Where to Start Your Foodtech Startup — Part II | by Anna Ottosson | Trellis Road | Feb, 2021 | Medium
15 febrero 2021
Great startups can come from anywhere, but the decision of where you should set up is still an important one for every early-stage founder. In this post we’ll deep-dive into some of the hubs that are especially interesting for high-impact foodtech startups to consider.
Some locations simply offer more than others for startups, in the form of investment, access to technology and research facilities, potential for like-minded colleagues with whom to share ideas and grow a concept together, and way more. Some startup ecosystems can be fragmented, competitive, and hidden to newcomers, which is detrimental for local startups and community growth, so we’re here to help counteract that.
In a previous post, Where To Start Your Foodtech Startup — Part I, we examined some of the pros and cons of Europe, the US, South East Asia and China, with some of the key takeaways illustrated in the picture below.
In this post we’ve taken a deeper look at a few regions and pulled them together as ‘hubs’ in a handy guide. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, so feel free to send us details of any others we should think about.
- Universities: while many provide entrepreneurship training, the best universities for startups run programs, venture accelerators and competitions, alongside offering access to entrepreneurial networks, legal and professional resources and funding sources. Plus, they’re hotbeds of great talent, if you’re looking for colleagues or a particular skill set to complete your team.
- Local resources: are there any innovation hubs or research facilities in the area, where you could meet potential colleagues and work collaboratively, or access test kitchens, production facilities and other research equipment?
- Local funding and mentoring: what types of funding programs are available? Incubators and accelerators provide a mix of business focus and investment, with various strings attached depending on the type. Venture capital investors provide funding, but may not provide any mentorship or training.
- Successful startups: some regions seem to spawn and foster excellence; are there any startups in your potential location which have been successful in your area of focus? Could you draw on their expertise or the resources they accessed?
There are many compelling reasons why you could choose California, not least because the weather is pretty favourable. We know that California in general, and San Francisco and The Bay Area in particular, are home to many of the most successful and well-known tech companies, and it’s also where some of the biggest foodtech companies started out; Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Instacart.
Eat Just is one of the most notable startups to come out of the region in recent years, having made giant leaps in plant-based egg and cultivated meat development. Plus, among many others there are last mile delivery tech firm DoorDash, which reached a market value of $60B in its public trading debut in December 2020, and one hour grocery delivery service Instacart, whose latest funding round took it to a valuation $17.7B.
There are three world-class universities for startups and talent located here: Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley and University of California, Davis, all with a plethora of research facilities, and the latter is the world’s second best university for agriculture. However, California can be a pretty expensive place to be, and higher costs can sometimes complicate recruitment and retention of talent.
There are a few accelerator programs and startup facilities located in the region, including:
- Cell Valley Labs — a flexible co-working and lab space for food tech startups, which has facilities for cell culture, microbiology, fermentation and molecular research alongside a general lab and office set up.
- Food System 6 — a non-profit based in the San Francisco Bay Area whose mission is to support impact-driven entrepreneurs as they transform how we grow, produce, and distribute food. All participating for-profit companies contribute 1.5% equity to FS6 upon acceptance into the program. Typical investment size: $25k.
- IndieBio — one of the ‘big guns’ in the accelerator world, each of the teams in the intensive four month program receives seed funding, lab and co-working space and dedicated mentorship, as well as becoming a part of IndieBio’s large alumni network. It has accelerated 136 companies to date, with 42% female founders which is higher than in most programs. Typical investment size: $250k.
- Mista — rather than an incubator or accelerator, this is a new innovation platform for the food industry. It’s an optimiser, enabling start-ups and established corporations to optimise ideas, products, people and investments, and providing customised solutions for business needs. Applications are always open. Typical grant size: N/A.
In terms of investment and venture capital, California has many potential options interested in high-impact foodtech startups:
- Agfunder — based in Silicon Valley, Agfunder is a venture capital firm that has access to a global ecosystem of over 85,000 subscribers through their news outlet Agfunder News, investing in exceptional and bold founders who are committed to building the next generation of agrifood technology companies that will transform our food system.
- Babel Ventures — invests in high-impact founders with the aim of solving some of humanity’s biggest challenges, and in companies which have the power to positively change consumer behaviors or current systems through leveraging the power of biotech and deep tech.
- Baruch Future Investments — invests in companies working towards clean and efficient energy systems, food security and sustainable agriculture, water treatment and conservation, air quality and industrial gases, and healthcare diagnostics and therapeutics.
