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#LAUNCHFood Forum Recap – San Francisco

By | Food + Beverage Trends, Industry Insider, Uncategorized | No Comments

Last week our founder Alessio D’Antino flew to San Francisco to take part of LAUNCH Food Forum, a fantastic global open innovation program for innovators, entrepreneurs, or intrapreneurs with big ideas for improving health outcomes by enabling people to make healthy food choices. Founded in 2009 by NASA, US agency for International Development (USAID), Australian AID, US Department of State and Nike Inc, LAUNCH has tackled various challenges in water, health, sustainable chemistry and more. The 2017 LAUNCH Food Forum aimed at supporting an amazing group of 12 innovators from all over the world. In order to support these entrepreneurs with further developing their business, they have created LAUNCH Food Council: a strong group of 50 experts, strategists and decision-makers from across the food system who are committed to helping create a healthier world through innovation.

He was invited to join the Forum as a Council Member and had been asked to provide feedback, suggestions, and offers of support in five key areas: capital, capacity, connectivity, credibility, and creativity.

The crowd was a mix of incredible entrepreneurs, investors, intrapreneurs, key thought leaders from the academic world, as well as numerous representatives from top-notch NGO’s.  It’s been a unique opportunity to meet, all at once, such fascinating people from organizations like NASA, Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, WWF, IKEA, USAID just to name a few to explore what the future of food could look like .

Meet the 2017 LAUNCHFood global innovators below:

  1. Dipika Matthias: Coffee Flour is a nutritionally dense flour made from discarded coffee cherry pulp and skin.
  2. Beverley Postma: HarvestPlus has developed staple food crops enriched to provide between 25% and 100% of daily requirements for vitamin A, iron, and zinc.
  3. Jarrod Goldin: Entomo Farms makes high-quality protein products from sustainably farmed, free-range insects.
  4. Habib Saqib: Telenor Pakistan presents Telenor Mobile Agriculture, a customized mobile agriculture advisory and direct farmer-to-consumer eCommerce platform.
  5. Joanna Kane-Potaka: From ICRISAT, Smart Food is a campaign to popularize food that is good for you, the planet, and the farmer — starting with millets and sorghum.
  6. Robert Oliver and Elizabeth Powell: The world-renowned chef will lead Pacific Islands Food Revolution, a health education initiative tailored to audiences in the Pacific Islands that includes multimedia and cross-sectoral wellness campaigns.
  7. Bruce Neal: FoodSwitch is a program that helps shoppers choose better foods, industry make healthier products, and government set effective policies.
  8. Kirsty Bayliss: From Murdoch University, Breaking the Mold is a plasma-based treatment that extends the life of fresh produce by delaying mold growth.
  9. Jeremy Fryer-Biggs: Evaptainers is a robust, efficient, and low-cost refrigeration solution powered by only water and sunlight.
  10. Marc Noyce and Brendan Condon: Foodwall is a modular, user-friendly, and extremely water-efficient urban food growing system.
  11. Salah Sukkarieh: The University of Sydney has developed a data-driven digital platform connecting small-scale farmers to a global growing community while helping increase growing capacity.
  12. Tash Tan: As a selected innovator in our LAUNCH Legends challenge* for cutting-edge storytelling around public health, S1T2’s Tash Tan will develop a creative technology experience to inspire cultural movements that bring pride back to traditional healthy eating within targeted sites in the Pacific Islands.

He has summarized some personal key takeaways:

  • Food is a truly global language: it’s incredible to see so many bright minds coming together and openly sharing their visions for the future of food
  • San Francisco is still the place-to-be for understanding and anticipating food sustainability and foodtech trends (e.g restaurants serving aquaponic-grown produces, Kava bars — anyone?)
  • It’s great to see the best and brightest innovators always challenging the ‘status quo’ of our global food system and developing new solutions that can help tackle some of the biggest issues that are affecting it

To learn more see our Storify here.

Quoting what he said about it: I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I have been given to participate to #LAUNCHFood Forum and I very much look forward to further supporting this amazing group of innovators for creating a more sustainable and resilient future of food together. Thanks to all the amazing team at SecondMuse for inviting me to take part of this enriching experience.”

What’s wrong with fruit Roll-ups??

By | Food + Beverage Trends, Industry Insider | No Comments

It’s no secret that corporates are capable of innovating…(Yes — corporates, you read it right)

With this piece I want to offer a simple comparison between approaches to innovation using a real example: the fruit rolls-ups AKA fruit jerky

Does Fruit flavored snacks mean there is any fruit in it?

I believe food innovation doesn’t necessarily come from only startups. The Fruit Roll-ups were ‘invented” in early 1980’s and according to Wikipedia’s definition ‘The snack is a flat, pectin-based fruit-flavored snack, wrapped around a piece of cellophane for easier removal’

In a similar fashion of what entrepreneurs do, corporate people strive to come up with innovative ways to develop and successfully launch new products. General Mills introduced Fruit rollups in the United States in 1983.

 

Now the question is: is this what consumers would want to feed their kids with it all day long? Maybe in the 80’s consumers care less about this, but they definitely would not stick now

The problem is that they focus too much on (over)market their innovations and forget about what consumers actually want or even worse they take their marketing efforts to some extremes…(see below)

 

As a matter of fact General Mills was then forced to change the labelling of its fruit rolls as a consumer watchdog nonprofit, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, sued GM claiming that Fruit Roll-Ups’ packaging intentionally misled customers into believing that the snack was healthy and made of fruit.

Or even worse ‘playing’ with food to get product endorsement from influencers such as Jeremy Lin (a popular NBA Player) for whom they made a basketball jersey made entirely of fruit roll-ups.

On the other hand companies like Snact, Spare Fruit or Emily crisps have taken an ‘old’ product (such as fruit roll-ups) and made it relevant for consumers by making fruit jerky or dehydrated fruit snacks feel (really) more ‘human’, while making a dent in fighting food waste

This is what consumers are demanding today, food brands that speak their language, use real food to make their products and are transparent about how they make them.

Often time, ‘traditional’ approaches can be the most innovative ones and we’re definitely seeing a ‘going back to the roots’ consumers trend when it comes to new product developments from startups. One of my favorite US startups that I believe is well representing this movement is indeed called “Back to the roots” and states to ‘undo food’ (and they even trademarked the term).

But why is their approach different? Most food entrepreneurs are just there to challenge ‘the status quo’ as they want to drive (indeed) the change via creating new movements. I believe often times fellow founders see their work as a personal endeavor to change the rules of the game and create impact. This is where they find the energy and resilience to go through the startup rollercoaster (especially when it comes to building a food business).

In my days at Diageo I’ve experienced that the longer corporate managers work in this industry the more biased they become about how they see innovation and have hard times seizing opportunities that go beyond products that are ‘innovation pipeline’. Most of the times when it comes to innovation, the key task is adapting existing products to new markets (meaning over-marketing them) instead of developing something that is truly relevant for those specific consumers. The main drive there was leveraging economies of scale by rolling-out existing products into new markets, and gain market shares for existing brands by introducing new line extensions.

To sum up, when it comes to innovation in food, I strongly believe personal drive is the key differentiator. Companies that foster an entrepreneurial spirit, and make sure their employees have that personal drive, are the ones capable of creating meaningful innovations (Google has understood that from their very early days…).

So how to operate the switch? I strongly believe that big organizations who will be able to innovate are the ones who thoroughly understand the importance of constantly ‘contaminating’ their managers by making them working very closely to entrepreneurs and let their people ‘absorb’ a bit of that entrepreneurial and personal drive.

While startups are better suited at developing meaningful innovations for consumers, corporates have the knowledge and leverage to bring these to the market at scale. This is why at Crowdfooding we facilitate collaboration opportunities between startups and corporates, to make sure the next wave of food innovation have the best of both (startup purpose and corporate expertise and knowledge).

Mindful food innovation vs product (over-)marketing

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It’s no secret that for a long time, big brands really didn’t have to worry too much about the product, the quality of the ingredients and the integrity and sustainability of their manufacturing processes.

Often times their marketing budget was far greater than their R&D spent — I believe the graph below says it all.

source: Circle up — Techcrunch

Even in my own experience, quickly after joining Diageo where I had been working on new product launches across Western Europe for almost 2 years, it became quite clear to me that marketing was leading the conversation when it came to introducing innovation to the market and not the product itself.

I had the feeling big brands were primarily focusing on selling their existing products and maximize their profits instead of trying to predict future trends and develop new products and creating categories aligned with them.

In addition, when deciding which product to launch, they were heavily relying on consumers researches made by agencies, instead of being on the ground understanding what consumers really wanted.

I believe while marketing is a crucial part of the business that won’t ever go away, the future of food means a return to food products taking center stage. We see that consumers are demanding better food more and more, not better marketing and I personally think they are simply choosing the brands that best mirror their needs and values.

 

In the past few years, innovators and brands developed products and concepts with flavour and overall good taste in mind. However in a world where people in some parts of the world are still starving and climate change and food waste remain still big issues to face, many food businesses started reassessing the way they’re developing new products to:

  • meet the demand of a growingly conscious consumer when it comes to health and sustainability
  • inspire consumers to eat smarter (and healthier)
  • ensure that production is sustainable and ecological

The result is providing consumers with smartly designed choices that will benefit both personal and global health and I believe we’ll see more and more business follow in the same pattern.

