How we selected FoodHack's top 40 startups

How we selected FoodHack's top 40 startups

By
Sam Panzer
September 20, 2021

Selecting the top 40 startups pitching at FoodHack's Demo Day

When Arman asked me to help select the participants for FoodHack’s Demo Day, I thought it’d be an hour or two of weeding out the great from the good.

But within a few minutes of scrolling through the 177 applicants, I realized this was going to be a tricky task. Just about every applying startup had a world-changing idea with strong early validation and promising market potential. This wasn't going to be easy.

I and the other analysts slogged through one way or another, reviewing over 2,000 slides of pitch decks while trying to separate the great from the greatest (even if we couldn’t resist raising the number of participating startups from 30 to 40). 

The full list of 40 selected startups is now live here - hailing from 16 different countries (from Switzerland to South Africa, China to the US), and covering a wide array of high impact sectors across FoodTech, BioTech and AgriTech.

In this week's newsletter, I’m giving a peek into the selection process, specifically what I looked for when selecting the batch, and which companies I have marked down as my favorites.

If you’re in media & covering FoodTech - feel free to share our press release here

👀 What we looked for

It’s hard to apply the same rubric to alcohol-free beverage brands, cultured breastmilk startups, and agtech crop monitoring software. But throughout my review, there were a few things I looked for. Here are the six factors that jumped out and helped the top 40 land their spot on the (virtual) stage:

💵 Promise of return

At the end of the day, the attending audience includes 200+ investors in FoodTech. That means we were looking for companies with strong financial promise and a viable liquidity event, either IPO or acquisition.

Our 40 participating companies all have unique paths to liquidity, but we generally liked ingredient tech companies which could be acquired by a big player, as well as consumer-facing brands with a viable acquisition pathway. It’s not hard to imagine a big bev company looking to scoop up a few leading non-alcoholic booze brands like Berlin's EASIP Drinks.

💙 Blue-ocean opportunities

We’re not looking for a slightly-better or newer version of established products in crowded segments. Instead, we prioritized ideas that have few or no competitors.

Like new applications of fungi in food, where several of the selected companies are active in. Kinoko-Tech in Israel is tapping into fermentation to produce new alternative protein products, Spanish foodtech Libre Foods is creating mycelium-based ‘whole cuts’ and US based Michroma are developing fungal-based biofactories to produce next-gen natural ingredients in a sustainable, scalable, and cost-effective way.

But broadly, we feel that nearly every participating company is doing something fresh –– or in some cases, bringing a great idea to a new market (like De Novo Dairy, Africa’s first alt-dairy startup using precision fermentation).

🏃‍♀️ Women-led teams

Fundraising still favors white cis-gendered men. While the fundraising gender gap is (slowly) closing, there’s still enough bias baked into the system that we’re glad to give some extra focus and love to underrepresented teams, especially women and BIPOC. 

With that extra focus on building a representative pipeline and favoring female-founded firms, our Demo Day companies are 35% (14 / 40) female-founded. That’s solid progress, given that only 9% of 2020 tech company funding went to founding teams with a woman on board. But we know there's tons more work to do here (and we’re always excited to hear ideas how FoodHack can help nurture a diverse FoodTech ecosystem).

The female-founded companies participating in the Demo Day are from all corners of the FoodTech landscape: eggshell-based calcium ingredients from Turkish Arkim, cultured breastmilk from US-based BIOMILQ, and French algae-based dairy startup Update Foods, amongst others.

⛏️ Pickaxes to goldminers

It's damn hard to sniff out the next Oatly or Beyond Meat, with dense competitive landscapes and forgettable USPs. But what I love are the few companies powering the many companies that are building the next generation of food. 

Take for instance, Netherlands-based Cultivated’s fat alternatives for plant-based dairy, U.S. based Ark Biotech’s bioreactors for cultivated meat production, Israeli's Alfred’s Food Tech’s texturization platform for next-gen alternative proteins, and Turkish Biftek’s growth medium supplement for cellular ag. All which jumped out as companies ready to make a massive impact (and fortune!) in the next phase of alt-protein development.