- Better Ventures — provides funding and support to mission-driven founders in the software, data science and life science sectors, leveraging breakthrough innovations in science and technology to build a more sustainable and equitable economy in which both people and planet thrive.
- Cavallo Ventures — the venture capital arm of Wilbur-Ellis, a leading international marketer and distributor of agricultural products, animal feed and specialty chemicals and ingredients.
- Congruent Ventures — early stage venture fund focused on sustainable technologies within mobility and urbanization, energy transition, food and agriculture and industrial and supply chain sectors.
- Fifty Years — an entrepreneur-run early stage venture capital firm seeking to invest in startups in the digital health, SaaS, and life sciences sectors.
- Finistere Ventures — a venture capital firm which partners with the best and boldest companies helping to feed the world more sustainably, investing in the information technology, agriculture, clean tech, life sciences and agtech sectors.
- Food for Thought Worldwide (FTW) Ventures — nurturing the food system for future generations, this fund invests in early stage breakthrough hardware, software and biotech solutions.
- GreatPoint Ventures — preferring to invest in companies operating in enterprise technology, marketplaces, healthcare, wellness, and biotech sectors, GreatPoint Ventures has founded 20 companies and created over $300B of enterprise value.
- Pontifax Agtech — a pioneering growth capital investor in food and agriculture technology, investing globally in growing businesses which improve agricultural productivity, nutrition, health, sustainability and supply chain efficiency.
- PowerPlant Ventures — makes early and growth stage investments in disruptive, plant-centric brands in the consumer food, beverage and food service sectors.
- Prelude Ventures — focused on addressing climate change through investing in the low-carbon economy within the advanced energy, food and agriculture and transportation and logistics sectors.
- Rocana Ventures — targeting consumer packaged goods disruption, and believes that ‘better-for-you’ is a global movement, so invests in food and beverage and retail concepts.
We’ve grouped a few major cities together here because the East coast of the USA is such a hotbed of innovation, world-class education and technology, plus pockets of capital and investment opportunities. This hub consists of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington DC, all of which would be pretty decent locations to site a startup, or you could set up a commutable distance from any of them for (slightly) cheaper real estate options.
In terms of universities, these cities are home to renowned institutions, all of which have spawned some of the world’s best talent: Massachusetts Institute for Technology, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, Princeton University, Yale University, Columbia University in the City of New York and Boston University. However, the East coast universities are not quite as outstanding for agtech as some European institutions, which may be an important consideration.
Alongside these, there are various innovation incubators and accelerators throughout the year across the locations, as follows:
- Chobani Food Tech Residency — New York: this incubator is focused on helping packaged food and beverage brands to scale their businesses, and includes tailored programming based on the needs of the startups, held at Chobani’s premises. Applications are currently closed, and the program only caters to applicants from within the US. Typical investment size: $25k.
- Food-X Accelerator — New York: claims to be the number 1 food innovation accelerator in the world, with access to startup capital as well as the potential for follow-on funding, alongside 160+ industry mentors. The applications for the next round have closed, and the program is planned to be virtual until it becomes safe to travel to NYC. FoodX has already helped grow over 100 startups and has funded over 30 seed rounds, and previous cohorts include artisan plant-based meats company The Abbot’s Butcher, plant-based jerky company Kojo and algae-based food company nonfood. Typical investment size: $75k.
- PlantStation — Philadelphia: its facility has two fully equipped kitchens, one for the creation of gluten-free products and one for plant-based food products, for use by food entrepreneurs looking to create, test, and produce food innovation. Entrepreneurs pay an annual fee to use the space, so you can apply at any time.Typical grant size: N/A.
- Union Kitchen — Washington DC: with more of a focus on packaged goods, this accelerator assists with all parts of the food tech supply chain to help brands build products which consumers want to buy. The program’s Kitchen, Distribution and Stores provide the platform to build and grow a company, while also lowering the need for additional capital investment. Union Kitchen has worked with over 650 businesses since 2012, which have collectively created over $350M of revenue. Applications are always open. Typical grant size: N/A.
- Urban X — New York: selects up to ten urbantech startups every six months, to take part in a 20 week program for startups facing the unique challenges working with and within cities, particularly in regulated industries and government procurement. Applications for cohort 10 close 8th April. Typical investment size: $100k
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this part of the world has some very active venture capital firms, looking to make investments in startups whose ideas resolve a whole host of issues (and make a whole bunch of money):
- AF Ventures — investing in consumer packaged goods within food and beverage, health and wellness, beauty, personal care and pet.
