By Vic Singh
I’m excited to share the news that our portfolio company Vence has been acquired by Merck Animal Health (a division of Merck & Co.). The deal was announced a couple weeks ago, but I wanted to write a bit more of our history with Vence.
I first learned about the company in 2017, during a deep tech-focused tour of Boston. During a partnership meeting with Flextronics, they mentioned a cattle management startup called Vence, and — since I’d spent quite a bit of time digging into the sustainable agriculture space — I was excited enough about the idea that I had to crash their meeting.
That’s how I first met with Vence’s founder and CEO Frank Wooten. He must have been confused about who I was and wondered why this guy who hadn’t even been invited was peppering him with questions. But he answered everything I asked, and I left that meeting convinced that we had to back him. Now I’m proud to say that Eniac co-led the company’s seed round.
Of course, hard tech startups are hard. They’re hard to build, hard to fundraise for, hard to scale — but when they work, they usually work in a big way, creating defensible moats in uncharted markets, where they face very little competition and can have a huge impact.
When we first invested, I believed Vence could have that impact, and I still believe it now. As I wrote back then, Vence’s virtual fencing system (which allows customers to manage cattle movement and rotational grazing from their computer or smartphone) will change the way livestock and pastureland are managed, while also “doing right by the animals and the planet.”
Vence’s five-year journey thus far has had its share of challenges, but during that time, Frank and CTO Patrick Singler have shown tremendous grit and creativity, and they’ve executed relentlessly on their vision.
From the start, the company was supply constrained, with virtually unlimited demand for the virtual fencing platform — the key was getting the product to work seamlessly on real cattle farms. In other words, the Vence team didn’t just have to deploy hard tech in a live environment, they had to do so in a live environment with live animals. What a feat they’ve pulled off: The technology is now deployed in cattle ranches across the world (primarily the U.S. and Australia) with more than 40,000 cattle under management, creating the largest existing data set for cattle management.
So congrats once more to Frank, Patrick, and the Vence team! And onwards as they scale massively, pursuing their vision as part of Merck.