WATCH: How to protect your IP, and pick the right investor… Foodbytes! mentors share tips

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags FoodBytes

Running a startup can be thrilling… and an energy-sapping trial by ordeal. But mentors and judges at Rabobank’s Foodbytes! pitch competition in San Francisco last month were at hand to offer tips, help entrepreneurs ask investors the right questions, and remind them of the basics.

And when it comes to IP, that begins with registering trademarks, Chuck Cotter, shareholder at law firm Polsinelli, told FoodNavigator-USA.

“If you’re a CPG brand, your entire value is your brand portfolio. Most founders get it, but sorry to break it to you if you don’t: General Mills can reverse engineer your product, what they’re buying is your brand, and you don’t have a brand if you didn’t file trademarks and protect your brand. So absolutely do it, do it early, and do it often.”

He added: Patents aren’t as easy, because a lot of companies may have intellectual property, but it’s not intellectual property you can patent. And let’s say it is something you can patent, there’s still a discussion to be had as to whether it’s worth the money at that stage of the business and whether you want a patent which will eventually be public, or whether you would rather just protect the IP as a trade secret or some other way.”

The Intertwine Group: Build an investor avatar

As to the questions founders should ask potential investors, “Money is wonderful, don’t get me wrong​,” said Elliot Begoun, founder at The Intertwine Group. “Butwhat is the support you ​[the investor] can bring beyond the capital, how can you or your team help accelerate my business?

“The other thing I always suggest to founders and teams is ask to talk to other brands in the investor’s portfolio because you want to hear not just from brands that have had great success, but also the brands that have struggled.

“You want to know what it’s like to work with your investor partner when things are good, but also what it’s like to work with them when things are rough, because that’s really telling…

“We talk a lot about really building an investor avatar, [deciding] what you want, how would you describe this investor in the level and the way they interact with your business? And then have conversations with those investors as you interview them and do your due diligence on them as to how their foresee themselves interacting…

“And if they are not aligned, even if they are going to give you money, it’s probably the wrong thing.”

Bella Hughes at foodbytes

Shaka Tea, Bushel, and Toast Ale scooped the top prizes at FoodBytes! San Francisco 2019, Rabobank’s 15th global pitch competition for food and ag startups, after wowing judges with their innovative products and business models.

The three winners​​​ were among 15 startups competing in a pitch competition on Thursday after a day of meetings with industry experts helping them to hone their elevator pitches, gain direct feedback on their products and technologies, and network with investors and corporate leaders.

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