- Almanac Insights — committed to acting as a positive force in the food ecosystem, Almanac invests in a limited number of CPG, retail, and technology companies.
- Alwyn Capital — investing in companies which are actively working to take animals out of the supply chain in the food, fashion and medical industries.
- Baleine & Bjorn Capital — founded by the co-president of Smarties Candy, it invests in companies creating solutions to outdated animal product.
- Big Idea Ventures — a major player backed by Tyson Foods and Temasek, this fund invests in and accelerates top performers in the new food space.
- Branch Venture Group — Boston-based investment network that provides funding and advice to early-stage food companies. Focused on investments in the food and beverage CPG, foodtech and agtech spaces.
- CAVU Venture Partners — investing in food and beverage CPG, with the aim of building brands for a healthier world and democratising healthy living.
- Continental Grain Company (CGC) Ventures — one of the largest privately held corporations in the United States. Its venture arm makes investments in early stage businesses which are using cutting‐edge technology to define the future of food and agriculture.
- Danone Manifesto Ventures — the corporate venture arm of Danone, the French food and beverage company, making investments to create a healthy and sustainable future of food.
- Everhope Capital — invests in entrepreneurs and businesses displacing animals from the supply chain, for a more sustainable and humane future for the planet, people and animals.
- Hemisphere Ventures — investing in early stage companies within software, life sciences, health, robotics, and space.
- Lever — a US-Hong Kong venture capital fund investing in early-stage companies in the alternative protein sector. It was an early investor in Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Memphis Meats.
- Unovis Asset Management — a global leader in the alternative protein sector, providing early stage investments to firms which develop plant-based meat, dairy and egg products.
- VegInvest — the vegan investment fund, providing early stage capital and guidance to companies striving to replace the use of animals.
New York is the home of 24/7 dining, so it’s no shocker that delivery service GrubHub and meal kit platform Freshly originated here (and have both seen a pandemic-related boom: GrubHub merged with Just Eat in June 2020 and Nestlé acquired Freshly in October 2020), and New Jersey high-end dining delivery service Wonder raised $500M in 2020.
Other examples of foodtech startups from the region include New York based food tech Gastrograph, an ML/AI platform that hopes to predict consumer food preferences for food manufacturers. Through their technology that quantifies the sensory profile of products, the flavour, aroma and texture of products can be optimised for their target demographic; pretty cool. In Philadelphia, goPuff delivers everyday essentials in just minutes. And in Washington, Optoro’s software platform helps retailers optimize the management of returned and excess inventory in a more efficient and cost-effective way.
In recent years, Singapore has nurtured a big venture capital ecosystem and persuaded a number of foreign technology companies, such as Facebook and now Eat Just, to open their Asia headquarters in the city. The region just made history by being the first country to grant government approval for Eat Just’s cultured chicken bites, which saw them served to diners at 1880 Restaurant in a world first in December 2020. The city has a leading reputation as a food tech innovation hub with a supportive government keen to push forward sustainable food solutions.
There are tonnes of choices of accelerator programs, venture capital opportunities and co-working spaces in Singapore; here are just a few to get you started:
- Antler — the world’s largest early stage investment platform, working on addressing large global opportunities and challenges by building groundbreaking technology companies. All participants get an individual grant during the first phase of the program to enable them to focus full-time on building their company and products. Then, Antler selects and invests in the companies who will get continued support to accelerate their growth, culminating in a Demo Day. The initial application is a one minute process, so definitely worth a shot. Typical investment size: variable.
- Entrepreneur First — focused on funding companies solving very hard problems and doing things that many people would say are impossible — whether that’s slashing the cost of working in space or using AI to dramatically lower the world’s energy usage. It has two branches: EF Form, which focuses on helping entrepreneurs find a co-founder and develop their ideas, and EF Launch, which focuses on getting the team funded and starting the business. Typical investment size: variable.
- Found8 — a network of innovation campuses where ambitious entrepreneurs and corporates find coaching, expertise and partners to create future-ready solutions. It operates the Elevate SG Founder Programme, which supports founders in getting their first venture off the ground, and offers coaching and guidance, as well as workshops. Typical investment size: N/A.