I believe we’ve entered the age where in food the product is king and marketing comes second. It’s the product quality doing the selling now and smaller brands, like Snact, Nix & Kix or Pip&Nut, are leading up the way by providing consumers with wholesome and sustainable products; and letting that be their marketing focus. As startups they all still need to do quite a little bit of marketing but they do maximize their (often tiny) budget on digital marketing smartly and do let the product and word-of-mouth do the rest.

Now the question is: as a sense of mindful innovation rises to the top, will big food brands be able to keep up with ever-changing consumers’ needs alone?

In my experience meeting with a number of corporate executives in leadership positions at food companies, I’ve encountered some great people who have deeply grasped the value of collaborating with startups to create better food and I’m very much optimistic that these people will help their companies lead the charge for developing more mindful innovation. After all, intrinsically great food products might mean less work for the marketing department, but certainly more value for the consumers.

Food tech: why US is leading the race ?

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Since I moved to the UK 9 months ago, I keep on hearing about this ‘food tech’ frenzy. The more I talk about it with people within the food industry, the more I realise nobody has a clear definition of what it’s all about.

If you quickly google it, you’ll probably stumble upon one definition of Food Technology:

“Food Technology is a branch of food science that deals with the production processes that make foods” — wikipedia definition

Before the internet came into existence I believe this was the only definition that resonated with people: any technology (mostly hardware) that enables food production.

With the advent of the internet, though, new opportunities have become available for food entrepreneurs to create “extended” digital experiences related to food — from booking a table for your favourite restaurant from your phone to creating food logs and getting recommendations of what you should be eating — just to name a few.

To me Foodtech has one more meaning, and perhaps the most important one — it is a ‘social movement’ made of tech and food people, who see the potential in partnering up for creating solutions for our food system or new food products.

From what I have seen and experienced in the US (having lived in the Bay Area for almost 2 years), a few organizations started running meetups and other events to bring together the “techies” with the “foodies” to mingle and explore what the future of food could look like.

From doing so, a social movement (made of real people) was born. Those same people who met over a glass of wine (or two) started playing around to develop solutions to address some issues across the whole food supply chain. Indeed, I believe companies like Partender came about because the founders (techies) saw some untapped opportunities when attending those food events.

Nomiku, Nima, Teforia are other examples just to name a few. As these companies grew bigger, I believe other entrepreneurs (and investors) started looking at this space with different eyes and going after the “bigger” opportunity of ‘reverse engineering’ the way we produce food.

In my humble opinion, a strong desire to develop new solutions for our food system, combined with abundance of talents present in the Bay Area, made the whole food tech movement naturally evolve, and brought about the birth of companies like Impossible foods, Ripple foods, Clara foods.

This whole space developed over the course of more than 8 years and that’s the reason why in Europe (including the UK) we haven’t seen such “futuristic’ solutions developed by European companies quite yet. It takes time to build a real community of people who really want to challenge the status quo of our food system via entrepreneurship.

In other words I think the ‘food tech movement’ in the UK as we know it today is just not mature enough to build solutions (and startups) capable of attracting sufficient level of public attention and investment to thrive.

Besides the frenzy around food tech and a couple of heavily-marketed conferences, in order to see such companies venturing out of Europe, we need to build a real community of people who see some untapped opportunities across the food value chain and are passionate about building solutions to address those problems.

Breakthrough innovation comes from people. And to bring those to life, you need to put makers, innovators and challengers in the same room.

To this end, as part of our Crowdfooding Hub, we’re looking to partner up with a few fellow organizations to create the first real community of food tech innovators in the UK and provide them with the business tools to build such companies also on this side of the world — to learn more email us at info@crowdfooding.co

What if big food brands partnered up with startups to create a better food system?

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In the last few months I have been meeting a few corporate executives of multinational food companies and among all the interesting discussions I’ve had with them there is a one quote that I think is worth sharing:

“In the food industry everyone wants to get a seat in the front coach of the train. Big food brands have definitely conquered that position, the only problem is they‘ve jumped on a train that is going backwards”

We are certainly seeing a major shift in the dynamics of food today.

The big guys all seem to be too slow and perhaps enslaved to shareholders to innovate but they may be too large to perish… at least for now.

On the other hand, small food brands are gaining more and more popularity among consumers to a point where they may become the next big food company.

But what if they were collaborating to create a better food system (as well as more wealth) together? What if examples of the likes of Innocent drinks (acquired by Coca-Cola) or Grom (acquired by Unilever) will become the norm?

Big food corporates can enable scale for smaller food brands

For a small brand it will mean:

  • Tapping into the enormous production, marketing and branding infrastructure
  • Improving margins through more efficient production and sourcing
  • Accessing to greater distribution routes products can easily slip into existing distribution routes → resulting in greater impact

For a big company it will mean:

  • Gaining access to vetted brands with a progressive consumer base
  • Avoiding the expensive process of trying to start a new brand from scratch
  • Optimizing idle manufacturing capacity

In other words if larger companies’ resources could become much more accessible by startups, the barriers to entry for smaller food brands would continue to lower. By lowering the barriers more ideas will make it to market, more consumer choice and therefore better products for everyone.

It’s no secret that consumers are demanding better, healthier and planet conscious products. If we can build an infrastructure to enable food entrepreneurs to thrive, there will be more choice and brands that create better food for people.

To this end, I’m thrilled to announce that along with some of our corporate partners we’re building the Crowdfooding Hub, a physical space in the hearth of London where startups and corporates will connect to create innovation for the food and drink industry — to learn more email us at info@crowdfooding.co

The Founder Series: CF 101 — Pt 4—Why run a pre-campaign?

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Crowdfooding is proud to feature a series written by our Founder, Alessio D’Antino, introducing the basics of crowdfunding. This five-part series will highlight the drivers behind the majors decisions to be made in planning your first crowdfunding campaign.

Crowdfunding is an experimental marketing exercise and that’s why we believe is so important to have a tool (pre-campaign) to “test the water” and understand whether crowdfunding is suitable for a company before throwing them on our platform.

To do this we’ve built a piece of technology to help food entrepreneurs gauge the market appetite for their crowdfunding campaign by creating and running a pre-campaign — You can think of it as a draft of the final campaign that will run for a specific period of time allowing you to collect pre-orders and expressions of interest as well as collect feedback about the campaign proposition (e.g set of rewards to offer).

Key Benefits:

  1. Test the water without burning the opportunity of doing crowdfunding (if not ready)
  2. Activate your community early on to build momentum for the campaign
  3. Tweak the campaign based on feedback received

We are well aware crowdfunding sometimes might be scary because of the publicity that comes with it but the pre-campaign mitigates this risk by helping entrepreneurs to validate the market before kicking off their campaign.

The Founder Series: CF 101 — Pt 3—Backers vs Investors

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Crowdfooding is proud to feature a series written by our Founder, Alessio D’Antino, introducing the basics of crowdfunding. This five-part series will highlight the drivers behind the majors decisions to be made in planning your first crowdfunding campaign.

To learn more about how to define your crowdfunding model, you need to know which parties you want to involve and attract to optimize funding.

Let’s start by differentiating between backers versus investors.

Backers are your friends and family, those within your network and early customers. From a psychological point of view, backers give funds to support the business and because they are motivated to engage with them. To appeal to backers, you must clearly and effectively communicate your USP.

Investors are business angels, high net worth individuals, venture capitalists, and corporate investors. These parties are motivated purely from an financial perspective — to ensure and optimize return on investment. To appeal to investors, you must build your prototype and test it in the market before approaching any crowdfunding activity, ensuring investor confidence in returns. Onboarding investors is like a marriage — you can’t fire them so make sure you onboard the ones who can help you build the business by running due diligence.

Tip: engage with investors once you have the right bargaining power, when backers have demonstrated support and investors can take funds through to the final goal. This way, you approach investors not with a plan but solid metrics that prove market validation (e.g. recurring revenue from existing customers, gained some retail distribution, good rotation on the shelf, etc.)

With all of this in mind, we move forward with one unique feature of Crowdfooding, the pre-campaign. Part 4 of this series covers what this is and how to make use of it.

The Founder Series: CF 101 — Part 1 — Crowdfunding: reward or equity?

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Crowdfooding is proud to feature a series written by our Founder, Alessio D’Antino, introducing the basics of crowdfunding. This five-part series will highlight the drivers behind the majors decisions to be made in planning your first crowdfunding campaign.

In part 1 of this series, we define the two major ways of crowdfunding: reward and equity based crowdfunding.

Think of it as a beehive. Each piece of the honeycomb is built upon the former backer, culminating in an impressive formation, all contributing to one cause.

There are fundamentally two types of crowdfunding: reward-based and equity-based

Reward Crowdfunding — raise funds from the general public in exchange for insider products or services. Backers are contributing to a cause they care about and often buying into a sense of prestige, becoming part of an inner circle who are granted access to the latest in developments and releases from the startup.

Benefits: create a very engaging relationship with current and prospective customers and receive feedback about products.

Smith & Sinclair —reward crowdfunded Cocktail Confectioners

Equity Crowdfunding — raise large funding amounts from business angels or institutional investors in exchange for shares of the startup. These individuals should have added value components to bring to the table, including industry experience and expertise as well as extensive networks which can all be used to open doors to increase company’s growth.

Benefits: raise funds to ramp up business growth and onboard new shareholders who can contribute to the success of the business.

The Pressery — equity crowdfunded Super Natural Goodness

So how does a team determine which of these methods to crowdfund their project? Covered in Part 2 of CF 101.

