Meet Lutjen, final-year law student, on a pathway to find a more valuable purpose through founding.

Holly Brooks
February 27, 2024
Student Fellowship, Founder, Startmate, Startup

We sat down with Lutjen Lee Winter’23 Student Fellow and founder of Farmbite an online marketplace enabling people to buy, swap, and sell locally grown produce. Since completing the Student Fellowship, Lutjen has taken a hiatus from his studies (B. Laws at RMIT University) to pursue entrepreneurship. He’s since participated in Cohort 7 of Blackbird’s Giants program, has just been accepted into RMIT’s pre-Accelerator LaunchHub and is on the precipice of launching his app.

Ready to launch your career in startups? Apply for the Student Fellowship. 

Startmate: Tell me a bit about yourself

Lutjen: I'm a final-year law student trying to find a more valuable purpose. Right now I'm super interested in agriculture and biotech. I read a lot, in particular, books on prominent tech leaders. I loved reading Elon Musk and Steve Jobs’ biographies. I also really enjoyed reading “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel. 

I get excited about doing the hard things that I believe not many people are willing to do, mainly because when you voluntarily do hard things it prepares you for when times inevitably get involuntarily hard. 

I think with this approach to life, you open yourself up to new unconventional opportunities, which I believe is a really good thing for young people.

I’ve also recently gotten into farming. I’m currently in Malaysia, I have been for the past three months, and I’ve been farming almost every day. Over the past three months, I’ve planted 10,000 pineapples, 50 coconuts, and 300 durians and managed to keep most of them alive! 

Startmate: Tell me about Farmbite, the startup you are founding

Lutjen: My startup is called FarmBite, it's an online marketplace for anyone seeking to buy, swap, and sell locally-grown produce. Lots of people grow a lot of one thing, but they can't grow everything. 

Let's say someone grows a tonne of oranges that they won't eat, they can swap that excess with someone else’s nearby. Likewise, farmers looking to sell their produce can list it on our app and, in turn, consumers gain access to locally-grown produce. 

Startmate: What problem are you solving?

Lutjen: Farmers have a certain amount of time to sell all their produce before it goes off. Farmbite helps them increase their sales in that given amount of time by allowing them to feature their produce on the app and then we filter users towards them. 

Currently, there is no standardised or sophisticated system in place to help farmers offload produce. Many just have a website with a bunch of times/prices listed or a Facebook page that hasn’t been updated in months. 

We are helping bridge the gap between farmers and consumers so produce can be bought, sold and swapped efficiently. 

On a macro level, this will have huge benefits for farmers and society at large.

Through Farmbite there will be newfound accessibility to fresh produce which will aid a few important issues. For example, the daily recommended intake of fruit and vegetables will increase, price hikes and the monopoly that supermarkets have will diminish, not to mention improving food waste and increasing sales for local farmers.

It’s a win for everyone!

Startmate: When does Farmbite launch?

Lutjen: We are launching our app next month. I’ve done most of the coding, now I just need to integrate the booking systems for the farmers that I'm working with within Australia. 

I'm starting with the people that I know. People from church, people from high school, and neighbours who are growing produce.

Startmate: What’s been the biggest challenge so far? 

Lutjen: Two come to mind.

Firstly, beginner mistakes. For example, I did all my coding for an iOS app launch. Forgot there is a whole population of people who use android phones.  

I think as well, overcoming rejection. 

I’ve worked hard on communicating my startup really succinctly to friends and pitching to investors, but it’s always hard when people don’t see the bigger picture. But at the same time, it’s been great practice for me. My elevator pitch is improving by the day. 

Startmate: What’s been the biggest milestone? 

Lutjen: Top of mind, I couldn’t give you one BIG milestone but there have been a bunch of small ones like launching my landing page or speaking to my first potential user. Getting my first non-binding and verbal agreement with a farm and almost finishing the code that I mentioned. 

Integrating each API into the code is also a milestone for me because I had not previously done any of this before. Oh, and I can’t forget, hiring our first employee. 

Startmate: What do you love about being a founder?

Lutjen: Two things that stand out. One is meeting other ambitious founders. The most recent one that I met was, Simon Kubica, co-founder of Index. It's an Australian company that got accepted into Y Combinator recently. He is a former Atlassian employee and it’s awesome to see what he’s building.

The other thing I’ve loved is taking all the theoretical knowledge I’ve learnt along the way and applying it in real life. Like communicating, designing, coding, customer service, sales, talking to people, bringing all that together. It's pretty exciting watching everything grow and it feels a lot better than staring at uni lectures on case law. 

Startmate: How did you hear about the Student Fellowship?

Lutjen: Good question. 

Before the Student Fellowship, I had a keen interest in VC. I actually reached out to Blackbird to ask if there was anything I could do to learn more about the industry. 

Alex Gilford, Chief of Staff - Investment at Blackbird got back to me and recommended I apply for the Startmate Student Fellowship. 

Startmate: What did you love about the Student Fellowship?

Lutjen: You get accepted into a community, where you can build your network. Before the Fellowship I had a lot of ambition and a lot of ideas, but I didn't have a network.

That is the crazy value add. 

After the Fellowship, I was able to get pitching experience by reaching out to First Believers on the Startmate Slack channels (~20 people offered to meet/listen and give thoughts). 

Another thing I loved was being surrounded by other young people with similar interests in startups and entrepreneurship. It gets pretty lonely, especially when you socialise outside of the startmate/startup community - most people in Australia don’t seem to be as interested. 

Startmate: What did you pitch for the SF Founders Challenge?

Lutjen: It was a habit-tracking app. Similar to BeReal, you'd kind of take a picture of the habits you are trying to work on. For example, drinking more water or going for a run, eating healthy food, meditating etc. The photo is shared with your network. It could be extremely private if you wanted it to be but the idea is that once you've continuously had that habit for, let's say seven days, you're more incentivised to keep going. Especially if your friend group is watching you. 

Startmate: Anything else you’d like to share?

Lutjen: I love the path I’m on. It’s incredibly exciting. Building your own thing, having the freedom and independence to make your own decisions and work whenever you want. Working whenever you want is pretty much working all the time, but on what you want to be doing. 

It’s pretty cool. 

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