- Hatch — focused on aquaculture and alternative seafood innovation. It’s been established for two years and has already invested in more than 30 companies and raised its first $8M fund. Typical investment size: $100k — $1M.
- The Innovators Institute — a professional development centre, peer support network and global expert resource. It offers several programs including the Innovative Transformation Accelerator Programme and the FutureEnterprise Innovation Management Programme. Typical investment size: variable.
- InspirAsia — an accelerator program and co-working space for startups across the full spectrum of fintech. The accelerator program is tailored for mature startups to support them in scaling to expand to other markets or verticals, organizing international partnerships between teams and finding synergy between products to create brand new concepts for customers. Typical investment size: variable.
- Iterative — selects 8–12 startups twice a year for an intensive 12-week program to help accelerate their growth and focus their potential, with $150k seed funding. The program culminates in a Demo Day in which startups get the chance to pitch investors from around the globe. Typical investment size: $150k.
- NTUitive — Nanyang Technological University’s innovation and enterprise company, supporting the university’s mission to develop an innovative ecosystem to encourage innovation, foster entrepreneurship and facilitate the commercialisation of research. Typical investment size: variable.
- Paypal Innovation Lab — this 9-month program offers prime co-working space at PayPal’s Singapore Technology Center, structured learning conducted by experts, coaching and mentorship by PayPal executives and external experts, access to talent from within and outside PayPal, and access to funding through PayPal’s network and VC connections. Typical investment size: variable.
- Red Dot Ventures — established in 2012, RDV was among the first venture capital firms to kickstart Singapore’s startup scene, investing in seed stage high-tech startups. Typical investment size: $450k.
- Shell Singapore — this umbrella of programs aims to be a “living lab” of energy innovation for Singapore, with a goal of testing and potentially commercialising digital and clean energy solutions. Typical investment size: variable.
- Spaze Ventures — a startup incubator providing seed funding and intensive hands-on mentorship for pre-launch ideas to seed stage startups, focused on high growth and disruptive tech, particularly within financial services, education, healthcare services, e-commerce, mobile and enterprise technology.
- Vis Vires New Protein (New Protein Capital) — a venture capital fund aiming to achieve outsize returns from focused investments on disruptive technologies for the food and feed system. Typical investment size: variable.
- The Yield Lab Asia Pacific — seeking to invest in early-stage agtech companies. Not currently accepting applications for its accelerator programs, which are two-day intensives, but it’s still worth keeping an eye on for other potential investment opportunities. Typical investment size: $100k.
There are too many startups to count in Singapore, but some of the most notable include: Alchemy Food Tech, which combines biotechnology and medical technology into everyday foods, with a mission to fight the growing diabetes crisis through lowering the GI levels of popular foods; TurtleTree Labs, which is producing lab-grown dairy milk using biotechnology that recreates the exact composition, functionality and taste of cow’s milk, at a fraction of the carbon footprint when compared to conventional dairy farming; Shiok Meats, which uses cellular technology to harvest lab-grown seafood as a more sustainable alternative to traditional seafood farming.
Hong Kong is a melting pot of culture, technology, innovation and more, but a real impediment to companies hoping to set up in Hong Kong is the cost of office space or developable land. The central Hong Kong office market is by some distance the world’s most expensive, according to property company CBRE, and high land prices in the territory are sustained by tight government control over available supply. Cyberport and Science Park provide subsidised space for start-ups, which could be viable options for locating office space and research facilities within the city. Plus, the Hong Kong Startup Council is a platform designed to connect startups, Hong Kong entrepreneurs and investors, so could be a useful starting point for further information.
Alongside these, there are accelerator and incubator options available for startups:
- Brinc — the Food Tech Program comprises six weeks of on-site training followed by six weeks remotely, and the fund will invest $80,000 for a negotiable equity percentage. The catch, though, is that each startup needs to pay $30,000 to be included in the cohort. Applications are always open because the programs are so frequent. Typical investment size: $50k after fees.
- Cyberport Incubation Program — in addition to a range of business and professional services, incubatees get up to HK$500,000 ($65k) support over 24 months, and can participate in the programme on-site at Cyberport, or off-site at their own premises. Typical investment size: up to $65k.
- Greater Bay X — a cross-border innovation and investment platform that unleashes the potential for technology, innovation and IP under the theme of “urban tech with impact.” It doesn’t take any equity, and invests its funds where there is “collective interest”. Typical investment size: variable.
