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For Founders: Seize this Moment to Raise Capital

By Bunmi Olayanju MBA CFA

While the headlines have been awash with talk of a venture capital winter, it’s crucial to understand that it’s merely a season, not a barren period. The data shows that while the pace of fundraising might have decelerated in the past year and a half, there’s still a robust ecosystem of deals being struck across stages. For founders who can present their businesses credibly and compellingly, now could be an opportune time to secure the capital they need.

Let’s delve into why the current fundraising climate holds promise:

Abundance of Dry Powder: Latest data from Q1 2023 shows VC firms in the U.S. sitting on a staggering $303B in uninvested capital, a figure nearly double that of pre-pandemic levels. This reservoir indicates there’s ample capital seeking worthy ventures.

Momentum-driven Investments: After a period of caution, investors are eager to finish the year on a strong note or begin the new one with vigor. Given that VC earnings are closely tied to the multiples on their invested capital, there remains a consistent interest in bankrolling promising startups. Angellist’s Q3 2023 data underscores this, revealing a notable uptick in investment activity.

Favorable Valuations: Recent trends show startup valuations undergoing a correction, reaching some of the most investor-friendly levels in recent history. Lower valuations allow investors to reduce their investment costs, making their desired returns more achievable. Q3 2023 reports from AngelList and Carta suggest that median valuations remained consistent or even edged higher across venture stages compared to the preceding quarter. Furthermore, AngelList’s Q3 VC report points out that valuations, particularly in the early stages, might have hit a floor, offering a potential uptick in the near future. For investors, this presents a lucrative window to enter before valuations surge.

The Angel Impact: Angel investors, especially in the early stages, have become indispensable. Data from Carta highlights that checks amounting to less than $25,000 constituted between 31% and 59% of all pre-seed capital raised in the first half of 2023. This engagement level is poised to rise with the sizable  accredited investor base in the US and the increasing adoption of angel special purpose vehicles (SPVs), which offer a simplified and efficient medium for angels to pool resources and back startups collectively.

In conclusion, while cyclical downturns in venture capital can create an atmosphere of apprehension, they often conceal underlying opportunities. The current climate, with its abundance of uninvested capital, investor eagerness to achieve momentum, attractive valuations, and the significant role of angel investors, makes a compelling case for founders to actively pursue their fundraising initiatives. Armed with the right strategy and a clear understanding of the evolving investment landscape, founders can effectively navigate this VC winter, turning prevailing challenges into unparalleled opportunities.

Bunmi Olayanju MBA CFA is a finance expert and investor. Visit here to learn more about him

Addressing Food Insecurity By Stemming Food Waste

Food insecurity, the inability to access or afford enough food or enough nutritious food for one’s overall health and well-being, is a serious problem in both developing and developed nations. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, more than one in five (21.6%) adults in the United States reported household food insecurity in the summer of 2022, an increase of more than 6% from April 2021. 

One of the major contributors to food insecurity is colossal food waste. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 30 – 40 percent of the annual US food supply is wasted. It is a significant global issue, with approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption going to waste. This waste not only squanders valuable resources like water, land, and energy used in production but also contributes to food insecurity, as millions of people around the world lack access to an adequate and nutritious food supply.

Evidently,  we can make significant headway in combating food insecurity by reducing food waste. Upcycling and extending the shelf life of food have emerged as two practical methods for addressing food waste. 

Upcycling involves using food items that may not meet traditional commercial standards, such as misshapen fruits and vegetables or surplus food from supermarkets and restaurants, and transforming them into new products with added value. Examples include using bruised or surplus fruits to create fruit preserves or turning vegetable scraps into nutritious broths. This not only reduces food waste but also provides additional food options, contributing to increased food availability for vulnerable populations. 

Shelf-life extension – Extending the shelf life of perishable foods can help prevent spoilage and reduce the need for early disposal, thereby reducing waste. This can be achieved through various techniques, such as improved storage facilities, modified atmosphere packaging, and the use of natural preservatives. By increasing the longevity of food products, more time is available for distribution and consumption, which can help ensure that food reaches those in need before it spoils.

