Kenya-based data analytics startup Gro Intelligence is shutting down, marking the end of a once-promising venture in the agricultural data industry. This decision follows months of turmoil and failed attempts to secure additional funding, despite emergency financing earlier this year.

Leadership Changes and Financial Struggles

In early 2024, Gro Intelligence faced significant leadership changes when its board replaced CEO and founder Sara Menker. Despite raising emergency funding in March 2024, the New York and Nairobi-based company struggled to secure further investments, leading to its ultimate decision to cease operations. According to AgFunderNews, the company’s inability to attract new capital was a key factor in its downfall.

Financial Crisis and Workforce Reductions

The company’s financial troubles became public in February 2024, highlighting its struggle to meet payroll and pension obligations despite having raised $117 million over its lifespan. The most recent funding round was an $85 million Series B, supported by Intel Capital and Africa Internet Ventures. In March 2024, Gro Intelligence laid off 60% of its workforce, and with the shutdown, the remaining employees in New York and Nairobi are also being let go. A small team will remain to assist in winding down operations.

Former employees have taken legal action against Gro Intelligence, alleging labor violations due to layoffs executed without prior notice. Additionally, the company is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for alleged fraud, further compounding its troubles.

Founding and Vision

Sara Menker, an energy commodity trader, founded Gro Intelligence in 2012. The startup aimed to leverage data from various sources, including governments, financial markets, and weather agencies, to provide actionable insights for agricultural companies. One of its notable clients was the FMCG giant Unilever. Despite this vision, Gro Intelligence faced challenges in achieving product-market fit and securing substantial business deals.

Market Position and Challenges

Gro Intelligence aimed to position itself as a key player in food security, targeting markets in Asia and the Middle East, as well as attempting to engage with the US government. However, these efforts were largely unsuccessful, leading to inconsistent revenue streams. AgFunderNews highlighted that the company struggled to secure substantial contracts and relied on smaller deals, which was not sufficient to sustain its operations.

Broader Industry Impact

Gro Intelligence’s closure is part of a broader trend of well-funded startups shutting down in 2024. Earlier this year, iProcure, a B2B agricultural inputs distributor, and Copia, a B2C e-commerce platform, also ceased operations, reflecting the challenging environment for startups in the region.