- HKSTP — an umbrella of three incubation programs tailored to startups in bio, tech and software industries. All offer varying amounts of funding alongside mentoring and office space, and take 2–4 years to complete. Typical investment size: variable.
- SOW Asia — Hong Kong’s first accelerator program exclusively built for social enterprises, supporting early stage startups focused on scaling their social impact. Typical investment size: variable.
- STARS — organised by the Hong Kong Startup Council, each cohort spends 6–9 months in a tailored mentorship program with industry professionals across all different fields, with a Demo Day at the end of the program for startups to pitch to potential investors. Typical investment size: variable.
There are plenty of investors in Hong Kong, and these are some of the biggest:
- Betatron — founded by Hong Kong’s most prominent venture firms to support the startup ecosystem in the region, with a focus on early-stage companies in Asia.
- Green Monday Ventures — the fund’s mission is to construct a global ecosystem of future food that combats climate change, food insecurity, food-related illness, planetary devastation, and animal suffering.
- The March Fund — an early stage venture capital firm focused on nutrition solutions for the evolving consumer landscape and agri-food supply chain.
The alumni of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have founded 114 companies, raising over $368M in funding from 165 investors. Hong Kong is home to many promising startups, including cellular fish and seafood firm Avant Meats, Geb Impact Technology, which cultivates microalgae for use in many lifestyle products such as nutraceuticals, skincare and food supplements, and HakkoBako, focused on smart fermentation. And if that’s not enough, here are 50 more.
Israel is one of the front runners in the world of cell-based food tech; its homegrown startup SuperMeat opened its own restaurant attached to its production facility in November for diners to try cell-based chicken for the first time.
Israel has invested heavily into education, with almost half of the country’s workforce holding a tertiary education level. Also, every citizen must serve in its military for at least two years, and it trains soldiers to become experts in specific fields like engineering and technology, depending on their strengths. As a result, the country boasts more engineers per capita than for example the US or Germany.
There are many innovation incubators and accelerators in the region:
- The Bridge by Coca Cola — a unique commercialization program which acts as a bridge between the entrepreneurial community and major global markets, for early or growth stage startups which offer software solutions that are ready to commercialize and that fit one of nine core themes: Customer Experience, Supply Chain, Last Mile Delivery, Home Delivery, Future of Work, Human Resources, Realty Excellence, Health & Wellness and IT Infrastructure. Typical investment size: variable.
- Nielsen Innovate — an early stage incubator and investment fund by the Nielsen Company that focuses on market data, in all its variations. The program provides office space, administrative support, strategic guidance, mentoring, an extensive network of products and services, technical business development and access to follow-on funding. Typical investment size: 2M NIS ($600k).
- 8200 EISP — a non-profit organization which provides workshops, networking and free office space to startups in all areas of tech. In the past ten years, it has poured over $800M into 168 startups and created 650 new jobs. Typical investment size: variable.
- The Hive by Gvahim — this accelerator operates six-month intensive programs in Tel Aviv and Ashdod. It is a non-profit organization helping startups focused on software or hardware solutions, and projects must be innovative and scalable. There’s a one-off payment of $500 to join the program, and access to capital as well as mentorship. Typical investment size: variable.
- Technological Incubators Program — government-sponsored, with 27 not-for-profit incubators operating throughout the country, which work in collaboration with universities, corporations and a wide range of investors. Startups participating in this program can be awarded up to NIS 3 million (approximately $600k) for a period of up to 2 years, alongside access to a workspace, administrative services, and business and legal guidance. Plus, the program helps introduce startups to customers and other investors. However, the incubators ask for a 20–50% share of startup equity in return.
There are also a few foodtech focused investors to check out, including:
- The Kitchen Foodtech Hub — focused on seed stage companies within the disruptive foodtech sector, such as Zero Egg, which raised $5M in November 2020 to crack the US market with its plant-based egg alternative.
- The Next Branch — seeking to make a positive impact on animal lives, the environment and human health within two main fields of innovation: Good Food and Human-Relevant Research.
- GreenSoil Investments — Israel’s first venture capital fund with an exclusive focus on Israel agro & food technologies, currently actively seeking companies which match its investment themes.
- SnackFutures — snack giant Mondelez’ innovation arm, which invests in the future of snacking with both venture capital and an incubator program. Currently particularly interested in three high-growth areas: well-being, premium snacks, and digital platforms and capabilities that help address consumers’ needs in snacking.