Check out Alessio’s medium account for more thoughts on food business and crowdfunding in London.

The Founder Series: CF 101 — Pt 2— Crowdfunding Model

By | Food + Beverage Trends, Industry Insider, Uncategorized | No Comments

Crowdfooding is proud to feature a series written by our Founder, Alessio D’Antino, introducing the basics of crowdfunding. This five-part series will highlight the drivers behind the majors decisions to be made in planning your first crowdfunding campaign.

In part 2 of the series, we dive into the how we can mix reward and equity crowdfunding to optimize your own model.

Deciding between the two crowdfunding types can be difficult. So why not make the best of both worlds and combine the two? Crowdfooding allows teams to do just that. This is particularly in specific cases where entrepreneurs want to cater their fundraising to both backers and investors. This helps to simplify their cap table, lowering the number of investors to those with the right incentives.

Making use of a combined model allows startups to reap the benefits of each type, engaging and validating with customers through reward-based funding while defining their own terms for equity funding, including how much money must be pledged in order to own shares of the business.

Since there is an innate funding target cap with reward funding, founders can unlock higher amounts of funding with the right audiences, passionate individuals or organizations with a shared care in the startup’s cause. This is particularly relevant within the UK investing scape where tax incentives have led to apathetic investors whose only interests are short term tax benefits. The right investors often bring about added value such as mentorship and networks that have potentially more impact than the funds themselves.

Think back to our beehive analogy — startups build up the foundation of their campaign on reward backers and leverage the strength to attract the equity investors they want for the terms they defined.

Our startups approach their campaigns with a balanced mix in mind and end their campaigns with real world business validation in the most real sense — the market response of who provides their funding.

To learn how to optimize your particular mix, Part 3 of CF101 will dig deeper into the definitions between the parties involved in the ecosystem.

Check out Alessio’s medium account for more thoughts on food business and crowdfunding in London.

The Entrepreneur-spiration Series: Thomson & Scott Skinny Champagne & Prosecco

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Crowdfooding has partnered with WeMeanBusiness London to feature the Entrepreneur-spiration Series – where real life foodie startup founders share their stories, tips and advice on building your own brand and business.

This month we went and met Amanda Thomson, Founder and CEO of Thomson & Scott Skinny – a portfolio of Champagne and Prosecco for the next generation of wine lovers globally who want to drink top quality sparkling wine, whilst reducing the levels of added sugar in their bottle.

Billed as “the basic bitch drink” by The Guardian this summer, Skinny Champagne and Prosecco is a god send for those that want to cut their calories while they enjoy their chilled glass of fizz.

Hallelujah I hear you cry!

Amanda’s mission is to be completely open about what we’re drinking and cut sugar where it’s not needed. Her brand is not counting calories, but sharing them for transparency, encouraging us to ask why we can’t drink better and cleaner?

The Skinny range of Champagne and Prosecco definitely answers this question, so Lesley Bambridge from We Mean Business, set out to find out more. Read the full article on the We Mean Business, London blog…

http://www.wemeanbusinesslondon.com/blog/2016/10/31/the-entrepreneur-spiration-series-thomson-scott-skinny-champagne-prosecco

 

 

Chocothon – Launches Today!

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We are incredibly excited to announce the official launch of Chocothon’s crowdfunding campaign today! The campaign kicks off with a world tour to present it to key stakeholders around the international chocolate community. Our goal is to build a more sustainable cocoa supply chain that is equipped to fulfill global demand.

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Chocothon is a joint effort led by Google Food Labs and the International Trade Centre (ITC) with knowledge support from Business School Lausanne (BSL) and the Future Food Institute (FFI), aimed at creating a shared value platform to foster sustainable Ghanaian cocoa farming. Crowdfooding is thrilled to act as technical partner, providing the platform on which the funding to support this cause can be raised. We believe crowdfunding is truly impactful in bringing out diverse levels of engagement across the audiences this campaign will touch. Coinciding with the collaborative theme throughout the Chocothon philosophy, crowdfunding aims to not only gather financial resources towards this cause but also the knowledge and expertise that can be shared and contributed.

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What can you do to help Chocothon? Spread the word to your personal network, raising awareness and heightening understanding of the problems and solutions we’re exploring in our journey.

To learn more about the cause, read The Food Rush‘s coverage of Chocothon.

The Future of Food: Meat

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Crowdfooding has partnered with Andrea Tolu, a freelance business writer for the Food&Tech sector, to feature articles from his newsletter The Circle. This week: The Future of Meat.

Meat is constantly in the middle of thorny controversies these days.

  • Cows belches contributing to global warming: check.
  • “Probably carcinogenic to humans” per the WHO: check.
  • An intensive production system that treats animals inhumanly: check.

To many, the case is big enough to make it the perfect enemy. But even for those who want to tread carefully on the debate, it’s hard to deny one very simple thing: the world consumes too much meat.

The way to convince people to eat less of it is to offer valid alternatives. In some cases, pointing at other protein sources (such as legumes and dairy) will do. For many people however, meat (and red meat in particular) is more than a source of protein, it’s an intense food experience.

In Nature’s catalogue there’s no valid plant-based substitute for that, which means someone will have to create it. Two start-ups, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, are doing exactly that, without taking any shortcuts in the process.

Read the full article on the Circle Newsletter: A Vegan and a Meat-Eater Walk Into a Restaurant and Order a Burger…. (No, Seriously).

 

Crowdfunding for Food: Creating Space for Successful Innovation

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Something is changing in the food and beverage industry

It’s no secret that multinationals have dominated the industrial food system for years now, but the landscape is changing, and changing fast. In the past five years alone, the top 25 food and beverage companies have lost $18 billion in market share, giving way to young companies and quick growing startups. Campbell’s Soup CEO Denise Morrison estimates that over $8 billion in VC funding has gone to over 400 start-ups since 2010. At the same time, a report from US based Rosenheim Advisors shows that the UK was among the top drivers in investment and acquisition activity in the food and technology sector.

The Food + Drink Investment Landscape

Despite all indications that there is market demand for innovation in the food and drink world, it’s still not easy to get a great idea off the ground. That is why food entrepreneurs are heading to crowdfunding sites to get started. According to NESTA, in 2015 food and drink was among the top three most crowdfunded categories in the UK, taking up a fair share of the £245 million in financing through equity-based crowdfunding for seed, start-up and early-stage financing. Despite the overall growth, food and drink start-ups are still struggling to reach funding goals through crowdfunding. According to Kickstarter, one of the leading reward-based crowdfunding platforms in the US, 75% of food projects don’t reach their fundraising goals. There’s space for growth in the F&B crowdfooding sphere.

Says Mike Lee, former Innovation Manager for Accell Foods, “The future of food belongs to entrepreneurs…Crowdfooding is a platform that’s lowering barriers by making smart connections to the funding and expertise needed for ambitious F&B startups to succeed. The food system thrives when there’s a diversity of good, new ideas in the ecosystem and Crowdfooding is a way to ensure that diversity will flourish.”

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Crowdfooding does it differently

Crowdfooding wants to make successful crowdfunding more streamlined, accessible and attractive for the bright minds behind food and beverage innovation. Crowdfooding offers a one-stop shop for food entrepreneurs to raise funds throughout the development of their ventures. As both a reward and equity-based crowdfunding platform, we aim to make it easy for companies to tap into a targeted network of supporters and investors specifically interested in advancing  food-related businesses, not just at the early stages. 

A flexible and focused platform, Crowdfooding is well aware that there are strong incentives in the UK for individual investors to invest in start-ups, but we have realised that food entrepreneurs need a lot more than just capital to grow their business. While money is great, knowledge is powerful. That’s why we make sure companies understand the dynamics of crowdfunding and come fully prepared before engaging. We support our companies throughout the development of their campaign and help them deploy plans to make crowdfunding successful by offering a bespoke service to prepare, build and roll-out their campaign. On top of this, before kicking off a campaign we require companies to run a “pre-campaign” whereby they gather interest from prospective backers to validate whether crowdfunding is a suitable option for them without risking the launch of an unprepared campaign. Like the investors attracted to our platform, we want to work with young companies to get them support, financial and know-how, to fully take advantage of crowdfunding.

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But we don’t stop there. For each equity crowdfunding opportunity, Crowdfooding is enlisting an external Investment Committee specialised in venture capital financing, business analysis, technology, consumer packaged goods and nutrition. Through this, Crowdfooding aims to bridge the knowledge gap surrounding the food and drink investment process for both financiers and entrepreneurs.

We believe food is inherently community-based, gathering people around the table to enjoy the success of a bountiful harvest and well-prepared meal. Crowdfooding wants to take that community aspect from the table to the investment realm and open up a space that will help young F&B innovators thrive. This is our community, join us now on crowdfooding.co.uk!

Chocothon: from bean to bar, creating a platform for sustainable chocolate supply

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There is an almost unparalleled satisfaction to popping a square of chocolate in your mouth and letting it dissolve slowly on the tongue. Or licking up the last of a chocolatey summer ice cream. Or savouring a dense, rich, and warm cup of hot chocolate in the winter months. But it could be that we are taking this magical elixir known as chocolate for granted. Hidden from the supermarket shelves where we purchase our everyday chocolate bars, there’s a problem plaguing the chocolate industry that could potentially lead to a shortage in cocoa, the principal ingredient in chocolate making.

