Financing the Future of Food

by Adam on January 11, 2013

I was involved in a panel discussion yesterday on funding food start-ups, which was put on by Matt Wise, founder of the Food Start-up Meetup Group in San Francisco:


The panel included some great perspectives in the funding space, including:

Moderator: Wade Roush, Chief Correspondent and San Francisco Editor, Xconomy

Venture Capital: Andy Donner, Physic Ventures

Corporate VC: Meredith Schwarz, General Mills Ventures

Private Equity: Kevin Murphy, Encore Capital

Crowdfunding Expert: Ryan Caldbeck, CEO CircleUp

I was tasked with representing the angel investment portion of the funding space, given the work that Harvard Common Press is doing with evaluating, networking with, and investing in food start-up companies (our history with is well-documented online, though at some point I will likely write up the rationale behind our getting into this marketplace).

Overall it was a great event. It was primarily driven towards those entrepreneurs who are either just starting or haven’t started yet and don’t know where to look for funding. There were some helpful pieces of advice shared, I’ve included some of the takeaways below, but there were many, many more:

  • While food safety standards and regulation continue to make it difficult for entrepreneurs to bring new products to market, the rise of community urban kitchens (like La Cocina in San Francisco) are starting to break down some of those barriers.
  • In the restaurant space, the next big thing may not be consumer-based, but will likely be centered on big data and understanding consumer interactions with menu items.
  • While food + tech is a big intersection that the industry is now exploring, the convergence of food + health (and the idea of an interconnected health awareness related to how much we eat, how much we exercise, etc) is going to be another area for start-ups to explore.
  • The food start-up space is finding a lot of traction in the angel and seed stage funding rounds, but there’s a funding gap in Series A and beyond that’s going to have to be filled somehow. That could happen either through follow-on funding from seed round participants, or through less traditional means of funding (as in what CircleUp and others are doing).

Feel free to search around for more information about the event, and if you’re in San Francisco, I recommend signing up for some of the Food Start-up Meetup Group events. This one in particular had over 250 attendees and represented a great networking opportunity for food entrepreneurs.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the photos that were taken throughout the event. The very last one is particularly good!

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