Local startups include Tastewise, a data, analytics and insights platform for restaurants, food brands and hospitality; Soos Technology, which has developed an incubation system that affect the sex development process in poultry embryo and turn genetic males into functional female chicks, reducing wastage in egg production; or cell-based food tech Aleph Farms, whose cultivated meat was declared ‘delicious and guilt-free’ by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who then pledged government support for cell-based meat.
Berlin has a fast-growing foodtech startup scene and has spawned some large foodtech startups, including meal kit delivery service HelloFresh, food delivery giant Delivery Hero, vertical farming business Infarm, data-driven logtech solutions-based freight forwarder Forto and progressive environmental agtech PEAT.
It’s much more affordable to live in than London, San Francisco or New York, so businesses can attract talent more affordably than if they had their HQ in more expensive cities. Plus, it’s home to ESMT Berlin, one of the highest ranked business schools in Europe, and Technical University Berlin, which runs a Centre for Entrepreneurship and offers a Berlin Startups Stipendium.
With numerous incubators, accelerators and coworking spaces, the city provides optimal conditions for entrepreneurs from around the world:
- Berlin Startup Unit — founded by the State of Berlin in 2015, its core objectives are supporting the startup ecosystem and strengthening public services for startups, and bringing transparency to the startup scene, to make life easier for startups and help them to be successful. Typical investment size: N/A.
- Kitchentown — provides a working space in the heart of Berlin for FoodTech entrepreneurs, with shared and dedicated facilities alongside expertise from professionals in the food tech industry to help startups prototype and produce new innovation. It admits startups on a monthly basis, there are no application deadlines. Typical investment size: €30k.
- ProVeg Incubator — the world’s leading accelerator for mission-driven plant-based and cultured food startups, shaping the future of food by exclusively supporting pioneering companies that are developing disruptive alternatives to animal-based products. It recently announced its latest cohort, and for the first time over half are female-led companies. It accepts the most impactful food startups from all over the world, in all stages of development, and applications to be part of its next cohort are open now until 7th February. Typical grant size: €20k, with the possibility of up to an extra €180k of investment in exchange for 9% equity.
Plus, there are food-centric investors in the city helping to grow startups:
- Atlantic Food Labs — early-stage investor for startups with solutions to feed ten billion people by 2050 in a sustainable and healthy way, covering the entire value chain: agtech, alternative protein sources, water supply, food security, decentralized food production, vertical farming, personalised nutrition, food waste and carbon reduction.
- Katjesgreenfood — Europe’s first food impact investor with a focus on food security and fixing broken food systems with plant-based solutions.
- Purple Orange Ventures — entrepreneur-led impact seed fund supporting early-stage teams leveraging science & technology to remove animals from the global food system.
The Netherlands may be small, but it is mighty, and in fact is the second most densely populated country in the EU, so no surprise that it’s a hotbed of talent and resource. Its universities have big budgets and decent support programs for entrepreneurs: University of Amsterdam has an excellent reputation in both fundamental and socially relevant research, and previous alumni include co-founders of startups like Virtuagym and Lepaya; Delft University of Technology offers a Master Annotation Entrepreneurship program, tech-incubator YES!Delft and the Delft Center for Entrepreneurship; Erasmus University Rotterdam offers exchange programmes and internships with other highly-ranked business schools in Europe; The University of Groningen ranks among the top 100 universities in the world and runs its own Centre for Entrepreneurship.
Alongside these, Wageningen University & Research is the world’s number one agtech university and has been voted the top university in the Netherlands for fifteen consecutive years. The university’s expertise in food and the environment puts it in high demand to produce research for the Dutch government, businesses and nonprofits, and its facilities are commissioned by these groups to explore new solutions for healthy living. Their projects have ranged from seeking innovation in sustainable energy to finding ways of making plastic from seaweed.
In addition, there are several programs dedicated to the support, mentorship and investment startups:
- Blue Ocean Xlerator — BOX provides a support network for the admin side of a startup: writing a business plan, bookkeeping, funding, housing, negotiating contracts and monitoring networks, which all take a lot of time when you really need to be focusing on tech and creating a foothold in the market. At BOX you work alongside 35 colleagues and fellow entrepreneurs with relevant knowledge and experience and the same drive, and need to bring a winning mindset. You can apply any time. Typical grant size: N/A.
