Food is a necessity, which means that there’s a constant demand for businesses that provide it in new, improved and of course delectable ways. To help the startups that want to cater to this need, Food-X is on the scene and the food-focused accelerator is more than just a flash in the pan.
The self-proclaimed number one food innovation accelerator in the world originally started in 2014. Backed by the SOSV venture capital investment firm, Food-X has helped 30 companies launch and successfully held six seed rounds of funding. Here’s a quick taste of how it all works.
The Competition for Food-X Support
Startups apply to participate in the Food-X Cohort programs, which give them access to everything from co-working office space to a wide network of investors. The Food-X executive team is comprised of five members with backgrounds ranging from software engineering and serial entrepreneurship to business advising and sustainable agriculture. For each Cohort program, the team evaluates all applicants and narrows the list down to 10; those 10 receive $50,000 cash up front and a convertible loan once they complete the program.
“The journey from 300 to 10 is long and requires multiple rounds of discussions and interviews,” says Martin Noble, the head of Marketing & Communications at Food-X.
However, the rewards are big for startups that get the opportunity to work with Food-X. In addition to receiving the chance to mingle with investors and operate in a dedicated office space, startups also get support while creating their business plans. On the other end, Food-X gets seven percent equity.
The culmination of each Cohart program is a Demo Day, where the startups can demonstrate their products and services to a room full of investors, as well as representatives of the media and food industry.
So what does it take to be selected for a Food-X Cohort program?
“We are always looking for entrepreneurs with innovative services, technology or products that address a need or can improve some part of the food supply chain,” Noble specified. “Really, though, it’s the founders themselves that we examine to see if they are motivated enough to take their businesses to the next level. It’s equally important that they have personalities that lend to a cooperative, co-working environment and are open to the mentorship provided by our experts.”
Mentoring to Address Startup Issues
Startups that make it into the Cohort program receive insight from three to four mentors each week, who drop by the Food-X offices. These mentors range from Shawn Broderick, chief acceleration officer at SOSV, to Michael Moss, a New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter.
“Each of the companies has the opportunity to meet with the mentor one-on-one to help diagnose their issues and propose solutions,” said Noble.
With time, Food-X also works to tailor the mentor visits to the startups’ specific needs.
Looking Ahead: Food-X Cohort V
Food-X just concluded its fourth Cohort program and held its most recent Demo Day at the start of this month. Some of the companies that Food-X helped in its latest Cohort program include Lotus Scoop, an all-natural ice cream manufacturer; Plasma Nutrition, a company dedicated to increasing the effectiveness of proteins with plasma technology; and Molli, a line of Mexico-inspired cooking sauces.
It is now accepting applications for its fifth Cohort program (the deadline is June 30), and the team will begin evaluating startups at the end of the month.
In terms of trends, Noble says that Food-X is seeing more startups focus on functional foods, as well as international flavors. Health is also being taken into consideration by many startups.
“Millennials are cooking at home more than previous generations and being adventurous with their meals,” Noble said. “This has created opportunity for companies that can bring international cuisine and flavors to people’s kitchens. There are a lot of data driven companies popping up that use eating habits, personal data, and even artificial intelligence to help people eat healthier and smarter.”
The fifth Cohort program is slated to begin in September 2016, with Demo Day to be held in early December 2016.
You can check out the full list of recent Cohort IV graduates on their website.
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