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According to a 2015 report by the Cocoa Barometer, a group keeping an eye on sustainability trends in the chocolate industry, the world is running out of cocoa farmers as the current generation is reaching their life expectancy and the next generation is not stepping up to take over a trade that is keeping farmers in poverty. In West Africa, where over  . These problems seemingly need to be addressed at every level of the chocolate value chain, from farmer to manufacturer to distributor and consumer, which means giving voice to the cocoa farmers of the world and working towards a sustainable supply chain is a priority in ensuring the future of chocolate.

 

That’s where Chocothon comes in. An initiative to creating a shared value platform for sustainable Ghanaian cocoa supply chains initiated by Google Food Team and the International Trade Centre (ITC) with knowledge support from Business School Lausanne (BSL) and the Future Food Institute (FFI). Chocothon is comprised of a series of events that will take place over nine months on site in Ghana and through global collaboration. Food and Tech Connect and Food Inspiration Magazine, leading communications the food and tech worlds, are on-board as media partners and corporate representation from Nestle and Barry Callebaut bring industry expertise to the event.

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The decision to target Ghana stems from the fact that Ghana produces over 20% of the world’s cocoa, an estimated 897,000 in the year 2013/2014.  . Ghana has been deemed to have some of the best cocoa quality-wise at a global scale, yet in 2015 the average Ghanaian cocoa farmer earns around just $.84 per day. Cocoa farmers on are at the start of a long line of stakeholders in the chocolate supply chain and the West African farmer is likely to receive as little as just 3.5% to 6.4% of the final value of a chocolate bar, in contrast to a manufacturer share’s share around 70%.

Chocothon will launch its first event from January 16h to 20th and will bring together farmers, international cocoa sources, partner organisations and outside participants in an effort to empower and connect cocoa farmers, assure sustainable supply, and create new opportunities for them and other value chain stakeholders in cocoa production while reducing supply disruption risks. The first mission consists of a hackathon focused on creating innovative tech solutions for a sustainable, international cocoa supply chain; and running in parallel a training done by local beneficiaries to local farmers and companies on sustainable practices applied to the cocoa sector.

Because “true impact” is only achieved through consensus, compromise and cooperation, Chocothon will use measurable goals to Share Knowledge, Empower Producers and Connect Stakeholders. Share Knowledge works to organise crowdsourcing experiences, share technical expertise and build a community around cocoa-themed issues through a series of conferences, workshops and meetings to allow the exchange of ideas. Empower Producers means giving voice to cocoa farmers, building trust along the cocoa supply chain by helping highlight cocoa farmers suitable for sustainable cocoa production, and helping farmers to tackle the problems they face. Connect Stakeholders brings actors together to develop public online and offline tools that can engage and interest Ghanaian young people with technology expertise to develop business-ready tech prototypes and launch start-up.

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At Crowdfooding we are proud to be the supporting platform for Chocothon. It’s a one of a kind project that brings together a unique of knowledge partners from inside and outside the cocoa industry to create concrete impact for an uncertain industry. We are excited to play a role in the project’s development and believe that with Chocothon we can help create breakthrough solutions for a sustainable cocoa future and farmer empowerment through the creation. Both individuals and organisations can help contribute to the Chocothon campaign. Individuals can lend their support through donations or whereas businesses and organisations have the opportunity to contribute either with in-kind or corporate sponsorship.

Says Crowdfooding founder and CEO Alessio D’Antino, “Chocolate is at the edge of extinction and we’re very thrilled to support Chocothon in the endeavour of helping cocoa farmers to leverage technology to better manage their harvesting and improve their quality of work. In line with the open spirit of Chocothon, I strongly believe this project can harness the power of the crowd to empower any individual to do their share to keep enjoying our beloved chocolate.” When such a sweet treat is at the peril of extinction, it’s a clear sign that our current food system is in need of a haul over. Chocothon provides an opportunity to put together a one of a kind platform that will revolutionise the cocoa supply chain, making sure that the global demand is met by a supply chain that is resilient and advantageous for all shareholders, from bean to bar.

Chocothon @ Google London HQ – Oct 19, 2016

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Hi Chocolate-lovers,

It was an absolute dream come true to hold Chocothon‘s kickoff event last night at the Google London headquarters. Thomas Camenzind, Regional Food Program Manager of Google Food Lab, walked us through the overarching purpose and need behind Chocothon. We were also joined by Sandra Cabrera, Associate Market Analyst at International Trade Center (ITC), explaining the farmer-oriented initiatives underway to solve the supply-side problems within the cocoa farming industry. Found of Future Food Institute (FFI), Sara Roversi, gave more context in terms of the hackathon methodology to problem solving Chocothon is tapping into. Rounding out the presentation, Crowdfooding Founder, Alessio D’Antino explained of the crowdfunding model behind the project.

My favourite message of the evening was Thomas’ illustration of the complimentary effort put forth by the team, bringing together all players within the industry from large corporates to public organizations to farmers, unifying for one purpose. It is only fitting that we utilize the crowdfunding method mirroring the collaborative and open sourced spirit within this cause.20161019_185256We were also lucky enough to sample the delectable treats from Dark Sugars. The owner, Fatou Mendy, graced us with a stirring speech on the West African cocoa farmers’ perspective. Bottom line: “Cocoa is disappearing. Why? Because farmers are unhappy. Make them happy.”

Here is the on-site video. Check it out!

Chocothon’s campaign is currently in the pre-campaign stage. Make sure you drop your email on the pledge button to stay informed on when we officially launch! Please share and spread the word to save the future of chocolate!

If you are interested to know more about Chocothon event, please click here.

Wriggle Your Way to Crowdfunding Success

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Wriggle is a cool food-tech enterprise with a smart app that matches users with last-minute deals at independent food and drink establishments. It works exclusively with independent restaurants in Brighton, Bristol and London to introduce new customers who otherwise may have gone to a chain eatery or dined at home.

Disclaimer: Please note that the opinions expressed have not been approved as a financial promotion and may not be relied upon. Investors should conduct their own research and due diligence.

 

Wriggle is a cool food-tech enterprise with a smart app that matches users with last-minute deals at independent food and drink establishments. It works exclusively with independent restaurants in Brighton, Bristol and London to introduce new customers who otherwise may have gone to a chain eatery or dined at home.

Rob Hall is the founder of Wriggle, and originally envisioned the business as a tech-enabled solution to commercial food waste; a tool allowing food and drink retailers to drop their prices in real-time, relative to surplus stock. But Rob quickly realised that surplus food wasn’t the only thing going to waste. Every empty table, anticipated lull or cancellations were ‘wasted opportunities’ that failed to get customers through the door.

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Prior to founding Wriggle, Rob was a corporate lawyer at an international firm based in Brazil. After five years of practicing law Rob decided to, instead, pursue his idea for Wriggle full-time and become an entrepreneur. Rob returned to his hometown of Bristol to develop and launch the business. He was accepted into the first Webstart Bristol incubator cohort in early 2014, which helped provide the necessary mentorship and capital to take the company to the next level.

Today, Wriggle is a successful real-time marketplace for quality local businesses to sell their products and attract new customers to restaurants in Bristol, Brighton and London.

Wriggle-Team-Crowdfooding-BlogWhat do you think are the most important things an enterprise should do prior to their campaign going live, and how long should an entrepreneur be working on his or her pre-campaign efforts?

For me, the two most important things are:

Fundraise in advance. Make sure you’ve got a good percentage of your target total committed in advance to ensure that the round gathers momentum from day one. You should start working on this as early as possible, since you never know how long it can take!

Prepare all the investment materials, by which I mean the video, the campaign transcript and your business plan to share with investors. It’s such an easy win to make sure the video is attractive and conveys your idea well, and likewise it’s worth putting the time into ensuring the transcript is coherent and credible. In Wriggle’s instance, we pulled both together in a couple of weeks, but I’d advise leaving a bit more time if you can, and asking someone with experience to review the campaign and provide honest feedback.

Is it necessary to ensure that a part of the round will be committed privately first?
I think it’s really important. I’m sure there are examples of campaigns which successfully raised without any private investment – but to give yourself the best possible chance you should aim to start with at least 30%, and maybe as much as 50%, pre-committed. Investors are much more confident putting their money into a campaign that already has momentum – and offline investment is excellent social-proof that you’ve got an investible proposition.

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How did you decide upon your funding target and the amount of equity to be offered (for both campaigns in 2014 and 2016 respectively)?
The 2014 target was up to our SEIS limit, so the target there was created by external factors. This time around we looked at our projections to find an amount that would allow us to achieve key goals, whilst also creating a target that was achievable on a crowdfunding platform (the Seedrs team were really helpful at advising on this).  I decided to slightly lower our initial goal to £350,000 so that we could hit our target quicker and then overfund up to the £450,000 mark – to reduce the risk of failing to hit a high target and walking away with nothing.

How important is it to have EIS/SEIS Advance Assurance?
EIS/SEIS is undoubtedly a huge incentive for investors – although I’m not sure if you need Advance Assurance to list as an EIS/SEIS campaign on a crowdfunding platform (you might be able to raise on the basis that you will get approval afterwards). I guess you’ll need to ask your crowdfunding platform!

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Usually after about the first 30% of funds have been secured, there is that ubiquitous ‘campaign lull’. How did you go about maintaining momentum during the campaign?
We had over 50% pre-committed, so I was able to chase our Angel investors to add their investment and keep the campaign moving whenever it went quiet. Once all the Angel investment was added, it was a case of being very disciplined in following-up with any investors who requested our business plan over Seedrs. Sometimes they needed three or four emails and a number of responses to questions before they invest, so don’t be afraid to keep emailing.