🍫 Genius branding

For the most part, you should read a pitch deck for the ideas and potential behind the team, and not care much about how shiny the presentation is. But some decks are so good that I can’t wait to see the message in front of consumers. There’s no saying no to the retro fonts and lush cartoon packaging of UK-based Fellow Creatures

🌍 High-impact solutions (that can make $$$)

We’re keenly aware of the problems ingrained into our food system, and are here to help build a more sustainable future for planet and people. So naturally our selection process looked at solutions that we felt positively impacted the food system, from reducing waste to providing more nutritional food on scale.

One category I was particularly excited by is food waste reduction, and a total of 5 of the selected companies are working in this space. Including Israeli's Wasteless, an AI engine that adjusts price for older or soon-to-go products, Switzerland's Kitro, AI driven automated food waste data analysis for the hospitality sector, UK's Good Club, zero waste and sustainable groceries delivered direct to consumers and US-based DeliverZero making it easy for customers to order takeout and delivery in returnable reusable containers.

We’re confident this space will get a nice boost after last week’s $225M Series C-1 for Misfits Markets.

🏆 Sam's Top 5:

So if tomorrow I finally find that duffel bag filled with $50K on the subway, where am I putting it? Here are the startups on my favorites list (views are my own):

🍼 BIOMILQ: I’m all in for this cultured breastmilk team. Ex-General Mills dairy scientist Michelle Egger and PhD cell biologist Leila Strickland have the skills to make this work. As a guy without any kids, my only experience with breastfeeding is from the consumer’s point-of-view 27 years ago. But reading their pitch deck convinced me they’ve found a meaningful niche where cultured cell tech can make a massive impact. 

🍸 EASIP Drinks: hometown bias here, but I’ve enjoyed EASIP’s alcohol-free distillates in a few flavor-driven watering holes in Berlin. It’s damn tasty, and they’ve already delighted scores of health-conscious hipsters with serious Instagram bona fides. They’ll need some financial help to ramp up production, but I also see this as a possible high-margin product that’d be a natural acquisition for bigger bev players down the road.

🌾 FoodDock: the “Etsy for Farmers”, FoodDock is a platform for farmers to sell products online (currently US only). This is a space I really want to see succeed, but it’s hard. Any ‘platform’ play connecting consumers to producers needs to acquire and onboard users fast, which is tricky with farmers whose work is less digitally-enabled and connected. But I was impressed with FoodDock’s early traction and usability. It won’t be an easy path, but early indicators are good and investment here could make a huge impact.

🧫 Ark Biotech: this team is getting ahead of the 20x increase in bioreactor demand we’ll see by 2030, preparing bioreactor tech and knowledge to help scale-ups pivot from small- to industrial-scale production. It’s an ambitious and capital-intensive business, but could be massive if they get it right. They’re very early and quiet at this stage (hence nothing to link to) but tune into their demo to see what I’m talking about.

🤖 IRRIOT: the irrigation automation platform uses IoT devices to minimize water use and maximize crop health. They’ve got great traction and team and could make a huge impact. It’s a smart application of IoT devices, which aren’t terribly expensive and are great at these monitoring and automation tasks.

👀 What comes next?

This Oct 6th, the selected startups will present their pitches in front of an audience of over 200+ active investors, including FoodTech-focused VCs like Astanor, Delivery Hero’s DX Ventures and Stockholm's EQT Ventures (which just led the record-breaking $50m Series A into alt-dairy startup Formo).

It’s our primary focus with this event to help the 40 startups close their rounds and get back to working on their game-changing solutions. A successful Demo Day for us would be that post-event, 1) a number of pitching startups will have closed funding from the attending investors, and 2) pitching startups go on to collaborate with a fellow company in the batch.

Oh, and you know there’s gotta be some ‘winners’ at the end of all of this! We’ve got a jury of four industry experts, Christina Ulardic, Partner at Astanor Ventures, David Kappeler, Head of Investments at FIT Foundation, ​​Rajeev Chitrabhanu, Founder at Magnetic and Alexandre Bastos, Head of Front End Innovation at Givaudan who will select the top 3 pitches to win some follow-on support and goodies.

It’s going to be a great event that brings the future of food into focus. If you’re an investor in FoodTech you can apply to attend here, and for startups, our next Demo Day is planned for mid-March 2022, watch for the applications opening later this year.

