1 Million Cups Fargo’s first ever speaker is making a return to the entrepreneurial meet-up’s stage.
David Batcheller, President and CEO of Appareo Systems, will speak at 1 Million Cups Fargo on Wednesday, February 27.
Appareo Systems is a Fargo-based developer of commercial and industrial hardware and software, including products for aviation, agriculture and other “off-road” uses.
Appareo Systems is a family company, founded by Batcheller’s father Barry Batcheller.
“We’ve organically grown this business over the last 10 or 15 years or so,” Batcheller said.
Batcheller described his father as a driven innovator—he founded a prior company that was eventually sold to John Deere. He was inspired to start another company in order to remain agile.
“It’s difficult to be innovative and fast there,” Batcheller said of working for a Fortune 50 company like John Deere. He clarified that isn’t a criticism but simply a fact of a company that size.
Appareo’s first offering, an aviation software product, was able to garner a significant amount of press but wasn’t ultimately all that successful in terms of sales. The company was nonetheless able to use the attention to build a more solid foundation for launching future, more successful products.
“We followed the attention and the customer interest,” Batcheller said.
The company’s first products were aviation-oriented. The company continued, initially with more products aimed at aviation, and has since branched out into other product arenas.
“We’re continuously looking for new applications,” Batcheller said.
Batcheller is fairly expansive when discussing the work Appareo does through its products, characterizing some of it liberating people from “the dull, dirty, the dangerous.” Some of the agricultural products the company has had a hand in, for example, have allowed some aspects of heavy farm labor to be mechanized.
“People to a large extent don’t need to be involved in certain farming activities,” Batcheller said.
Despite Batcheller’s family history of entrepreneurship, he says he didn’t initially see himself becoming a business owner. He bounced between majors for a while.
“When I was an undergraduate, entrepreneurism wasn’t celebrated the way it is today,” Batcheller said.
When Appareo Systems was getting started, Batcheller told his father he would work for a year before he went to law school. He never left, ultimately. (“Ironically, my wife is a lawyer,” he noted.)
Looking back, Batcheller says he was always interested in and good at building and running organizations.
One of the challenges Batcheller notes Appareo Systems faces now, in its second decade of existence, is the strange conundrum of being disrupted by younger business, after starting out as a disrupting business itself.
“You hit these ceilings of growth,” Batcheller said. “It’s hard to grow fast in a hard goods business.”
Of course, more innovation coming from new companies isn’t a bad thing, and Batcheller has enthusiasm for the local entrepreneurial environment. “I’m really excited about what’s going on in Fargo,” he said.
1 Million Cups Fargo takes place each Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., normally at The Stage at Island Park. Batcheller’s presentation on February 27, however, will take place at NDSU’s Barry Hall.