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Why Fink Family Foundation Invested in Spoiler Alert

November 23, 2016

Last week, Spoiler Alert, a B2B tech platform that helps food businesses, farms and nonprofits better manage unsold food inventory, raised $2.5 million in seed funding in a round led by new agtech fund Acre Venture Partners. The investor line-up included , and . But one name that particularly popped out was the Fink Family Foundation.

Foundations are not a regular sighting on the investor line-up of individual deals, often preferring to issue grants,invest in projects, or perhaps invest in larger funds. But for the Fink Family, food waste is a key issue they want to support. So AgFunderNews caught up with Drew Fink to find out more.

How did you come across Spoiler Alert and were you looking to make an investment in food waste?

Our family has been focused on creating more sustainable, efficient regional and national food systems for a long time, but in only in the last two years or so has our focus really turned to food waste specifically. As one of the lead sponsors of the ReFED collaborative, we have had the great pleasure of assembling a group of like-minded organizations, including foundations, corporations, non-profits and government leaders, to focus specifically on the issue. Traditionally, our foundation focused only on grantmaking, but we feel a foundation is not living up to its impact potential if it is not leveraging all of the resources at its disposal, which is why we approached this issue as one that would benefit from both grant and investment dollars. The roadmap that ReFED has created has helped to illuminate both areas of opportunity as well specific solutions within the food waste landscape, which is what led us to support Spoiler Alert before they entered Techstars as well as their latest round.

Do you think you will do more investments in food waste?

In addition to Spoiler Alert, we have also invested in Golden, a platform that is transforming the volunteer economy. While not specifically targeted at food waste, Golden helps address one of the main limitations to effective food recovery as identified by ReFED, which is a lack of donation transportation and volunteers. 

The problem of food waste is massive, so it is likely that there are dozens of other opportunities out there with the potential to generate substantial economic, social and environmental benefits. Our ongoing involvement with the ReFED collaborative, including continuing to update the ReFED Innovator Database, will be our main pipeline for potential investments, though at this moment we do not have a specific allocation for food waste.

Why do you think Spoiler Alert is so exciting?

I think Spoiler Alert’s evolution into an ERP tool for perishables holds real promise to bring transformational changes in efficiency to some of the largest food companies in the country. Their roots as a B2B marketplace, however, provide their users additional flexibility, as they have invested in building out networks of potential for profit and non-profit customers for excess product that increase the likelihood that food finds a new home, and with the ability to monitor and report on donations, businesses can benefit regardless of whether the food is sold or donated. The size of their pilot with Sysco also shows the level of confidence that large, complex organizations have in this solution to help them optimize their businesses. Beyond the product, we have been extremely impressed by the complimentary leadership, product and technical skills that Ricky Ashenfelter, Emily Malina and Marty Sirkin bring to the table.

More broadly, we feel that recovery initiatives like Spoiler Alert will lead to increased levels of sustainability and efficiency in the overall food system. Yes, there are economic benefits to most links in the chain, but we are most excited about the potential for a more equitable and just food system in which food is more accessible and affordable for all, and that future can’t be realized with the level of waste we see today.

Have you come across any comparables to Spoiler Alert?

Fortunately, there are a large number of ambitious and talented entrepreneurs focused on the issue of food waste, which is fantastic to see. In this competitive set, we have not seen any others that we think present the same level of potential for scalable systemic change. Many companies focused on food waste are asking for behavior change, either from the consumer or their business partners, which in the long run is needed but presents major hurdles in the short term. We think Spoiler Alert’s solution can plug into existing business operations relatively seamlessly.

Are you interested in any other agtech areas?

We have been involved with a number of different enterprises across the food and agriculture value chain, from controlled environment agriculture to insect production, natural consumer brands and beyond. At the moment, we are excited about the potential for sustainable aquaculture to dramatically change the way humans consume protein, which is why we are exploring potential investments in the space.

More broadly, though, we are interested in inclusive entrepreneurship, and the potential for food and agriculture to be accessible launchpads for new wealth creation in a diverse array of communities. Through our support of CommonWealth Kitchen, a non-profit food incubator in Boston, our model for what a food or ag entrepreneur looks like has changed dramatically, and we look forward to supporting entrepreneurs that help others reimagine what their path to success could look like. As stated before, we want to support efforts that lead to a more sustainable, just food system, both here in the US and abroad, so we would expect entrepreneurs that we work with to have a similar mission focus, regardless of their specific area.

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