Exclusive: Rabobank’s Foodbytes launches more inclusive connection hub to solve today’s top food, agriculture challenges
“The hub is a continuation of what Foodbytes has always been,” which is a platform for connecting cutting-edge, promising startups in the food and agriculture space with corporates and investors that are looking to collaboratively solve for some of today’s most pressing industry challenges around sustainability and environmental, social and governance, said Nina Meijers, Platform Director, North America Head.
But, she explained to FoodNavigator-USA, Foodbytes’ new format is “more accessible and can drive more impact on sustainability within the industry” because it is more inclusive, always available and uses additional tools such as a centralized dashboard with reports, insights and targeted lists as well as filters for easy searching and increased, more targeted exposure.
“The ethos continues to be about connection,” but the hub builds on learnings from across Foodbytes’ evolution from a pitch competition that began in 2015 to a membership model years later to a digital education and networking platform during the pandemic, Meijers said.
“In the past, Foodbytes was really this serendipitous place to come when it was a pitch competition, and it was about meeting the right people at the right time and if you were in that moment, and you had that alchemy, then you had a really valuable experience. But the goal was to scale that and scale that impact through an online forum,” she explained.
Benefits for startups
For startups, the hub still provides much-needed exposure to “dialed-in” potential partners, including business development experts, M&A ventures, and large corporates, by providing a platform where entrepreneurs can showcase their current technology, traction, fundraising stage, milestones, impact and other investment or collaborative opportunities, according to Foodbytes.
Startups also will have a chance to be featured by the Foodbytes team, which has a strong track record of picking winners and offering validation that can fast-track growth.
For example, Meijers said, Foodbytes will offer startups different badges, such as alumni for companies that have been through its mentorships and training programs, and a Foodbytes pick badge for new companies that the experts behind the platform believe are commercially viable for the food and ag industry and the bank’s corporate clients.
Foodbytes also will offer startups access to a centralized dashboard with industry insights and “evolving capabilities” to help their growth, according to the program.
Benefits for corporates, investors
While the hub offers startups significant benefits, where it really shines is as a tool for corporates and investors to more easily find partners and solutions to the biggest challenges they face in food and agriculture, Meijers said.
She explained that Foodbytes worked with these groups to identify their most difficult pain points, which serve as the foundation for the platform’s filters and the insights it offers through a similar centralized dashboard as that targeting startups.
“We’ve been able to ask our corporates and investors where are they are looking, what they are looking at, what are the sub-sectors where their teams are, who is interested in partnership and investing and we have built all of that into this platform,” Meijers said.
Based on that, the new hub focuses more on agriculture, including around food waste reduction, emission reductions throughout the value chain and “of course, everyone’s favorite topic: future ingredients. Such as future protein, future fat, sugar and salt solutions and more around clean ingredient production as well,” said Meijers.
(Check out the full list of pain points and investor interest areas.)
She added the platform is focused on providing ESG and sustainability solutions, which in the past five years have become more pressing – prompting more companies to seek actionable solutions rather than ruminating on what could be as they did in the past.
Through these filters, corporates and investors can save specific searches and track startups in those sectors and markets. They can also bookmark startups on a watchlist to track their progress, announcements, fundraising and other opportunities, according to Foodbytes.
Finally, they also can create a profile through which they share challenges, investment possibilities and collaboration opportunities, Foodbytes notes.
Access to the platform is free for startups, but annual subscriptions for investors and corporates starts at $10,000 for up to four users.
In addition to these benefits, Foodbytes also will offer monthly trend forecasting, regular reports on sectors and themes and host a series of in-person networking events for the community’s users.
How it compares to other platforms
In an era when specialized digital networking platforms are proliferating, Foodbytes sets its hub apart by giving startups a place to self-submit up-to-date information about their businesses and organize information so that it is forward looking.
Existing platforms like CrunchBase and Pitchbook, while valuable, rely on scraped data and are organized backwards, which can make it difficult for investors to identify opportunities with enough time to seize them, said Meijers.
Meijers added that Foodbytes also is unique because it taps into Rabobank’s extensive food and agriculture knowledge and because it knows what the bank’s clients are seeking it is better able to curate and callout startups that meet their needs.
Foodbytes’ new hub also is designed to evolve continuously alongside the needs of its users, Meijers added.
A new look for a more mature platform
Alongside the rollout of the new hub, is a new look for Foodbytes that better illustrates its goal of “seeding and growing” the food and ag sectors sustainably.
Gone is the flashy red and white logo (and exclamation point at the end of Foodbytes) that were originally designed to reflect and magnify the energy in the startup community eight years ago.
In its place is a leafy green icon and colorway that better reflects the platform’s agricultural roots and its goal of fostering sustainable growth, said Katie Myers, Foodbytes brand director.
She explained the new look includes in the ‘o’s of Foodbytes two side-by-side circles with a small grain in the first and a larger grain in the second, which together represent the process of startup seeding a new idea, which when fostered by corporate partners can grow through shared trust and Rabobank’s support.
“As we’ve grown and evolved over the last eight years, I think you can see sort of a maturity and a freshness to the new look” that also speaks to the company’s heritage and focus on connection, collaboration and sustainability.