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Selecting the top 40 startups pitching at FoodHack's Demo Day

When Arman asked me to help select the participants for FoodHack’s Demo Day, I thought it’d be an hour or two of weeding out the great from the good.

But within a few minutes of scrolling through the 177 applicants, I realized this was going to be a tricky task. Just about every applying startup had a world-changing idea with strong early validation and promising market potential. This wasn't going to be easy.

I and the other analysts slogged through one way or another, reviewing over 2,000 slides of pitch decks while trying to separate the great from the greatest (even if we couldn’t resist raising the number of participating startups from 30 to 40). 

The full list of 40 selected startups is now live here - hailing from 16 different countries (from Switzerland to South Africa, China to the US), and covering a wide array of high impact sectors across FoodTech, BioTech and AgriTech.

In this week's newsletter, I’m giving a peek into the selection process, specifically what I looked for when selecting the batch, and which companies I have marked down as my favorites.

If you’re in media & covering FoodTech - feel free to share our press release here

👀 What we looked for

It’s hard to apply the same rubric to alcohol-free beverage brands, cultured breastmilk startups, and agtech crop monitoring software. But throughout my review, there were a few things I looked for. Here are the six factors that jumped out and helped the top 40 land their spot on the (virtual) stage:

💵 Promise of return

At the end of the day, the attending audience includes 200+ investors in FoodTech. That means we were looking for companies with strong financial promise and a viable liquidity event, either IPO or acquisition.

Our 40 participating companies all have unique paths to liquidity, but we generally liked ingredient tech companies which could be acquired by a big player, as well as consumer-facing brands with a viable acquisition pathway. It’s not hard to imagine a big bev company looking to scoop up a few leading non-alcoholic booze brands like Berlin's EASIP Drinks.

💙 Blue-ocean opportunities

We’re not looking for a slightly-better or newer version of established products in crowded segments. Instead, we prioritized ideas that have few or no competitors.

Like new applications of fungi in food, where several of the selected companies are active in. Kinoko-Tech in Israel is tapping into fermentation to produce new alternative protein products, Spanish foodtech Libre Foods is creating mycelium-based ‘whole cuts’ and US based Michroma are developing fungal-based biofactories to produce next-gen natural ingredients in a sustainable, scalable, and cost-effective way.

But broadly, we feel that nearly every participating company is doing something fresh –– or in some cases, bringing a great idea to a new market (like De Novo Dairy, Africa’s first alt-dairy startup using precision fermentation).

🏃‍♀️ Women-led teams

Fundraising still favors white cis-gendered men. While the fundraising gender gap is (slowly) closing, there’s still enough bias baked into the system that we’re glad to give some extra focus and love to underrepresented teams, especially women and BIPOC. 

With that extra focus on building a representative pipeline and favoring female-founded firms, our Demo Day companies are 35% (14 / 40) female-founded. That’s solid progress, given that only 9% of 2020 tech company funding went to founding teams with a woman on board. But we know there's tons more work to do here (and we’re always excited to hear ideas how FoodHack can help nurture a diverse FoodTech ecosystem).

The female-founded companies participating in the Demo Day are from all corners of the FoodTech landscape: eggshell-based calcium ingredients from Turkish Arkim, cultured breastmilk from US-based BIOMILQ, and French algae-based dairy startup Update Foods, amongst others.

⛏️ Pickaxes to goldminers

It's damn hard to sniff out the next Oatly or Beyond Meat, with dense competitive landscapes and forgettable USPs. But what I love are the few companies powering the many companies that are building the next generation of food. 

Take for instance, Netherlands-based Cultivated’s fat alternatives for plant-based dairy, U.S. based Ark Biotech’s bioreactors for cultivated meat production, Israeli's Alfred’s Food Tech’s texturization platform for next-gen alternative proteins, and Turkish Biftek’s growth medium supplement for cellular ag. All which jumped out as companies ready to make a massive impact (and fortune!) in the next phase of alt-protein development.