Food waste solutions have remained top of mind for investors, consumers and innovators in 2023.

Investment in food waste solutions remains robust despite general pull back in overall investments given the current macroeconomic environment. As of July 2023, over $800M has been invested in food waste solutions this year (source ReFed). If this rate of investment persists for the balance of the year, 2023 investment levels would be comparable to 2022.

Demand and supply of upcycled food products on the rise

According to Global Market Insights, the worldwide upcycled food market was valued at $54B in 2022 and is expected to grow at a compounded annual rate of 5.7% over the next ten years, topping $94B in value by 2023. Innovative companies continue to introduce new upcycled products to meet customer demand. For example, Upcycled Inc partnered with Kroger to launch a new upcycled bread line – Seeded multigrain bread and Multigrain Quinoa Bread in May 2023. 

Sustained investment in research and development is helping to create more efficient food preservation technologies that can help extend the shelf life of perishable items. 

Through innovative technology, new solutions are being introduced to extend the shelf life of fruits and other perishables pre and post harvest.For example, JBT, a foodtech solutions provider, introduced an innovative plant-based coating designed to make fresh produce safer and last longer. The coating helps retain moisture in fruit, thereby delaying the onset of rot and extending the shelf life.

Keeping this focus on reducing food waste, we can make significant progress in alleviating food insecurity while promoting a more sustainable and responsible approach to food production and consumption.

Collaboration in Food Innovation

In the second article in our mid-year series, we turn our focus to collaboration in food innovation. Here at FoodNiche, we are firm believers in the power and importance of the collaborative effort of all key stakeholders to drive food innovation. It takes broad-based cooperation across the spectrum to create a healthier, sustainable food future. As Bill Gates pointed out in his book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, “the food system is one of the most important areas where we need to collaborate. We need to find ways to produce more food, while using fewer resources and reducing our impact on the environment. This is a challenge that we can only solve by working together.”

These synergies take many forms and are valuable at every point in the supply chain. Increasingly, food stakeholders are joining forces – public and private sector, industry and academia, established brands and startups – for the greater good. It’s truly a case of the whole being significantly greater than the sum of the parts. 

One area of growing collaboration is in the alternative protein space. Several established CPG and meat brands have established a stake in alternative proteins through direct investment and partnerships as shown in the chart from Good Food Institute.  

Source: Good Food Institute

Precision Fermentation Alliance formed in Q1 2023

The Precision Fermentation Alliance (PFA), a brainchild of nine leading startups in the precision fermentation field, was established in February 2023 to collectively unlock the potential of this technology for alternative protein production. The alliance is made up of scientists, nutritionists, entrepreneurs and educators from the participating companies bound together by a mission to accelerate the understanding of and advocate for the use of precision fermentation to develop a more resilient, equitable and sustainable food future for humans and the planet. Founding members of the PFA are Change Foods, The Every Co., Helaina, Imagindairy, Motif FoodWorks, New Culture, Onego Bio, Perfect Day and Remilk.

$1M Seeding the Future Global Food System Challenge 

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is hosting the third annual Seeding the Future Global Food System Challenge. The Challenge, funded by the Seeding the Future Foundation, fosters innovation at all levels ranging from idea generation to development and scale-up. Participants have a chance to win a share of the $1M total award. 

Participation is open to scientists, engineers, innovators, entrepreneurs  and multidisciplinary teams from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), non-profits, social enterprises, universities, research institutions as well as small and emerging for- profit enterprises working on game-changing innovations that will help transform the food system.

“Transformational change is urgently needed to create food systems that improve the health of people and the planet. All game-changing innovations begin with seeds of ideas which need support to grow and become impactful. This is the foundation the Challenge is built on. We are excited and look forward to the highly impactful entries we receive for this year’s Challenge,” said Bernhard van Lengerich, founder of Seeding The Future Foundation.

The Challenge is focused on high-impact, scalable innovations in one of the following intersecting domains: nutritious food for a healthy diet; sustainably produced; and accessible, appealing, affordable, and trusted by consumers. Visit the IFT website to learn more about the challenge and submit an application before the August 1 deadline.