaming outlets as possible to spread my ideas. For example, I write a monthly professional blog post covering relevant issues in the industry.
These methods enable me to spread my name and ideas to other individuals in the industry, which consequently enables Taranis to grow.
In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach?
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What are your feelings about this?
I disagree with this critique of the term “thought leader.” While the flexibility of the term lends itself to being labeled as “overused,” a thought leader can fall into many different categories, and as such, can be used to describe a variety of different professionals — from CEOs to engineers. This “flexibility” is exactly what a thought leader should embody; someone who can wear many hats and juggle different perspectives and beliefs at the same time.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Building a company is not easy. There are times that are hard and overwhelming, but what has helped me (and Taranis) thrive are the people that make up our company. A large part of my success has been thanks to those that have supported and been part of the Taranis journey with me. My advice to other leaders who are trying to build a company is to make sure to surround yourself with people who you enjoy working with and who can provide support when challenges arise. Be sure to make the journey together with people that you enjoy working with.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I believe that Taranis has allowed me to do just that. Taranis has been more than just a company; it has ignited a movement by disrupting the farming industry. Agriculture is the world’s largest legacy industry but has been lacking innovation. The industry faces more than 300 billion dollars a year in losses caused by crop disease and pests alone. Taranis has created tools for farmers to develop cost-effective and efficiency initiatives, while also raising awareness about the growing threats and challenges in the farming industry. Overall, Taranis is revolutionizing the farming industry with its unique technology and encouraging more millennials and youth to become involved and interested in the AgTech industry. Taranis is dedicated to using AI to improve global food security thereby improving lives all over the world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Thomas Edison’s quote, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” truly resonates with me and my journey that has led to me to this point in my career. Launching a startup has its ups and downs and every time something feels as though it was not happening as I had hoped, I would remind myself that before there is a success there are challenges that need to be overcome.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would enjoy having a conversation with Jeff Bezos and hearing more about his journey in becoming a thought leader and building Amazon. I think that there is a lot to learn from different thought leaders across industries and Amazon has been a disrupter and change how consumers shop for goods, as well as read books.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Our Twitter Page — https://twitter.com/taranisag?lang=en
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.