🍫 Genius branding

For the most part, you should read a pitch deck for the ideas and potential behind the team, and not care much about how shiny the presentation is. But some decks are so good that I can’t wait to see the message in front of consumers. There’s no saying no to the retro fonts and lush cartoon packaging of UK-based Fellow Creatures

🌍 High-impact solutions (that can make $$$)

We’re keenly aware of the problems ingrained into our food system, and are here to help build a more sustainable future for planet and people. So naturally our selection process looked at solutions that we felt positively impacted the food system, from reducing waste to providing more nutritional food on scale.

One category I was particularly excited by is food waste reduction, and a total of 5 of the selected companies are working in this space. Including Israeli's Wasteless, an AI engine that adjusts price for older or soon-to-go products, Switzerland's Kitro, AI driven automated food waste data analysis for the hospitality sector, UK's Good Club, zero waste and sustainable groceries delivered direct to consumers and US-based DeliverZero making it easy for customers to order takeout and delivery in returnable reusable containers.

We’re confident this space will get a nice boost after last week’s $225M Series C-1 for Misfits Markets.

🏆 Sam's Top 5:

So if tomorrow I finally find that duffel bag filled with $50K on the subway, where am I putting it? Here are the startups on my favorites list (views are my own):

🍼 BIOMILQ: I’m all in for this cultured breastmilk team. Ex-General Mills dairy scientist Michelle Egger and PhD cell biologist Leila Strickland have the skills to make this work. As a guy without any kids, my only experience with breastfeeding is from the consumer’s point-of-view 27 years ago. But reading their pitch deck convinced me they’ve found a meaningful niche where cultured cell tech can make a massive impact. 

🍸 EASIP Drinks: hometown bias here, but I’ve enjoyed EASIP’s alcohol-free distillates in a few flavor-driven watering holes in Berlin. It’s damn tasty, and they’ve already delighted scores of health-conscious hipsters with serious Instagram bona fides. They’ll need some financial help to ramp up production, but I also see this as a possible high-margin product that’d be a natural acquisition for bigger bev players down the road.

🌾 FoodDock: the “Etsy for Farmers”, FoodDock is a platform for farmers to sell products online (currently US only). This is a space I really want to see succeed, but it’s hard. Any ‘platform’ play connecting consumers to producers needs to acquire and onboard users fast, which is tricky with farmers whose work is less digitally-enabled and connected. But I was impressed with FoodDock’s early traction and usability. It won’t be an easy path, but early indicators are good and investment here could make a huge impact.

🧫 Ark Biotech: this team is getting ahead of the 20x increase in bioreactor demand we’ll see by 2030, preparing bioreactor tech and knowledge to help scale-ups pivot from small- to industrial-scale production. It’s an ambitious and capital-intensive business, but could be massive if they get it right. They’re very early and quiet at this stage (hence nothing to link to) but tune into their demo to see what I’m talking about.

🤖 IRRIOT: the irrigation automation platform uses IoT devices to minimize water use and maximize crop health. They’ve got great traction and team and could make a huge impact. It’s a smart application of IoT devices, which aren’t terribly expensive and are great at these monitoring and automation tasks.

👀 What comes next?

This Oct 6th, the selected startups will present their pitches in front of an audience of over 200+ active investors, including FoodTech-focused VCs like Astanor, Delivery Hero’s DX Ventures and Stockholm's EQT Ventures (which just led the record-breaking $50m Series A into alt-dairy startup Formo).

It’s our primary focus with this event to help the 40 startups close their rounds and get back to working on their game-changing solutions. A successful Demo Day for us would be that post-event, 1) a number of pitching startups will have closed funding from the attending investors, and 2) pitching startups go on to collaborate with a fellow company in the batch.

Oh, and you know there’s gotta be some ‘winners’ at the end of all of this! We’ve got a jury of four industry experts, Christina Ulardic, Partner at Astanor Ventures, David Kappeler, Head of Investments at FIT Foundation, ​​Rajeev Chitrabhanu, Founder at Magnetic and Alexandre Bastos, Head of Front End Innovation at Givaudan who will select the top 3 pitches to win some follow-on support and goodies.

It’s going to be a great event that brings the future of food into focus. If you’re an investor in FoodTech you can apply to attend here, and for startups, our next Demo Day is planned for mid-March 2022, watch for the applications opening later this year.

