Last autumn, I got the opportunity to judge the final of the EIT Food FAN programme. Three out of the ten finalists received a hefty reward of 100,000€ per team.
Realistic ideas go a long way
It was amazing to listen to innovative ideas and see the dedication that the contestants had to their own business. The ten teams each had ten-minute pitches to convince the judges that their business plan was feasible and had the potential to make the world a better place.
What made the winners prevail? They had a proven business model that would become profitable in the future. Often the scalability of ideas proved to be the bottleneck. Even the winning startups have a long road ahead of them in order to get their brilliant ideas successfully realised.
This is exactly what accelerator programmes are for. They provide new points of view and challenge the companies to develop every step of the way. A good idea and excellent pitching skills can lead to lavish investor funding. The money alone, however, is not enough if the idea isn’t refined to meet the needs of market or if there’s no support in creating new solutions when reshaping entire markets.
A good example are ideas that make use of the food industry’s side streams to create something new. The bottleneck is not how to use the side streams, as there are usually several good solutions for that. The actual challenge is the collection of enough material and making the collection process cost-effective.
Coffee beans, for example, create valuable side streams in roasteries, cafes and homes. Still, only the roastery side streams can be utilized cost-effectively. Could there be a way to collect efficiently from cafes or even homes?
Investors getting more specialized
It was also amusing to notice how some of the participating startups had fallen so madly in love with their own idea that they didn’t really want to get feedback on their pitch. This kind of tunnel vision can lead to bad consequences.
Separating between potential success stories and failures requires a lot of knowledge from the investors as well. It’s been wonderful to see the emergence of funds that invest explicitly in food tech, such as Nordic Food Tech, which involves food industry experts.