How important is a well-shot company video and press imagery for the overall success of a campaign? Any tips or advice for producing good visual media?
Really important! Our video the second time round was 10X better than our first video – and I think it made a big difference, since the campaign was far more effective (we hit our target in 20 days, rather than 50 days).  For the video – find a good freelance video editor (you might have to spend around £500, but it’ll be worth it), and make sure you have a clear idea of the structure of the whole piece.

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How long did each of Wriggle’s campaigns run for? How much of that time did you spend working on/following up on your campaign day-to-day? Did this prevent you from doing other business activities?
Raising private investment was the biggest piece, and kept me busy on-and-off for six months before we started planning the campaign. The actual process of the campaign from preparing the video/script, going live, through to completion and the investment hitting the bank was around three months. The whole thing has certainly taken up a large portion of my time, but managing investment invariably does however you raise it. I’m certainly pleased to have it all finalised now and really focus on the business!

 What do you think are the biggest benefits of running an equity crowdfunding campaign?
There are a number of great benefits:

It’s a great opportunity to allow your customer-base to invest and become brand-evangelists.

It turns the crowdfunding process into a marketing opportunity – we’ve definitely seen a strong boost in user-registrations, business enquiries and PR opportunities as a result of the process. As a consumer-facing product, it’s a great chance to spread the word at the same time as raise funds.

It’s an excellent way to leverage existing private investment to ensure you’ve got a really healthy budget to achieve success.

Why Was Oppo Such a Crowdfunding Success?

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You have all heard about healthy ice cream brand Oppo right? The most overfunded campaign on equity crowdfunding platform Seedrs, and apparently the fastest ever food or drink company to reach its crowdfunding target? Ring any bells?

Disclaimer: Please note that the opinions expressed have not been approved as a financial promotion and may not be relied upon. Investors should conduct their own research and due diligence.

 

You have all heard about healthy ice cream brand Oppo right? The most overfunded campaign on equity crowdfunding platform Seedrs, and apparently the fastest ever food or drink company to reach its crowdfunding target? Ring any bells?

The Oppo Story goes something like this…
In 2011 brothers Harry and Charlie Thuillier went to Brazil to challenge the non-official record of longest distance covered on a kite buggy. Once they ran out of food, they started feeding on super fruits they found along the way, which turned out to be equally delicious and nutritious. When they returned to London they started thinking about a way to use superfoods to make indulgent food good for you. Enjoying a challenge, the boys picked an unhealthy category to revolutionise. It was ice cream.  They started to develop the idea of a low-sugar yet indulgent dairy ice cream that wouldn’t sacrifice on taste. Charlie developed the product for over two years working off four grants, with two specialist food research centres and three different factories, before Oppo finally came into fruition in October 2014. The brothers eventually quit their corporate jobs to work on the project full time.

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Oppo Ice Cream is a great example of how to build a successful crowdfunding campaign. The company, which boasts Mark Escolme of Gü Puds as non-executive director, rejected venture capital investment and opted for the crowdfunding route instead. In both equity crowdfunding rounds they undertook (in January 2015 and February 2016 respectively) they reached and then went well beyond their funding goals.
In the first round Oppo overfunded, by obtaining £353,811 out of the £100,012 sought. In the second round they also overfunded ending up with a total of £398,390 out of the £150,001 initially asked for.

Crowdfooding was lucky enough to speak with Oppo’s PR & Communications Manager, Plum Turner, to find out the secrets to running two successful campaigns.

What were the most important things Oppo did prior to the campaigns going live and how long do you think an entrepreneur should be working on his or her pre-campaign efforts?
Everything you do should be geared towards creating momentum. And the best way to get momentum is to have a good pre-marketing plan:

  1. Build a database of existing investors, interested individuals and potential influencers (people you may only tenuously know or not know at all, but whom you believe would be a valuable investor). How? Just email your contacts and get them to sign up to a list to pre-register their interest in buying shares in your company.
  2. Use popups on your website and use social media to build the list and create buzz. Then start providing recipients with information so they’re raring to go. Together with your friends, family and other close contacts, investments from this source should represent at least 30 per cent of your target.
  3. ‘Soft launch’ your campaign so that only those with the link can view it. Invite your pre-registered prospective shareholders to invest.
  4. Once you reach 30 per cent of target, release it to the public. You can have the best business plan ever, but until you reach around 30 per cent of your target, most won’t invest in you because it will look like you don’t have support from your followers.
  5. Communicate with your potential and confirmed investors, and provide business announcements during the campaign. If people can see evidence of momentum (such as new sales or product innovations), it will create more buzz.
  6. Use any hook you can to create PR during this period to attract more attention – crowdfunding is popular and simply announcing that you’re crowdfunding is not enough.

Is it necessary to ensure that part of the round will be committed privately first?
Crowdfunding is all about flock mentality. The more investors you have, the more investors you will attract. It’s like rolling a snowball down a hill. The hardest and most important part is to create a core of investors who have already bought into you. You can then pick up some momentum from the first investments and build your campaign.

How did Oppo decide on its funding target and the amount of equity to be offered in each campaign?
We set our funding target based on the amount we needed to grow the business, and set the amount of equity offered based on our growth trajectory and valuations of similar food and drink businesses, all in consultation with our investors. We found that setting the amount of equity offered is as much about social responsibility as ensuring success. It isn’t fair to over inflate the value of your company, it will annoy investors and erode any sense of belief they have in you. As was the case with our funding round, larger investors will usually do some form of due diligence too so it’s important not to over-value the business.

But crowdfunding is so accessible now that anyone can make an investment. For smaller or less experienced investors especially, we found it important to avoid over promising – there’s a responsibility to ensure that they realise the value can go down as well as up.

How important is it to have EIS/SEIS Advance Assurance?
These are clearly attractive for the larger investors you are targeting so we would definitely recommend ensuring you are eligible for EIS or SEIS. However, if you are targeting smaller investors and consumers of your product, it’s less important. Just to be clear, nobody will invest in your business if they don’t think you have a fantastic product that people want and need, at a price they are willing to pay. Your pitch needs to explain simply what it is that you do and how that benefits other people. Crowdfunding investors buy into a product or service they would want to purchase themselves. If they don’t understand your business, or if it’s very niche, they are unlikely to invest – whether you have EIS/SEIS advance assurance or not.

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Was it anticipated that Oppo would triple its funding goal and close each round so quickly? What do you think made the campaigns so popular?
We’d been preparing for months and we were confident, but we were also feeling very nervous as we pushed the live button on our most recent campaign. This was the second time we had crowdfunded. In January 2015 we completed our first investment round through Seedrs. We’d never done anything like it before, and with just a few months’ worth of sales there was no way of telling how it would go. But the support was fantastic, and we became the fastest ever food and drink company to reach target through crowdfunding, doing so in a matter of minutes.

When it came to our second investment round, again through Seedrs, we’d achieved a lot in the intervening 13 months and had exceeded what we’d planned to accomplish: increasing distribution by 10 times, hitting all revenue targets and being awarded Guardian’s Start-up of the Year. But this doesn’t change the fact that crowdfunding is a very public process so we wanted to get it right.

Very successful companies in the food and drink space were and are struggling to reach their required investment, so we worked hard to build momentum before going live. We were thrilled to complete another successful raise, hitting our target of £150,000 within four hours and overfunded to £350,000 within five days.

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How important is a well-shot company video and press imagery for the overall success of a campaign? Can you provide any words of wisdom for producing good visual media?
It’s crucial! We invested a lot of time and effort in the video – it is the best and most personal way of getting your key messages across to your potential investors. We worked with the incredibly talented Spirit Digital and cannot stress the importance of having a polished video, which communicates why an investor should invest in you and your team.

It’s essential that your personality, passion and credentials come across. It’s also important to be unique. Your story is one vehicle that allows you to do this and positions you as ready to build a fantastic business. Ultimately, give your investors a story they want to be a part of.

What did you think were the biggest benefits of running an equity crowdfunding campaign?
Part of the reason we decided against VC investment at this stage was down to the marketing impact of crowdfunding.

We now have 758 individual investors who believe in our mission and have a direct interest in helping us spread the word and achieve our goals.

It’s an amazing opportunity to enable dozens of fans to own a stake in your business and they will therefore want to make it a success. So during the campaign and after (a regular investor newsletter is perfect), make sure you use your new contacts to help you – whether that’s helping to market your brand, provide advice, or even offer feedback on new ideas and products.

 

 

Your First Crowdfunding Campaign: The DO’s and DON’TS

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We’ve all heard of crowdfunding. From movies and music clips to hybrid air vehicles and CRM systems, just about everything is being crowdfunded these days.

But what can crowdfunding do for you, a food and/or beverage entrepreneur?

Crowdfooding is more than just about raising capital. It’s a social and funding community that allows its members to further propel the food movement forward by backing projects, celebrating their stories, and connecting to other food and beverage innovators.

 

DO: Create an authentic connection with your community.

Crowdfunding is a great way to build a community and increase brand awareness. It is an opportunity to have your story heard by many more individuals and potentially meet a proportion of your funding needs. Make your unique story heard among your community and establish an easy mode of contact (i.e. newsletter email or social media) from the outset.