Selecting the top 40 startups pitching at FoodHack's Demo Day

When Arman asked me to help select the participants for FoodHack’s Demo Day, I thought it’d be an hour or two of weeding out the great from the good.

But within a few minutes of scrolling through the 177 applicants, I realized this was going to be a tricky task. Just about every applying startup had a world-changing idea with strong early validation and promising market potential. This wasn't going to be easy.

I and the other analysts slogged through one way or another, reviewing over 2,000 slides of pitch decks while trying to separate the great from the greatest (even if we couldn’t resist raising the number of participating startups from 30 to 40). 

The full list of 40 selected startups is now live here - hailing from 16 different countries (from Switzerland to South Africa, China to the US), and covering a wide array of high impact sectors across FoodTech, BioTech and AgriTech.

In this week's newsletter, I’m giving a peek into the selection process, specifically what I looked for when selecting the batch, and which companies I have marked down as my favorites.

If you’re in media & covering FoodTech - feel free to share our press release here

👀 What we looked for

It’s hard to apply the same rubric to alcohol-free beverage brands, cultured breastmilk startups, and agtech crop monitoring software. But throughout my review, there were a few things I looked for. Here are the six factors that jumped out and helped the top 40 land their spot on the (virtual) stage:

💵 Promise of return

At the end of the day, the attending audience includes 200+ investors in FoodTech. That means we were looking for companies with strong financial promise and a viable liquidity event, either IPO or acquisition.

Our 40 participating companies all have unique paths to liquidity, but we generally liked ingredient tech companies which could be acquired by a big player, as well as consumer-facing brands with a viable acquisition pathway. It’s not hard to imagine a big bev company looking to scoop up a few leading non-alcoholic booze brands like Berlin's EASIP Drinks.

💙 Blue-ocean opportunities

We’re not looking for a slightly-better or newer version of established products in crowded segments. Instead, we prioritized ideas that have few or no competitors.

Like new applications of fungi in food, where several of the selected companies are active in. Kinoko-Tech in Israel is tapping into fermentation to produce new alternative protein products, Spanish foodtech Libre Foods is creating mycelium-based ‘whole cuts’ and US based Michroma are developing fungal-based biofactories to produce next-gen natural ingredients in a sustainable, scalable, and cost-effective way.

But broadly, we feel that nearly every participating company is doing something fresh –– or in some cases, bringing a great idea to a new market (like De Novo Dairy, Africa’s first alt-dairy startup using precision fermentation).

🏃‍♀️ Women-led teams

Fundraising still favors white cis-gendered men. While the fundraising gender gap is (slowly) closing, there’s still enough bias baked into the system that we’re glad to give some extra focus and love to underrepresented teams, especially women and BIPOC. 

With that extra focus on building a representative pipeline and favoring female-founded firms, our Demo Day companies are 35% (14 / 40) female-founded. That’s solid progress, given that only 9% of 2020 tech company funding went to founding teams with a woman on board. But we know there's tons more work to do here (and we’re always excited to hear ideas how FoodHack can help nurture a diverse FoodTech ecosystem).

The female-founded companies participating in the Demo Day are from all corners of the FoodTech landscape: eggshell-based calcium ingredients from Turkish Arkim, cultured breastmilk from US-based BIOMILQ, and French algae-based dairy startup Update Foods, amongst others.

⛏️ Pickaxes to goldminers

It's damn hard to sniff out the next Oatly or Beyond Meat, with dense competitive landscapes and forgettable USPs. But what I love are the few companies powering the many companies that are building the next generation of food. 

Take for instance, Netherlands-based Cultivated’s fat alternatives for plant-based dairy, U.S. based Ark Biotech’s bioreactors for cultivated meat production, Israeli's Alfred’s Food Tech’s texturization platform for next-gen alternative proteins, and Turkish Biftek’s growth medium supplement for cellular ag. All which jumped out as companies ready to make a massive impact (and fortune!) in the next phase of alt-protein development.