- FoodStars — an option with a community feel. In exchange for 2% equity, FoodStars will provide a 12 months program which covers a company deep dive, mentorship and training, networking and use of co-working office space. Applications are always open, or you can refer any startups you may know who may be a good fit. Typical grant size: N/A.
- Rockstart — dedicated to AgriFood startups, driving positive change towards a holistic food supply system. There are various different programs for different areas of industry, and previous cohorts include an impressive bunch of innovative startups such as Saillog, whose AI tech allows farmers to identify and treat plant diseases and pests. Typical investment size: €20k.
- StartLife — since 2010, StartLife has built, supported and funded over 300 startups in foodtech and agtech, with €137M of investment, and has a pretty stellar team of business coaches. It’s constantly accepting applications. Typical investment size: $40k.
Plus, a bunch of investors waiting to fund great startups in the food and ag space:
- Anterra Capital — a venture capital firm which invests in companies operating in the food and agricultural sectors, particularly within sustainable solutions and environment-first concepts.
- PlantBase — aims to make investments in companies which help to combat global warming and the decline of biodiversity, and mainly focuses on promoting the consumption and use of vegetable products.
- Rabobank Food & Agriculture Innovation Fund — investing seed and early growth capital in innovative Food & Agri companies from farm to fork, in recognition of future food security challenges.
In terms of successful startups, packaging-free online supermarket startup Pieter Pot raised €2.7M in seed funding in November 2020. Since its inception in 2018, the startup has already saved over 120,000 pieces of packaging waste, and its sustainability and convenience-focused approach is resonating with consumers. Cell-based meat company Mosa Meat raised €16.3M in December 2020, bringing its total series B funding to €63M, to scale up its technology and continue development of its cultivated hamburger. Plus, Greencovery‘s systems help food manufacturers recover valuable compounds from their side streams, instead of writing them off as ‘waste’.
The UK’s capital, while suffering from dreary, drizzly weather the majority of the year, benefits from its easy connectivity to other global cities. It’s also one of the few ecosystems with a startup visa programme and, in terms of funding, the average seed round in London stands at $650k, compared with the global average of $494k. Alongside this, London has world-leading universities such as Imperial College London, consistently rated in the top 10 universities in the world, and London Business School, which provides a top-ranked full-time MBA.
Plus, there are options for acceleration in the English capital:
- EIT Climate-KIC — UK: invests in clean technology, agriculture and green energy and takes an ‘open innovation’ approach to mentorship. It works on an innovation model of knowledge exchange and technology transfer it calls the ‘knowledge helix’. Typical investment size: €20k.
- Forward Fooding — UK: the first ‘foodtech community’ in London, this innovation hub supports entrepreneurs as they ‘digitize’ their business, to create truly digital brands. There’s a shared workspace, a whole program of workshops and events, plus a media studio, dedicated to content creation. Applications to join the community are always open. Typical grant size: N/A.
- Katapult Food — UK: part of the ‘Katapult World’ ecosystem, it provides a 3 month fast-paced, hands-on program based in London, plus access to a global network of mentors and investors. Typical investment size: $150k
There is no shortage of investors in the capital, including:
- Agronomics — focused on opportunities within the nascent industry of modern foods, which are environmentally friendly alternatives to the traditional production of meat and plant-based sources of nutrition.
- Astanor Ventures — investing in foodtech and agtech startups working towards the future of food that is nourishing, regenerative, scalable, trusted and delicious. Part of the team is based in London and they also have an office in Brussels.
- CPT Capital — its mission is to drive the food and materials technology revolution by replacing animals in the supply chain.
- Felix Capital — a venture capital firm for the creative class, at the intersection of technology and creativity, focused on opportunities in digital lifestyle.
- Informal — interested in companies at the intersection of culture, science, and agriculture, improving our food systems & infrastructure for the better through technology.
- Mustard Seed — seeking early-stage companies operating in the education, healthcare and environmental sustainability sectors.
- Nexus Investment Ventures — prefers to invest in the healthcare, education, food, beverage and internet sectors.
- Wheatsheaf Group — directly operates, invests in and helps to develop businesses in the food and agriculture sectors.
There have been tonnes of brilliant startups grown in London, including digital-only banking platform Monzo, international money transfer service TransferWise, online food delivery platform Deliveroo, which recently secured $180M in funding and is preparing for its IPO, and meal kit manufacturer and retailer Gousto. To note, though, that it’s not yet clear how the effects of Brexit will pan out, so proceed with caution before jumping the gun.