DON’T: Wait to connect with the community!

One of the most common mistakes that people make when commencing a crowdfunding campaign, is forgetting how much time needs to be invested in a ‘pre-campaign’ prior to actually going live. A pre-campaign should be a minimum of a number of weeks (ideally a month or more) where you celebrate and share your vision and ask your community to participate in your crowdfunding journey with you.
This can be achieved by: holding events, social media outreach and sending out a newsletter that informs your community that you will be launching a crowdfunding campaign. By the time your campaign is actually live you should have created enough momentum around the launch that people begin to pledge from day one.

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DO: Secure investors who will donate on launch day!

Have at least ten people lined up who will donate on day one.  This can be as simple as asking a few friends and family to donate, and following up with them the day of the launch. Not only will this jump-start your funding, it may make other investors more comfortable pledging.

DON’T: Assume it’s all about the money!

While one of the reasons for running a crowdfunding campaign is to secure capital from the crowd, it is NOT the only one. Crowdfunding creates community. You are asking people to join your efforts and help support your mission. Just one person or enterprise can’t shift the food system; it takes a community to make a difference.

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DO: Make the campaign look good!

Every image counts. Make your campaign look good so that potential investors can see what you have to offer. Focus on creating a well-shot and scripted campaign video that explains who you are and what you are planning to achieve. Be clear about what you will need the money for, how your product or service will benefit the crowd or serve the market, and finally explain your future plans.

DON’T: Forget to keep your story engaging and concise.

Think of your story as a conversation among friends, not an hour-long lecture. It should explain how the idea came about, the company’s purpose, the team behind it, and what you are hoping to achieve with the community’s help, through Crowdfooding.

 

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DO: Select your channels of communication wisely.

Whilst some enterprises work best with a multi-channel strategy (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, WordPress) others are stronger at just one or two. Focus your efforts on where your audience hang out and are most responsive. In this way you will generate more direct engagement instead of trying to spread yourself thin across all platforms.

DON’T: Rely on the press coming to you!

Your project will NOT automatically get noticed, and will not succeed without 100% commitment on the entrepreneurs’ part. Media outlets, journalists and bloggers play a pivotal role in the crowdfunding ecosystem and it is important to understand that simply running a crowdfunding campaign is no longer newsworthy.

DO: Network like a pro!

Go to networking events or investor meet ups and meet a few new people every day prior to and/or during your campaign. Talk to them about the project, get their feedback, and enlist their support.

DON’T: Give up.

If you see that your campaign is not performing well, don’t throw in the towel. This is an opportunity to push even harder across all your communication channels be it social media or your personal and community networks.

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DO: Have a business plan, financials and FAQs ready.

Investors ask for a business plan and financials. Make sure you have solid financial documents and create an FAQ fact sheet that responds to potential financial questions. The same questions will continue to crop up over and over again, be that on your campaign page or at investor meet ups.  Have answers ready to send, as you’ll have a lot going on during your campaign.

DON’T: Neglect your campaign after you have hit your funding goal!

If you hit your funding target before your campaign ends, remember that you can overfund. Continue spreading the word about your campaign and enlisting support from the crowd. After the campaign has come to an end remember to thank all your investors for their support.

Crowdfunding can be an extremely rewarding experience, but it’s important to remember that it requires detailed planning and hard work!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: Investing in start-ups and early stage businesses involves risks including illiquidity (the inability to sell assets quickly or without substantial loss in value), lack of dividends, loss of investment and dilution, and it should be done only as part of a diversified portfolio. Your capital is at risk if you invest.

 

Interview with Paddy Willis: Director of Grocery Accelerator

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Known as being the “most relaxed, understated and eloquent tour de force a small business could hope for,” Paddy Willis is a respected mentor and advisor for a range of food and tech start-ups, as well as an investor, director of Grocery Accelerator and CEO of Bathtub 2 Boardroom.

He co-founded and exited a fast-growth organic baby food business: Plum Baby (now Plum Organics) the world’s first premium baby food in the ambient sector, which was sold to Darwin Private Equity within year five on sales nudging £14 million at retail.

As one of the UK’s fastest-growing new food businesses, the company was listed in over 2,500 supermarket stores within twelve months of launch, achieved 5% market share within two years and was a finalist for the New Product Launch category in the Marketing Society’s annual awards, just losing out to Magners Cider.

Paddy is passionate about ideas and helping to make them work as successful businesses. He currently works on making the charity Bathtub 2 Boardroom the most inspirational place to launch a business in London by providing early stage entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds with incubator-style co-working spaces, professional advise and mentors. He also helps ambitious entrepreneurs seeking to grow food and drink brands via Grocery Accelerator Ltd.

He co-founded Grocery Accelerator with experienced hospitality professionals, Simon Lacey and Rob Ward. The six-month programme is designed to support promising young brands with high-growth potential by providing them with equity funding, networking opportunities and mentorship from an experienced FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) advisor.

Paddy is also a registered and approved Growth Coach under the Growth Accelerator and Business Growth scheme.

Crowdfooding was lucky enough to interview Paddy to find out about his career journey to date and discover how he finds the time to manage all his various work commitments.

Bullers Winery Victoria

How did you develop your passion for food and wine? Was it a big part of your childhood upbringing?
I think it probably stems from family holidays in France. After leaving school I travelled to Bordeaux to pick grapes and then went to Australia where I spent three months working at a winery in Victoria (I was “adopted” by the family of Bullers Winery in Rutherglen and I worked at Seppelts in town). When I decided to quit university in London after just one year I decided I wanted a career in the wine trade, so I went back to Bordeaux and stayed three years at Chateau Senejac in the Haut-Medoc. I absolutely loved it and had some great experiences.

How did you fall into working for the telecom business Equant (now Orange Business Services) and what was the greatest thing you learned from your time there?
I’d had a few years trying to make some money from various business ideas so when I started a family I needed a more secure income. One of my friends had just started in the Telecoms sector and was able to wangle an interview for a sales role. I ended-up spending a dozen years in the corporate world, which was never my scene but it helped pay the bills. I guess the main lesson I learned was to believe in myself, as I had to learn fast in some pretty stressful and high profile client relationships.

Ultimately you left a corporate career in ICT to become a self-proclaimed “start-up junkie” – why?
I never felt I belonged in the corporate world and I yearned for some of the excitement and freedom I’d experienced in small businesses, where you can make a decision and act on it the same day. My (then) wife and I were working on the idea for Plum Baby whilst I was working and I was able to secure a six month sabbatical to go full-time to support the launch in 2006. In fact, my boss was keen to invest! That was it, once I was out there was no going back.

From ICT to baby food… can you please tell us the story behind Plum Baby Ltd?
Plum Baby was the inspiration of Susie, my then wife, who was surprised at how poor the offering was for parents in the baby aisle. There was an eight-year gap between our second and third child, and she couldn’t believe there was no progress in that time, so she set about researching the market and working on some recipes. Whilst she worked on the product development I built the business plan in my spare time and we went out looking for investors. Susie’s first meeting with a retailer ended up with them saying, “Great, you can have the 350 stores where we are about to delist our own-label range.” That was fantastic, but we had no idea who was going to produce the product for us! There then followed an 18-month journey to find a suitable manufacturer with the equipment (and belief) to help us bring Plum to the market. During that time the buyer changed three times but thankfully Sainburys stood by us and we finally launched in March 2006. By the end of that year we were in all the major retailers, including Boots, and ranged in over 1,200 stores nationwide.

What were the fundamental operations and commercial elements that helped bring the business to break-even within 20 months of launching?
Our search for a manufacturer led us, eventually, to a small family business in the Loire valley of France, but their production line was old and so our cost of goods was high. We quickly grew to a level where we needed greater capacity and fortunately Heinz had just cancelled a range that was produced for them by the only dedicated (and very modern) independent manufacturer in northern France. We had a very painful transition but once the dust settled we added 10 percentage points to our gross margin, which made a step-change to our business.

We were also quite prescriptive about the ranging with retailers. When Boots said they wanted to list us but couldn’t take all six of our SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) I told them that was a huge shame but perhaps if that changed in the future we could speak again. I put the phone down and said to Susie, “what have I just done?”

The hunch that they would have to find a way round the problem to adopt our market-shifting brand paid off and the next day the buyer called back to say that the operations team had found the space to range all six recipes. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I danced around the office when I put the phone down!

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Can you tell us about Grocery Accelerator and how the idea came about?
After we sold Plum Baby to Darwin Private Equity I often had calls from people asking for advise on how to launch their food or drinks business. Like us, most people start from a point of having little or no experience of the retail trade so they tend to ask the same questions. I’d made a few small investments in start-ups, one of which was in the digital space and had won a place on a tech accelerator programme. I started to think that there must be a way to apply the same idea to FMCG businesses and when I met Rob Ward at a retail industry dinner we bonded over the idea, as he had been a finalist on the Seedcamp accelerator programme for a food-tech project. We met again for lunch and decided to approach Simon Lacey, who had been Sales Director at Plum, to join us and we then ran a pilot workshop in early 2014. The response was amazing so we set about looking for a source of funding that could back the businesses, which we would seek through a national competition. Gradually that all came together and we launched the first accelerator programme in early 2015. Form over 100 applicants five received a total of £250k and joined an intense support programme over six months.

