I had an opportunity to go visit the office of Nordic FoodTech VC here in Helsinki and have a face to face interview with Lauri Reuter, one of the partners at Nordic FoodTech VC. Lauri welcomed me happily and we had an interesting and enthusiastic talk about the future of food. Nordic FoodTech VC is a venture capital fund specialized in food related innovations here in the Nordics and has four partners in their team. They also have a couple of advisors from different expertise areas in their use. The fund was launched in spring 2020 and they currently have six startups in their continuously growing startup family.
Nordic FoodTech VC is especially looking for solutions to in three areas of the food industry: more resource efficient food production, new sources of food and solutions to support healthy eating. They want to invest and help early-stage startups that have research-based solutions on these areas. “Sustainable ways to renew food chains are needed and startups have a lot of potential to solve big problems in new ways” says Lauri. The partners of the fund bring to the table understanding on the relevant value proposition, help in building a strong business plan and connections to food industry, possible customers, and other investors. Many founders don’t have these connections ready when they decide to get started with building a startup, especially If they have had a career as researchers.
Second year at EIT FAN programme
Nordic FoodTech VC decided to take part for the second time in EIT FAN program as they have found it as a good way to find interesting startups they can get to know very closely and possibly invest in. During the program this year they are mentoring two teams (Tracegrow and Norbite) and sharing their expertise to even more. Mentoring in the program gives a different kind of possibility to help the startups when you don’t have to get investments mixed yet at this point, says Lauri. They see value in helping early-stage startups through mentoring even if they might not invest and continue working with them after the program. Last year they were mentoring eniferBio and at the end of the program decided to invest and have continued working with their startup since then.
“Acceleration programs are a good start for many teams to mature and make them ready for investments” says Lauri. Startups get valuable insight from business perspective as many of the founders might have their background in research world and building a business might be relatively strange process. Lauri himself was a researcher before and wouldn’t have been able to even name one VC fund back then.
Future of food
After talking about the idea behind Nordic FoodTech VC and the importance of new food innovations, we started to discuss more deeply on what are the current hot topics in the food related innovations. Lauri said that currently alternative protein sources and new ingredients, such as the PEKILO made by eniferBio and fats brewed by Melt&Marble, are a major stream of new innovations and startups. In the future, he hopes to see more great startups creating solutions to support healthy eating. For example, solutions that help people to select more sustainable and nutritious products with little effort are being developed already with using big data. Also, companies providing personalized nutrition analyses and personalized products for nutritional needs are emerging. New interesting ideas have already started to pop up around healthy eating. “Healthy and nutritious foods are already all around us. The problem is that people just don’t buy and consume them enough! It is so easy to make unhealthy choices.” noted Lauri.
All in all, Lauri sees that research-based startups are a vehicle to realize radical innovation that would probably never happen in established industry. The future looks good for foodtech startups and Nordic FoodTech VC is eager to support them on the first steps.
Written by Noora Rinkinen.