Pitch competitions also are about developing long-term relationships with potential mentors, sizing up the competition, collaborating with fellow entrepreneurs and seeing where innovation is occurring as well as where there is white space for future development.
In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Investing in the Future of Food, a leader with Rabobank’s FoodBytes! shares what it takes to nail a pitch, how to make a most of a competition beyond the presentation and where innovation in the food and ag tech segments is occurring.
More than a pitch slam
FoodBytes!, which launched about three years ago, is more than a pitch slam, it is a “discovery platform for food and ag innovation” that connects startups focused on sustainability and the triple bottom line with investors, media and large corporations, Nina Meijers, a senior associate and platform manager with Rabobank banking for food inspiration center, told FoodNavigator-USA during the most recent event in New York City.
She explained that FoodBytes! is a two and a half day “complete intensive” with a day full of mentorship sessions on deal structuring, root to market strategies and industry insights in general. The second day is packed with the pitch slam and intense networking where entrepreneurs can showcase their products and make the connections they need to move forward.
With so much to do in a sort period, Meijers says that to make the most of FoodBytes! or any pitch event, entrepreneurs need to be proactive and persistent – even if they think they are being annoying.
“Find out who will be in the room from the client side and have us help make those connections for you,” she said, explaining the people at FoodBytes! are more diverse than normal pitch competitions in that they include both investors and the media.
“So, there is like a show business aspect of it, but you also need to be able to talk to industry B2B players and investors who are looking for something very different,” she said.
While events like FoodBytes! offer more than just an opportunity to present a brand or new product, nailing the pitch is still essential.
“At the end of the day … you need a hook. You need to get us to understand why this matters. So, it is like, what is your tagline. Get us in the door. Get us interested and keep that energy up for the entire pitch,” she said.
She explains the pitch should include what the product is, what problem it solves and what the presenter needs from the audience.
“What do you want? Are you fundraising? Are you looking for partners? Are you looking to build a relationship with other entrepreneurs? Are you looking for your next media story? Tell everyone in the room – be super clear. Because they have seen 15, 20 startups and it so it just comes back to that passion and confidence,” and knowing what they need, she said.
Innovation hot spots
Pitch slams are also a great way to size up the competition and see where the industry is headed, where there is room for innovation and what areas could become saturated in the near future.
According to Meijers, two main areas of innovation emerged at FoodBytes! in New York City and the FoodBytes! in London several weeks earlier.
The first is around waste reduction up and down the supply chain and within finished products.
“For example, companies like Rind that are doing whole fruit, rind included, snacks, Pulp Pantry that is making a cereal product similar to Cinnamon Toast Crunch out of recycled juice pulp,” as well as companies like Wasteless and Afresh that are creating ways to reduce waste in food service, she said.
The second major theme to emerge at FoodBytes! was around innovative packaging, she said.
“We have one packaging startup here, Water I.O., that makes any package into a smart package. And we saw a number of really interesting packaging innovations in London, such as Mimica, which has basically a touch-based new technology to replace all expiry dates,” she said.
Companies interested in attending FoodBytes! and seeing for themselves where the industry is headed can do so March 28 in San Francisco at the next event. And those interested in pitching can apply through the end of Dec. 16.