Investing in the Future of Food: Uplift Food founder shares how to create business-changing opportunities

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Investing in the Future of Food incubator accelerator Mondelez Innovation Venture capital startups

Overnight success stories often are attributed to being in the right place at the right time, but according to the founder of the startup Uplift Food that doesn’t mean the circumstances were serendipitous or that entrepreneurs should wait for an opportunity to present itself.

Rather, Kara Landau explains, most ‘unexpected’ opportunities culminate from strategic business decisions made by company leaders who take calculated chances to create their own solutions – like she did to make her prebiotic gut health company the first investment​ of Mondelēz  International’s SnackFutures innovation and venture hub.

In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Investing in the Future of Food​, Landau explains how she pitched Mondelez on not only investing in her company but on creating its incubator program, which has since also invested in Hu Products and the Chicago-based incubator The Hatchery.

Seizing one opportunity can create others down the road

When Landau first met the innovation team at Mondelēz she wasn’t looking for capital, but recognized the opportunity as a way to establish a connection that could help build her business in the future.

After describing her company and listening to what the Mondelēz team also needed, Landau put two-and-two together to create a pitch that could help them both grow.

“The didn’t have any formal structured program, so I actually pitched to them with a proposal and incubator. And I said, how about you work with Uplift Food as basically a test case for them to create an incubator to then work with other startups. I could provide feedback on that … and in return they would allow me to go their labs and work with their RD teams and do some interesting things,”​ she said.

Landau said she was able to sell Mondelēz on the idea of Snack Futures and investing in Uplift Food in part because she did the hard work of clearly laying out her idea, identifying what she needed and what she could offer in exchange.

“I didn’t know every single way they could help me … but I knew they could help, and I knew at least at a minimum what I needed and how they could help me. So being able to spell that out”​ created a level of respect that allowed each side to take a chance on the other, she said.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or accept it

Reflecting on her experience so far, Landau says the most important lesson that she has learned is to identify when she needs help and to accept it from others when they offer.

“A lot of the time, people try to hold back their questions because they think they look silly. But then you step into the unknown and you are more likely to trip,”​ Landau said.

A better strategy for a entrepreneurs, she said, is to be humble and transparent about what they don’t know and to be confident in what they do know. That way, partners are able to support each other and potentially head of problems because they know where there are weaknesses and can brainstorm together solutions.

“I think it is important for people to always be honest, be real and believe in themselves.”

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