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Seso is developing software to fix farm labor and solve agriculture’s human resources issues

Immigrant workers are an essential workforce on U.S. farms, but getting them the appropriate H-2A visas can be complicated, and compliance for these workers places a burden on farms. Seso was founded five years ago to help streamline this process and now wants to expand into a one-stop HR platform for the agriculture industry.

Michael Guirguis co-founded the startup after his cousin asked him for advice on whether her organic farm should expand. Despite the demand for her harvest, Guirguis, whose entire career has been involved with job creation and labor markets, told her that expansion would not be wise because labor shortages in the industry would make it difficult to hire enough workers. The H-2A visa process can help address this issue and help farms stay compliant. Once he started talking to potential farm clients, he realized farms could use more help with human resources than just finding workers.

“When it comes to the backend, every farm we visit has thousands of filing cabinets,” says Gilgis. “This is one of the most lagging industries in America, and this is an eye-opening moment. We can solve the labor shortage, build a modern operating system end-to-end starting with human resources, and modernize a lot of very complex tasks. “

The startup just raised $26 million to expand the capabilities of its platform. The Series B round of financing was led by Bond’s Mary Meeker, with participation from Index Ventures, NFX, SV Angels, several Seso customers, and others.The company will double its customer base by 2023 and works with 27 of the 100 largest agricultural employers in the United States

He said that while agriculture is a huge industry that could be disrupted at any time, it has been relatively cautious in adopting new technologies. Guirguis believes that Seso has been successful so far in selling products to farms where many other startups have not been because Seso is not trying to change the actual farming process, and farmers have made it clear to him that they Not ready yet. It’s easier to sell with back-end technology.

“You have an HR team doing traditional HR work in the background,” says Gilgis. “That’s the behavior of people we’re trying to change, and it’s easier than someone who’s been in the field for 50 years but still uses pen and paper. They can still continue to do their processes, and we’ve built products that adapt. You can take a photo [hand-written] schedule and then use artificial intelligence to ensure its accuracy. “

Guirguis’ focus on getting feedback directly from farmers prompted Index Ventures partner Nina Achadjian to invest. Achadjian initially gave up on Seso when it first tried to raise money from Index, but the way the company was marketed and interacted with farmers changed her mind.

“I remember getting a call from a customer and getting chills,” Achadjian told TechCrunch. “[He said]”, “I get pitched all the time by these Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who show up on your farm and they’re like, ‘This is how you should run their business. ‘I always ask each of them to come and work with me for a day so they can see a day in the life of the end client, but they never show up. Michael was the only one who showed up in the cold and dark at 4am to pick artichokes. “

Feedback from farmers is why the company next expanded into payroll automation. Gilgis said farm wages are complex due to various agricultural employment laws. Workers are paid based on the amount of crops they pick, Kyrgyz said, and the picking rates for each crop are different for migrant workers versus domestic workers, and again different if migrant workers and domestic workers are picking from the same field. After that, Kyrgyzstan saw multiple ways of expansion.

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