San Francisco-based VC firm Scrum Ventures just announced Food Tech Studio – Bites!, a food tech-focused program that looks to bring together a variety of companies innovating across the food industry.
Speaking on the phone this week, Michael Proman, Managing Partner at Scrum Ventures, said the program is something of a reinvention of the traditional accelerator model. Instead of early-stage companies receiving investment and mentorship in exchange for equity, Food Tech Studio is more about helping companies at any stage cultivate long-term relationships across the food industry: with corporations, other entrepreneurs, and industry thought leaders alike. And since the program’s partners include several Japan-based companies (see below), building relationships in the Japanese market will be a major (though not the only) focus.
As to the types of companies Food Tech Studio is looking for, the range is intentionally broad. Applicants might include everything from supply chain management solutions to food waste companies to food producers reimagining how a CPG brand could change what we eat.
“We’re trying to create a very diverse community of companies,” Proman said. He adds that many food tech companies nowadays fit into more than one category (e.g., food waste and food traceability), and that casting a wide net will allow the program to bring together companies, partners, and mentors who might not normally mix in a traditional accelerator setting. In Proman’s own words, it’s “bringing together folks that would otherwise not have come together but have common points of interest.”
“Anytime you have upwards of 100 startups coming together from around the world, particularly startups that are at different stages or areas of the industry, I think there are a lot of opportunities [for] conversations that wouldn’t normally be taking place,” he adds.” This in turn can lead to more collaboration between the different verticals within the food tech industry.
Adding to the diversity is the list of the program’s partners, which includes Fuji Oil, instant-noodle innovator Nissin, tea company Itoen, Juchheim, the Otsuka group, and food distribution company Nichirei.
A virtual format helps with the program’s cross-discipline-like approach. Like other programs that have kicked off in the last several months, Food Tech Studio will be online, as the pandemic makes it difficult to conduct any in-person sessions.
Proman said the program will choose between 75 and 100 companies to participate, though they’re not married to a specific number. (“We don’t have a quota,” says Proman.) Applications are open right now and the program is slated to begin in early 2021.