Internet Week Food + Tech

by Adam on May 27, 2013

I recently had the opportunity to take part in a food + tech investment panel during Internet Week, which featured a look at the fundraising space from both sides of the table. Led by Brita Rosenheim of Rosenheim Advisors, the panel explored the opportunities around finding strategic investors, navigating the pitfalls of raising the first round of funding, and networking with investors and entrepreneurs. On the panel was myself, Alain Bankier of Manischewitz Foods, Amanda Hesser of Food52 and Ben Leventhal of Kitchensurfing.

With only 50 minutes on the panel, and a variety of perspectives to explore, the panel moved quickly from one topic to another, trying to answer questions for first-time entrepreneurs with their own startup ideas that needed funding. Some takeaways from the panel included:

  • Beware of bubbles. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to create a company that caters to the NYC or San Francisco market. But, in order to have success on a broad level, food startups have to look beyond the east and west coasts.
  • While investment in food + tech has lagged other areas of innovation, the opportunity to find investment lies with identifying small, niche investors / investment funds that have dedicated funds. The work we’ve done as HCP, as a cookbook publisher, is an example of this.
  • There is a lot of activity in various verticals of the food startup world, with many new business models, but more and more, companies that sell something or deliver a product are gaining prominence. Many times, these companies take the form of logistics providers, especially for “last mile” opportunities (getting food products to people in their homes), especially because this is a service that startups can charge for.
  • One of the largest challenges in food + tech investing is that, different from other areas, most investors have experience with food (everybody eats), which means that more often that not, they personalize their experiences with food startups. If it’s an idea/company they like, that’s great, though if not, they are more likely to dismiss the company looking for money.
  • Lastly, if an entrepreneur is connecting with potential investors for the first time when they are looking to raise money, they are too late. Start building relationships before the money is needed. Use the opportunity to get feedback from investors to build a relationship. And while it’s always helpful to be pitching, start with the relationship first.

Overall, the Internet Week event was a huge success with a packed house. Afterwards, I had the chance to meet with a number of passionate and smart entrepreneurs, many with great ideas around the food space who demonstrated great acumen about the opportunity. I’m hopeful that the focus on food + tech at Internet Week this year bodes well for further expansion next year as the food space continues to attract innovation and investment dollars.

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