What attributes do you look for in an entrepreneur, and what is the best advice you can give to entrepreneurs just starting out?
Clearly you have to have a great product and a scalable business model, but equally important is the person behind the idea. Tenacity is a key attribute; resilience when things don’t go to plan, and a willingness to listen are all vital. I’m always saying to founders “If it was that easy everyone would be doing it”. Starting a business in any sector is a massive risk and people who do so merit respect, but there’s a fine line between being focused and being pigheaded. The role of a mentor is to help the founder see the wood for the trees, step back and focus on the most important priorities.

As for advise, I’d say, “Never underestimate how much money you’ll need”. People tend to always under call it when raising finance as plans rarely go to plan. When we first set out to raise investment I thought we needed £400k to see the plan through to a year five exit. We did exit in year five but in the meantime we raised almost ten times that to achieve a similar end result!

What are the biggest trends you are noticing in the food and beverage realm right now? Are there any projects that you are particularly excited about?
I find it very encouraging to see how much innovation is out there to support the shift towards healthier eating. Of the 300-plus applications we had for the last accelerator programme you could probably count those that weren’t part of this trend on the fingers of one hand. Within our existing cohorts of young brands we have some very exciting products that I think are all set to make a big impact. Two have been going through major re-branding and re-formulation and will be launching soon. One is a range of easy-to use gluten free kits to make loaves that taste like regular artisan bread, the other a sophisticated adult soft drink that should become a regular choice for those seeking to cut back on their alcohol consumption without compromising on taste or sense of occasion.

You are currently CEO of Bathtub 2 Boardroom, Director of the Grocery Accelerator, NED at Capital Enterprise, Strategy Advisor at Ultra Social Ltd as well as an all-round start-up mentor and consultant. Can you give us your two cents on work-life balance? How do you successfully manage all these activities… and find time to sail?
Haha, what work-life balance?? I count myself very lucky to do what I love, supporting founders in nurturing their businesses and bringing ideas to market. The important thing is not to kid yourself that you should do everything yourself. I’m lucky to have two great co-founders at Grocery Accelerator and we share the load pretty fairly. Bathtub 2 Boardroom is a not-for-profit that supports early stage start-ups from all sectors and I’ve been fortunate to attract a great team. The trick to good management is to always recruit people who are genuinely better than you and – over time – to make your role redundant. The last few years have meant there is little time for sailing but I did buy a kayak recently and I hope to be able to snatch a few hours on the local river soon!

Crowdfunding a Food or Beverage Business?

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According to investopedia, crowdfunding is “the use of small amounts of capital from a large number of individuals to finance a new business venture.”

Crowdfunding is becoming an increasingly popular way for start-ups to raise funds. The concept involves a group of people or businesses (the crowd) providing funds that the start-up requires in exchange for some kind of reward (financial or otherwise). Investments are typically made through online platforms, which provide all the administration and coordination between the start-up and numerous financiers.

There are different types of crowdfunding platforms; each designed to serve different start-up needs. In our opinion there are mainly three paths a food and/or beverage company can follow when it comes to crowdfunding:
– Reward-based (e.g. Kickstarter, Crowdfunder.co.uk or more food-specific platforms such as Barnraisers)
– Pre-paid (e.g. Credibles)
– Equity-based (e.g. Seedrs, Crowdcube, CircleUp and Crowdfooding)

It looks like more and more food entrepreneurs have chosen to take the crowdfunding route to raise capital.
At the time of writing on the 16th of March, we noted that food was the 6th most popular category for projects being funded by Kickstarter of which 18,757 projects were launched in the category and $92,92M has been pledged to date. These statistics are updated on a daily basis.

Yancey Strickler CEO Kickstarter Crowdfunding Talk

In an interview that appeared on Eater in 2014, Yancey Strickler, CEO of Kickstarter, put restaurants (which sit within the broader food category) as one of the highest growth sectors for the platform. From the elevated peak experienced in food truck projects through to new restaurant concepts, the platform has experienced a surge in the food space.

Let’s examine the different kinds of crowdfunding models in more detail:

REWARD
Reward-based crowdfunding allows businesses or individuals to make a pitch to raise capital through online platforms, compensating backers with discounts or physical products according to the amount donated. This method helps companies both to satisfy the investor and validate the market, since the supporters will be able to test the product itself and provide feedback at the same time.

This type of crowdfunding provides a series of benefits not to be overlooked: no previous experience is needed, nor is professional financial or legal counsel. Moreover, the company is not compelled to give equities to its backers.

On the other hand, there are some obstacles and risks to consider when undertaking a reward crowdfunding campaign. First of all, this model is not advisable for businesses requiring more than approximately $100.000, considering that any amount below the goal may have to be given up, if this is not reached on time. It is also vital to have patents to prevent the hazard of having an idea stolen and marketed by others. In addition, reward-based crowdfunding works better for business-to-consumer ideas in comparison to business-to-business ventures.

Flow Hive Founders Crowdfunding on Indiegogo

A perfect example of a successful reward crowdfunding venture is Flowhive: the initial funding goal for their campaign on Indiegogo was $US70,000 to be raised in a month. They raised that amount in eight minutes.

At the end of their campaign the total was $US12.48 million. Mindboggling.

PRE-PAID
In a nutshell, this is pre-sales of products or services from small-medium enterprises that need funds and supporters to improve their infrastructure or implement special activities. The only company we’re aware of that is providing such service is Credibles, which offers crowdfunding services to small, sustainable, food-related businesses. The website offers a redemption service for prepaid crowdfunding, donation tracking and more. The website states: “The concept is simple: Customers prepay for food and receive edible credits to use like a gift card. Large prepayments can even earn edible interest. In the meantime, food businesses get the money they need to grow.”

EQUITY
Equity-based crowdfunding brings the backers one step further into the development of a project with the prospect of owning shares of the company itself. This model is extremely inclusive, as it prompts the active participation of each investor: entrepreneurs are therefore able to gain potential customers and at the same time expand their professional network. To ensure their reliability, moreover, platforms generally run a due diligence check on each investment.

As many as the benefits of equity crowdfunding are, it is important to identify the drawbacks of embarking on such a journey, both for the investors and the entrepreneurs. According to nerd wallet “platform-use fees of 7% to 12% of money raised and payment processing fees of 3% to 5% can, in fact, make equity crowdfunding somewhat expensive for entrepreneurs”. Another key factor to consider is that the investors need to be fully aware of the dynamics of buying a company’s equity: illiquidity, dilution and the risk of not having a return on investment are the first concepts the backers should be informed of.

Despite demanding some level of caution, at the end of the day equity means come along for the ride and invest in a business to help it grow, but also grow with it. Equity crowdfunding has the potential to increase entrepreneurship by expanding the pool of investors from whom funds can be raised. Therefore, food and beverage start-ups could consider this model if funding is the only factor that is stopping an entrepreneur from turning his or her dream into a reality.

Camden Town Brewery Beers: Crowdfunding on Crowdcube

There are numerous examples of successful start-ups that have gone down this route. One of them is Camden Town Brewery, one of London’s biggest breweries.

Camden Town Brewery raised £2.75m from 2,173 Crowdcube users in April 2015. They’ve enjoyed a steady growth to a point where they wanted to build a brand new custom-made brewery to help them keep up with demand and bring the taste of their beers to an international audience. It became the second exit on Crowdcube when it was sold to beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev last December.

Embarking on a round of crowdfunding isn’t always easy. It usually requires a significant amount of work to prepare the campaign and even once that is underway the company needs to keep their backers and investors engaged. As hundreds of failed Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns have discovered, creating a nice pitch video is incredibly important, but it does not guarantee the money will roll in. Having a compelling story and a detailed project plan is just the starting point when launching a crowdfunding campaign. Continually building and connecting with the community is more important, and in our opinion it is necessary to work on this step at least three months prior to officially launching the campaign. Constant engagement with the project’s biggest supporters proves the commitment and reliability of the business, and this in turn amplifies its reach throughout the campaign.

To sum it up, crowdfunding can be an extremely rewarding experience, particularly as traditional financing methods mostly require guarantees, years of proven experience and mandatory credit checks, besides compelling entrepreneurs to refund the loaned capital with interest. Yet, the straightforwardness of the crowdfunding model cannot be mistaken for a shortcut to success just because the audience is much wider than any you would normally be able to engage with. The crowd needs to be entertained, convinced, and encouraged to believe in you and your idea; the key is detailed planning and hard work.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: Investing in start-ups and early stage businesses involves risks including illiquidity (the inability to sell assets quickly or without substantial loss in value), lack of dividends, loss of investment and dilution, and it should be done only as part of a diversified portfolio. Your capital is at risk if you invest.

Investor Interview with David Brooks

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With over 25 years of experience working in the food and beverage sector, David Brooks knows the industry inside out and is recognised for his passion and enthusiasm for helping businesses grow and develop.

As a NED and Advisor to a number of enterprises in the food, sports, leisure and technology sectors, his diverse portfolio has made him an agile and well-informed investor. Dave is currently a partner of Granary Investments, a small group of senior food/drink and commercial managers who have come together to create a fund to help small/medium food and drink businesses get to their next stage through investment and high quality management input. Granary’s aim is to invest in, and work with, food/drink entrepreneurs who have begun the journey and have early stage businesses with good business plans, growth strategies, ideas and capabilities.

Dave recently took the time to answer questions from Crowdfooding about his investing career and the challenges faced while working in the food and beverage space.