🍫 Genius branding

For the most part, you should read a pitch deck for the ideas and potential behind the team, and not care much about how shiny the presentation is. But some decks are so good that I can’t wait to see the message in front of consumers. There’s no saying no to the retro fonts and lush cartoon packaging of UK-based Fellow Creatures

🌍 High-impact solutions (that can make $$$)

We’re keenly aware of the problems ingrained into our food system, and are here to help build a more sustainable future for planet and people. So naturally our selection process looked at solutions that we felt positively impacted the food system, from reducing waste to providing more nutritional food on scale.

One category I was particularly excited by is food waste reduction, and a total of 5 of the selected companies are working in this space. Including Israeli's Wasteless, an AI engine that adjusts price for older or soon-to-go products, Switzerland's Kitro, AI driven automated food waste data analysis for the hospitality sector, UK's Good Club, zero waste and sustainable groceries delivered direct to consumers and US-based DeliverZero making it easy for customers to order takeout and delivery in returnable reusable containers.

We’re confident this space will get a nice boost after last week’s $225M Series C-1 for Misfits Markets.

🏆 Sam's Top 5:

So if tomorrow I finally find that duffel bag filled with $50K on the subway, where am I putting it? Here are the startups on my favorites list (views are my own):

🍼 BIOMILQ: I’m all in for this cultured breastmilk team. Ex-General Mills dairy scientist Michelle Egger and PhD cell biologist Leila Strickland have the skills to make this work. As a guy without any kids, my only experience with breastfeeding is from the consumer’s point-of-view 27 years ago. But reading their pitch deck convinced me they’ve found a meaningful niche where cultured cell tech can make a massive impact. 

🍸 EASIP Drinks: hometown bias here, but I’ve enjoyed EASIP’s alcohol-free distillates in a few flavor-driven watering holes in Berlin. It’s damn tasty, and they’ve already delighted scores of health-conscious hipsters with serious Instagram bona fides. They’ll need some financial help to ramp up production, but I also see this as a possible high-margin product that’d be a natural acquisition for bigger bev players down the road.

🌾 FoodDock: the “Etsy for Farmers”, FoodDock is a platform for farmers to sell products online (currently US only). This is a space I really want to see succeed, but it’s hard. Any ‘platform’ play connecting consumers to producers needs to acquire and onboard users fast, which is tricky with farmers whose work is less digitally-enabled and connected. But I was impressed with FoodDock’s early traction and usability. It won’t be an easy path, but early indicators are good and investment here could make a huge impact.

🧫 Ark Biotech: this team is getting ahead of the 20x increase in bioreactor demand we’ll see by 2030, preparing bioreactor tech and knowledge to help scale-ups pivot from small- to industrial-scale production. It’s an ambitious and capital-intensive business, but could be massive if they get it right. They’re very early and quiet at this stage (hence nothing to link to) but tune into their demo to see what I’m talking about.

🤖 IRRIOT: the irrigation automation platform uses IoT devices to minimize water use and maximize crop health. They’ve got great traction and team and could make a huge impact. It’s a smart application of IoT devices, which aren’t terribly expensive and are great at these monitoring and automation tasks.

👀 What comes next?

This Oct 6th, the selected startups will present their pitches in front of an audience of over 200+ active investors, including FoodTech-focused VCs like Astanor, Delivery Hero’s DX Ventures and Stockholm's EQT Ventures (which just led the record-breaking $50m Series A into alt-dairy startup Formo).

It’s our primary focus with this event to help the 40 startups close their rounds and get back to working on their game-changing solutions. A successful Demo Day for us would be that post-event, 1) a number of pitching startups will have closed funding from the attending investors, and 2) pitching startups go on to collaborate with a fellow company in the batch.

Oh, and you know there’s gotta be some ‘winners’ at the end of all of this! We’ve got a jury of four industry experts, Christina Ulardic, Partner at Astanor Ventures, David Kappeler, Head of Investments at FIT Foundation, ​​Rajeev Chitrabhanu, Founder at Magnetic and Alexandre Bastos, Head of Front End Innovation at Givaudan who will select the top 3 pitches to win some follow-on support and goodies.

It’s going to be a great event that brings the future of food into focus. If you’re an investor in FoodTech you can apply to attend here, and for startups, our next Demo Day is planned for mid-March 2022, watch for the applications opening later this year.

