The former startup buddy meets as Pollen Systems hires Phil Van Etten to run a vineyard monitoring company


Phil Van Etten. (Photo of pollen systems)

Keith McCall and Phil Van Etten again associate in a familiar way.

McCall, founder of the Seattle-based Pollen Systems start-up, says Van Etten is the CEO of his start-up vineyard monitoring company.

It's a familiar territory for longtime business buddies. McCall previously founded Azaleos, an email management start-up founded in Seattle in 2004. He hired Van Etten two years later. In 2010, Avanade acquired the company for $ 106 million.

Now, he passes the torch of the general manager again to Van Etten, who was recently CEO of Netmail in Montreal.

Van Etten was already close to Pollen Systems after becoming a member of the Advisory Board last year. But as the company picked up speed, McCall wanted his former colleague to take the reins of the CEO.

Keith McCall.

"Phil's ability to evolve businesses globally has been proven time and time again with excellent outings for investors," McCall told GeekWire. "His unique combination of business, marketing, sales, finance and operational execution makes him the ideal leader for Pollen Systems as we grow up."

The wine industry is new to Van Etten, but he is confident about the opportunity at Pollen Systems.

"A lot of startups are sort of," he said. "This one has a lot of potential to take off."

Pollen Systems is developing a technological platform consisting of drones, sensors and a wealth of data that helps winemakers to quickly assess vineyards and analyze crop growth, excessive or insufficient watering and the presence of pests. or diseases. The idea is to create a more efficient survey process than to browse the fields and collect information manually.

"Vineyards are always looking for ways to increase yield and reduce irrigation costs," said Van Etten, who has leadership experience in more than 10 startups.

A photo sample collected by Pollen Systems using multispectral image sensors capable of detecting healthy and unhealthy vegetation. (Photo of pollen systems)

Van Etten added that Azaleos and Pollen Systems had many similarities although they belong to completely different industries.

"Both companies are reducing costs and leveraging data and analysis to create a better solution," he said, adding that McCall and he "were very aware of what it would take to build [Pollen Systems.]"

McCall will remain as founder and director of technology – the same role he held at Azaleos, when Van Etten became CEO of this startup.

McCall will help the company apply machine learning technology to integrate automation into the vineyard analysis process, using its growing database of agricultural content.

Pollen Systems raised $ 500,000. It has about a dozen clients – four in Chile and the rest in Washington. According to the Washington State Wine Commission, there are more than 350 winegrowers in the state, operating more than 55,000 acres of vineyards.

The company is also exploring other customer segments, such as berry and wheat producers.

This is McCall's third startup. He also founded Enroute Systems Corp., which helped retailers with the expedition, was acquired by Pitney Bowes in January 2016.

Learn more about Pollen systems in a recent startup Spotlight.