Can you tell us a little bit about your career trajectory and what attracted you to the food and beverage realm in the first place?
I am an accountant by training and – after trying a few sectors – decided manufacturing was the one for me as I loved making a tangible product. Once I had made that decision, I just fell into food as Brake Bros offered me a role back in 1988 in their Manufacturing Division. Food is such a great leveller as we all understand it and all have a valid opinion (i.e do you like it) whether you are a hygiene operative or a board director – each opinion is equal.

How has the industry changed from when you first entered it?
I suppose two of the biggest trends have been the explosion in out of home consumption (both via food service and retailer outlets), and the rise of the “virtual” business where co –packing has become a norm for new challenger brands, reducing the costs of entry enormously.

However, lets be clear – there is very little (if anything) that is “unprecedented”. That word is often just an excuse for poor foresight or management.

What food and beverage projects are you currently working on/with?
I have a diverse portfolio of roles both as a NED and Investor, including soups, sauces and condiments, animal farm supplies, bakery, and online discovery boxes (food and beer).

What are the biggest challenges with investing in food and/or beverage enterprises?
There are dozens of everything! As soon as something gets trendy, so many brands pop up, all with good entrepreneurs, good branding and a good story so selecting the one to back is really tough. And being first to market is not a guarantee of success as you could end up making all the mistakes for the benefit of others. For success, try and find an unmined niche and then get well invested so that mistakes and blind alleys can be funded.

What do you see as the highest growth sector within the food and beverage space right now?
Simple – products with health and well being connotations which is delivered in a convenient format.

What are the biggest lessons you have learned throughout your investing career?
It is better to invest in good people and top talent than marketing campaigns.

What attributes to you look for in an entrepreneur, and what is the best advice you can give to entrepreneurs just starting out?
The most important thing is likeability and humility. If you are likeable, people will want to do business with you, and if you retain your humility, you will know when to ask for guidance and when to listen to advice.

Startup Europe Week Bologna

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Startup Europe Week (SEW) is an initiative of Startup Europe and the European Commission that helps promote regional diversity and local policy within the continent. From the 1st to the 5th of February 2016 SEW put a spotlight on everything the regions are doing (and can do) to support European entrepreneurs.

You Can Group, The Future Food Institute and ASTER joined forces to host two events on the 2nd and 4th of February in Bologna, Italy to support the local startup community and create awareness around new initiatives for entrepreneurs.

Taking place inside Biblioteca Salaborsa, Bologna’s main library situated in Piazza Maggiore, the event “Feeding the Future: entrepreneurship + digital innovation for a better food ecosystem” was the perfect opportunity for young innovators to get together to discover new local funding and networking channels.

biblioteca-salaborsa-bologna-italy-startupeuropeweek

The event commenced with a hangout session with Danielle Gould, founder of Food Tech Connect in New York who explained how technology is levelling the playing field for sustainable food across the system, and helping to create more innovative and transparent ways of doing business. In 2010, Danielle started Food+Tech Connect as a blog, sharing the stories of food and agtech startups, open-data initiatives, as well as hosting events to connect these innovators with one another. The blog has now become a huge platform for good food innovation that helps people launch, grow and transform food businesses through news, online business courses for food tech entrepreneurs (Food + Tech Ed), branding courses for restaurants and food companies, and hackathons. Food + Tech Connect also has the largest Meetup network in New York, bringing entrepreneurs, investors, chefs, farmers, food artisans, journalists, and makers of all kinds together to network and explore the future of the food industry. Danielle shared that “over 1.9 billion dollars has been invested in the food and agtech space since 2014, and 6.1 billion dollars across four IPOs, which gives investors a lot of confidence in the space.” She went on to conclude that “many multinational companies are now launching funds to incubate startups, as they need to diversify their portfolios, and invest in the future of food to keep up with consumer demand and innovation.”

startup-europe-week-danielle-gould-hangout

Following the hangout with Danielle, members from ASTER – Sara Monesi and Martina Lodi – took the stage. ASTER has been appointed to coordinate the High Technology Network and technology transfer activities of the Emilia Romagna region. They represent the regional innovation system, and play an active role in national and European initiatives. They talked to the crowd about their program KICK-ER, which helps startups launch their projects onto the market using reward based crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, Indigogo and Eppela. Martina said that the most important thing to remember was transparency and how the entrepreneur will use the money received from the campaign. “It is important to put your face on your ideas and be as transparent as possible in order to improve your reputation and gain trust,” she said.

danielle-gould-food-tech-connect-startupeuropeweek

It was then Alessio D’Antino’s turn to take the stage. The Torinese entrepreneur spoke about our new equity crowdfunding platform Crowdfooding, which connects food and beverage entrepreneurs with investors. It aims to leverage the disruptive power of the Internet to make early-stage investing for financiers, and fundraising for food and beverage startup companies, easy and immediate. Crowdfooding uses a specialised match-making system with an innovative proprietary algorithm to curate investor deal-flow and suggest investment opportunities based on personal portfolio focus and interests. Crowdfooding will officially launch in London in the first week of March.

alessio-dantino-crowdfooding-startupeuropeweek

Young Milanese entrepreneur Alessandro Corti from WoopFood then spoke about his digital platform that aims to connect “Made in Italy”. The platform links producers with consumers who want to help fund agricultural initiatives. The aim is to create a more sustainable food production line by strengthening producer-consumer relationships and creating a sense of community.

From crowdfunding we moved onto education, and heard about two programs that are helping to cultivate food entrepreneurs: the Food Innovation Program (FIP) and the MBA Food & Wine at Bologna Business School.

rebecca-chesney-iftf-startupeuropeweek-bologna

The Food Innovation Program is a secondary level Master founded by the Future Food Institute, the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Unimore) and the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California. Inspired by creative learning and design thinking methodologies, the program provides students with the opportunity to engage in an international classroom/workshop environment comprised of theory and prototyping, teamwork based innovation challenges and entrepreneurial mentoring. The second edition of FIP will commence in September 2016 in Reggio Emilia, Italy. This year the program will also incorporate a month-long tour in Silicon Valley and a month-long tour in Shanghai, China. The Officucina, a hybrid kitchen-meets-maker-space, where the program takes place will also be launched in various locations around the globe.

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To talk about the Officucina further, Antonio Gagliardi, Calabrese digital fabrication specialist was called upon. Antonio is a graduate of the Food Innovation Program and he is also a Future Food Institute Fellow. He has worked across many 3D printing projects during the program as well as with corporate partners like Barilla. He plans to work on many new initiatives when the Officucina container (previously based in Reggio Emilia) moves to Bologna’s Giardini Margherita.

“In the Officucina in Bologna I’m planning to build, with Tarek Soliman, a digital farm making an incubator for crops or any other growing systems so that we can follow growth patterns step by step. Basically it will be a 3D printer for biomaterials,” said Antonio.

Fabrizio-Trigila-Parco-Tecnologico-Padano

The final guest speaker was Fabrizio Trigila from Parco Tecnologico Padano who spoke about the innovative business platform ‘Alimenta2Talent’, which helps develop high added value projects in Agrifood and Life Sciences. Co-financed by the Municipality of Milan and developed by PTP Science Park, the first Italian Technology Park for agri-food, agri-biotech, bioeconomy and life sciences, it helps develop a new generation of startups through a six-month business and technology acceleration program. Five business ideas will be selected, but there can only be one champion. PTP Science Park will evaluate a direct equity investment in the winning enterprise. The call is open to ideas from across the world and closes on February 29th 2016.

From Sala Borsa the event moved to gourmet hamburger restaurant Well Done for Bologna’s first Food Tech Meetup. Eight food entrepreneurs were asked to give a five minute pitch on their latest projects including: Fabrizio Malipiero (docFaber), Alessandro Corti (WoopFood), Chiara Cecchini (FeatApp), Lorenzo Salmi (Badeggs), Elena Galli (MYLbread), Marco Biasin (FruttaWeb), Antonio Saracino (ucooki) and Antonio Di Giovanni (Funghi Espresso).

Pierluigi-Santoro-and-Antonio-DiGiovanni-Funghi-Espresso

Lorenzo Salmi, who has been orbiting the food innovation scene in Bologna and abroad said, “It was a good opportunity for networking and meeting. I liked the atmosphere and especially to be sincere, for a startupper, these meetings are also very important for our spirits too.” Badeggs were also asked to cater for the event. “We prepared everything ourselves,” said Lorenzo. “It is part of our mission to organise promotional events that explain that good food doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. Chef Federico Bassi and pastry chef Veronica Amoroso, members of the Badeggs team, prepared a small taste of what we usually offer at our ‘unconventional’ events,” he said.

The Badeggs platform, which connects foodies and chefs and allows both parties to upload and share recipes and culinary philosophies, will be launching in Bologna in two weeks time.  

startup-europe-week-bologna

Overall the Food Tech Meetup was a great success. Antonio Gagliardi commented, “I saw Antonio Di Giovanni from Funghi Espresso. I knew him from before and to see how his project has grown was awesome. Also we had the chance to share some thoughts and ideas. I think we will work on something together soon, thanks to the Meetup we were able to see each other again after many years.  WoopFood is an interesting project for me. It’s pushing forward the classic concept of sharing small farmers products through the community. I think that can give big value to South Italy’s farmers that are actually producing high quality food but haven’t got the right channels to sell it.”

Given the success of Bologna’s first SEW and Food Tech Meetup, and the fantastic networking opportunities both events provided, other gatherings have been planned for the near future. StartUp Europe Week ends on the 5th of February.