Food tech accelerator Food-X has announced its fourth cohort of startups. Tapping into the accelerator’s mentor network, business model development, and pitch prep, the 10 companies will spend the next several weeks ramping up for Demo Day on June 2, 2016, in New York City.
Food-X makes an initial $50,000 investment in each company in exchange for a 7 percent equity stake. Twenty thousand dollars is provided when the startup begins the program, and the remaining $30,000 is provided at the completion of the program in the form of a convertible loan note.
The Spring 2016 cohort includes a wide variety of food tech companies, covering everything from consumer packaged goods to food safety technologies.
FreshSurety has utilized IoT technology to report real-time freshness, location, and temperature of produce and fresh meat at the carton level.
“The venture world is changing dramatically,” FreshSurety CEO Tom Schultz told AgFunderNews. “Thirty years ago there weren’t accelerators; it was more of a gentleman’s business. Now it is an industry and accelerators are becoming the filter by which promising startups get early funding and are presented up the chain to seed investors and large venture firms.”
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In addition to seeing Food-X as a pivotal step to launching his startup, Schultz also sees it as an invaluable stamp of approval. It also helps overcome the isolation that some startups face.
“One of the big problems with startups is that they tend to be isolated. They don’t have people interested in them providing critique, support, and instruction. Food-X makes sure all of those things are available,” he says.
When it comes to challenges, Schultz found the bevy of mentors and opportunities overwhelming at times. “It’s hard to pick which to approach first and how to reach all of your goals,” he says.
Among the highlights of his experience, he lists the accelerator’s rigor and demanding pace, referring to Food-X’s program leaders as “task masters”—in a good way.
“What I mean by that is that every one of these startups has to do certain things to be successful, like have a prototype, a pitch deck. A lot of startups fail because they don’t do them or don’t do them right. Food-X has experienced people who make sure everyone does what needs to be done to be successful.”
He also thinks food and agtech companies are becoming more prevalent in general tech competitions due to the convergence of two big trends: the spread of technology in every aspect of the world and the massive ecosystem surrounding our food production system.
“With these two big forces, there are bound to be an upwelling of new opportunities,” he says.
Also, among Food-X’s Spring 2016 Cohort is Plasma Nutrition, a company tapping a patented atmospheric plasma-based process to increase the solubility, absorption, taste, and texture of whey protein powder.
For co-founder Chris Flynn-Rozanski, the diversity among the startups in cohort four is impressive. “Obviously, they are all food companies, but they focus on the food industry in such varying degrees including CPG, agtech, and other segments,” he tells AgFunderNews. Having the opportunity to work with those individuals who are just as passionate about the food space was a top highlight for him.
“I was surprised by how individualized the help was. When you read about other accelerator programs like Y Combinator or 500 Startups doing massive batches of 50-100 companies, it’s surprising that this is just a 10 company class,” Steve Motosko, fellow Plasma Nutrition co-founder, told AgFunderNews. “At Food-X, the brainstorming and the feedback is very focused on what your company is actually doing.”
During the program, there were, of course, a number of challenges for the companies.
“Like any startup in an accelerator, you are searching for your product market fit, which is one of the key things Food-X wants to help companies do,” says Flynn-Rozanski. “Certainly for us, and every company, there are pivot moments you have over the course of the 14-week program. Realizing you need to pivot is a nice wakeup call, but it’s a lot of work and not for the faint of heart.”
As for words of wisdom on joining Food-X, the duo warns prospective applicants that Food-X isn’t a shortcut.
“It will help you accelerate your growth in as much as you are willing to work hard for it. You drive the success of your business—they aren’t writing down a checklist of items for you to accomplish or doing a lot of hand-holding,” says Flynn-Rozanski.
Motosko underscores the importance of nailing down what you want to get out of the program before it launches. Clear goals and objectives will help a startup get the most out of the 14-weeks, he says.
“I think we see more food and agtech companies in general tech competitions because of the impact that food can have,” say Motosko. “I think it was Hippocrates who said, ‘Let food be your medicine.’ People realize the truth to this notion more and more.”
Other participants in Food-X’s Cohort 4 class include:
- Barley & Oats – A maternal-focused packaged good line & meal delivery service (pregnancy, postpartum & breastfeeding)
- Bite – Smart menus with cross category recommendation engine powered by analytics to strengthen the customer experience and increase share of wallet.
- Eattiamo – Digital network and marketplace of the best Italian food producers.
- Lotus Scoop – All-natural, artisanal ice cream from plant to pint.
- Mölli – Cooking marinades and sauces that are capturing distinct flavors of different regions of Mexico.
- ProTings – Baked, vegan, high protein chips made from highly digestible pea protein.
- Saucey Sauce – Dynamic, home-style Vietnamese sauces based on treasured family recipe.
- Wine Sherpa – Mobile platform connecting wine drinkers and their local wine stores to improve the overall experience.
Food-X was recently named to Fast Company’s list of the world’s 10 most innovative food companies for 2015 alongside alternative protein companies Hampton Creek and Exo in addition to farm data analytics company 640 Labs.
The accelerator is now accepting applications for its Fall 2016 Cohort. To apply, click here.
Which of these food tech startups is most exciting to you? What do you think of the food tech space? Let us know! Email [email protected].