Selecting the top 40 startups pitching at FoodHack's Demo Day

When Arman asked me to help select the participants for FoodHack’s Demo Day, I thought it’d be an hour or two of weeding out the great from the good.

But within a few minutes of scrolling through the 177 applicants, I realized this was going to be a tricky task. Just about every applying startup had a world-changing idea with strong early validation and promising market potential. This wasn't going to be easy.

I and the other analysts slogged through one way or another, reviewing over 2,000 slides of pitch decks while trying to separate the great from the greatest (even if we couldn’t resist raising the number of participating startups from 30 to 40). 

The full list of 40 selected startups is now live here - hailing from 16 different countries (from Switzerland to South Africa, China to the US), and covering a wide array of high impact sectors across FoodTech, BioTech and AgriTech.

In this week's newsletter, I’m giving a peek into the selection process, specifically what I looked for when selecting the batch, and which companies I have marked down as my favorites.

If you’re in media & covering FoodTech - feel free to share our press release here

👀 What we looked for

It’s hard to apply the same rubric to alcohol-free beverage brands, cultured breastmilk startups, and agtech crop monitoring software. But throughout my review, there were a few things I looked for. Here are the six factors that jumped out and helped the top 40 land their spot on the (virtual) stage:

💵 Promise of return

At the end of the day, the attending audience includes 200+ investors in FoodTech. That means we were looking for companies with strong financial promise and a viable liquidity event, either IPO or acquisition.

Our 40 participating companies all have unique paths to liquidity, but we generally liked ingredient tech companies which could be acquired by a big player, as well as consumer-facing brands with a viable acquisition pathway. It’s not hard to imagine a big bev company looking to scoop up a few leading non-alcoholic booze brands like Berlin's EASIP Drinks.

💙 Blue-ocean opportunities

We’re not looking for a slightly-better or newer version of established products in crowded segments. Instead, we prioritized ideas that have few or no competitors.

Like new applications of fungi in food, where several of the selected companies are active in. Kinoko-Tech in Israel is tapping into fermentation to produce new alternative protein products, Spanish foodtech Libre Foods is creating mycelium-based ‘whole cuts’ and US based Michroma are developing fungal-based biofactories to produce next-gen natural ingredients in a sustainable, scalable, and cost-effective way.

But broadly, we feel that nearly every participating company is doing something fresh –– or in some cases, bringing a great idea to a new market (like De Novo Dairy, Africa’s first alt-dairy startup using precision fermentation).

🏃‍♀️ Women-led teams

Fundraising still favors white cis-gendered men. While the fundraising gender gap is (slowly) closing, there’s still enough bias baked into the system that we’re glad to give some extra focus and love to underrepresented teams, especially women and BIPOC. 

With that extra focus on building a representative pipeline and favoring female-founded firms, our Demo Day companies are 35% (14 / 40) female-founded. That’s solid progress, given that only 9% of 2020 tech company funding went to founding teams with a woman on board. But we know there's tons more work to do here (and we’re always excited to hear ideas how FoodHack can help nurture a diverse FoodTech ecosystem).

The female-founded companies participating in the Demo Day are from all corners of the FoodTech landscape: eggshell-based calcium ingredients from Turkish Arkim, cultured breastmilk from US-based BIOMILQ, and French algae-based dairy startup Update Foods, amongst others.

⛏️ Pickaxes to goldminers

It's damn hard to sniff out the next Oatly or Beyond Meat, with dense competitive landscapes and forgettable USPs. But what I love are the few companies powering the many companies that are building the next generation of food. 

Take for instance, Netherlands-based Cultivated’s fat alternatives for plant-based dairy, U.S. based Ark Biotech’s bioreactors for cultivated meat production, Israeli's Alfred’s Food Tech’s texturization platform for next-gen alternative proteins, and Turkish Biftek’s growth medium supplement for cellular ag. All which jumped out as companies ready to make a massive impact (and fortune!) in the next phase of alt-protein development.

