The Proof
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Irving Fain, Founder at Bowery Farming

 
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Irving Fain is the Co-Founder & CEO of Bowery, the modern farming company growing food for a better future by revolutionizing agriculture. As a seasoned entrepreneur, Irving saw an opportunity to build a company that improves an industry central to many of this generation’s global issues: agriculture. Bowery’s commercial indoor farms combine the benefits of the best local farms with advances made possible by technology to grow produce consumers can feel good about eating.

The brand has raised a total of $122.5M from leading investors and noteworthy thought-leaders such as Google Ventures, Lerer Hippeau, General Catalyst, GGV, First Round Capital, Temasek, Tom Colicchio, José Andrés, Carla Hall, David Barber, Jeff Wilke, Henry Kravis, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, and the Sweetgreen Co-Founders, among others.

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On morning workouts. I reserve the first part of my day for myself before everything really gets started. I’ll begin the day by running through my emails and Slack messages to address any urgent issues that I can resolve quickly. After that, I usually give my dog Basil a walk either around the city or on the beach, depending on where I am.

Then I’ll get some exercise, whether that’s running, surfing, swimming or boxing. I can tell the difference in my own psychology when I don’t work out, so that’s something I try to keep sacred every day.

On Bowery's origins. I grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, which is a really unique place. While Providence is a city, it’s a part of the smallest state in the country, which means you’re never far away from farms that are growing fresh food. That’s a special privilege most people in this country (and around the world) don’t have, and that, coupled with a mother who was ahead of her time and focused on the quality of the food we were eating, planted the seed of interest for the problems we’re tackling at Bowery.  

What ultimately led me to Bowery and the notion of expanding access to quality, local food was my belief in tech's ability to solve difficult & important problems. After building my last company, I wanted to spend my time working on an area that I was passionate about and a set of issues that were broadly important to the world. I spent a lot of time looking at various opportunities, and the more time I spent learning about and researching the agricultural system, the more I realized that agriculture was at the epicenter of so many of our global issues.  

As I dove deeper, I became increasingly focused on the urban environment and the problem of how to provide fresh food to urban areas in a way that’s more efficient and sustainable. This problem is incredibly important given that in the next 35 years, 70 - 80% of the world’s population will be living in & around cities.

On his side hustle roots. I've had an entrepreneurial spirit for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I would create small businesses and side ventures - from buying and repackaging toys to sell at school, to starting a leaf raking and snow blowing business in my neighborhood. If there was a hustle to be found, it was likely that I was chasing after it. My goal was always to be an entrepreneur and to build businesses & brands of my own once I got older.

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On his English degree. In running a business as diverse and multi-disciplinary as Bowery, it’s enormously helpful to have spent time in college surrounded by so many different subjects. It’s not necessarily that I carry specific books with me or refer back to concepts that I learned in my day-to-day activities, but rather a general knowledge in both arts & sciences that helps me understand and gain context across the business.

I loved being an English major because everything I learned is broadly applicable to my experience as a founder & entrepreneur. I’m constantly sharing Bowery’s message to various constituencies with the goal of getting people excited, engaged, or committed to different needs for the business. As an English major, one of my main focuses was to read, formulate a set of conclusions, and then articulate these ideas in a clear, compelling manner. Every CEO needs to be able to combine analysis with a compelling explanation on a regular basis.

On fundraising momentum. Raising capital and making sure there’s cash in the bank is an extremely important job for any founder & CEO. It also happens to be a time-consuming process, even when a fundraise goes smoothly. While you’re out raising capital, the company must keep moving and growing, so it’s extremely important to have a strong team and other leaders that you can rely on. This is, of course, crucial for a company all of the time, but during a fundraising process, the team is able to support you so that all parts of the company move forward effectively without losing momentum.

On relationships over transactions. My biggest piece of advice for first-time founders looking to raise a round of capital is something I’ve done consistently at Bowery: build relationships early on. Mark Suster from Upfront Ventures has a great philosophy: “Invest in lines and not dots.” It’s helpful not only for the entrepreneur, but also for the investor to begin building a relationship long before you may be ready to raise money.

This gives both parties a chance to get to know one another. Plus, the investor has a chance to watch the progress of your business develop over time vs. make a judgment based on a single & limited set of data points. These are long-term relationships and you want to do everything you can to ensure that you’re partnering with the right people and firms for you & your company.

On podcasts before bed. Sadly, I don’t have a great, consistent nightly sleep routine. One thing I try to do is leave enough time before I wind down and go to bed to stop responding to email and Slack (though I’ll admit, I break that rule plenty of times). Each night I do listen to the NPR news podcast right before I fall asleep. It’s about 5 minutes and updates each hour so it’s a good way to bring my mind somewhere else and catch up on what’s happening in the world.

— Irving Fain, Co-Founder & CEO at Bowery Farming