🍫 Genius branding

For the most part, you should read a pitch deck for the ideas and potential behind the team, and not care much about how shiny the presentation is. But some decks are so good that I can’t wait to see the message in front of consumers. There’s no saying no to the retro fonts and lush cartoon packaging of UK-based Fellow Creatures

🌍 High-impact solutions (that can make $$$)

We’re keenly aware of the problems ingrained into our food system, and are here to help build a more sustainable future for planet and people. So naturally our selection process looked at solutions that we felt positively impacted the food system, from reducing waste to providing more nutritional food on scale.

One category I was particularly excited by is food waste reduction, and a total of 5 of the selected companies are working in this space. Including Israeli's Wasteless, an AI engine that adjusts price for older or soon-to-go products, Switzerland's Kitro, AI driven automated food waste data analysis for the hospitality sector, UK's Good Club, zero waste and sustainable groceries delivered direct to consumers and US-based DeliverZero making it easy for customers to order takeout and delivery in returnable reusable containers.

We’re confident this space will get a nice boost after last week’s $225M Series C-1 for Misfits Markets.

🏆 Sam's Top 5:

So if tomorrow I finally find that duffel bag filled with $50K on the subway, where am I putting it? Here are the startups on my favorites list (views are my own):

🍼 BIOMILQ: I’m all in for this cultured breastmilk team. Ex-General Mills dairy scientist Michelle Egger and PhD cell biologist Leila Strickland have the skills to make this work. As a guy without any kids, my only experience with breastfeeding is from the consumer’s point-of-view 27 years ago. But reading their pitch deck convinced me they’ve found a meaningful niche where cultured cell tech can make a massive impact. 

🍸 EASIP Drinks: hometown bias here, but I’ve enjoyed EASIP’s alcohol-free distillates in a few flavor-driven watering holes in Berlin. It’s damn tasty, and they’ve already delighted scores of health-conscious hipsters with serious Instagram bona fides. They’ll need some financial help to ramp up production, but I also see this as a possible high-margin product that’d be a natural acquisition for bigger bev players down the road.

🌾 FoodDock: the “Etsy for Farmers”, FoodDock is a platform for farmers to sell products online (currently US only). This is a space I really want to see succeed, but it’s hard. Any ‘platform’ play connecting consumers to producers needs to acquire and onboard users fast, which is tricky with farmers whose work is less digitally-enabled and connected. But I was impressed with FoodDock’s early traction and usability. It won’t be an easy path, but early indicators are good and investment here could make a huge impact.

🧫 Ark Biotech: this team is getting ahead of the 20x increase in bioreactor demand we’ll see by 2030, preparing bioreactor tech and knowledge to help scale-ups pivot from small- to industrial-scale production. It’s an ambitious and capital-intensive business, but could be massive if they get it right. They’re very early and quiet at this stage (hence nothing to link to) but tune into their demo to see what I’m talking about.

🤖 IRRIOT: the irrigation automation platform uses IoT devices to minimize water use and maximize crop health. They’ve got great traction and team and could make a huge impact. It’s a smart application of IoT devices, which aren’t terribly expensive and are great at these monitoring and automation tasks.

👀 What comes next?

This Oct 6th, the selected startups will present their pitches in front of an audience of over 200+ active investors, including FoodTech-focused VCs like Astanor, Delivery Hero’s DX Ventures and Stockholm's EQT Ventures (which just led the record-breaking $50m Series A into alt-dairy startup Formo).

It’s our primary focus with this event to help the 40 startups close their rounds and get back to working on their game-changing solutions. A successful Demo Day for us would be that post-event, 1) a number of pitching startups will have closed funding from the attending investors, and 2) pitching startups go on to collaborate with a fellow company in the batch.

Oh, and you know there’s gotta be some ‘winners’ at the end of all of this! We’ve got a jury of four industry experts, Christina Ulardic, Partner at Astanor Ventures, David Kappeler, Head of Investments at FIT Foundation, ​​Rajeev Chitrabhanu, Founder at Magnetic and Alexandre Bastos, Head of Front End Innovation at Givaudan who will select the top 3 pitches to win some follow-on support and goodies.

It’s going to be a great event that brings the future of food into focus. If you’re an investor in FoodTech you can apply to attend here, and for startups, our next Demo Day is planned for mid-March 2022, watch for the applications opening later this year.

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