There’s a new investment player in the food tech space, kinda. Though Brian Frank has been angel investing (and a frequent Smart Kitchen Summit guest) in the space since 2016, his FTW Ventures announced its first official fund today.
FTW Ventures has closed $4 million for its first fund, which the firm will use to invest in 15 to 20 early-stage and pre-seed food tech startups (five investments have already been made). Frank, the General Partner at FTW, told me by phone last week that FTW’s check sizes will be between $100,000 and $500,000.
So what areas will FTW be investing in? “All technologies and sciences that transform the food world,” Frank said, “Bioscience, IoT, advance materials, also personalized nutrition.” Frank also mentioned computational biology, which uses computer modeling to take on more research work, rather than having it all done in wet labs.
Frank started pitching the fund in February of 2019 and it closed about a year later. The timing could actually work in FTW’s favor. The pandemic is causing massive disruptions to our daily lives, including the meal journey. The coronavirus has highlighted existing issues with our food supply chain, especially for something like meat packing, and accelerated certain trends like delivery and automation.
FTW isn’t alone in investing in food tech. The sector has remained hot for venture money throughout the year, despite the pandemic. This makes sense given that no matter the situation, people still need to eat.
Frank sees three major trends in food tech. First, “People are stuck at home and trying to get their food,” Frank said. This is causing consumers to pay more attention to what they are putting into their bodies. Second, “There is a mega trend here in bio-technology, everyone looking for biotech to save the world,” Frank said, pointing to startups like Perfect Day and its flora-based approach to creating dairy. Finally, Frank said “You have the issue at the farms and meat processing plants” that will create opportunities for robotics and automation.
Ultimately, Frank says FTW is looking for companies that his firm can provide unique help with. “There’s plenty of money out there that will fund plenty of businesses,” he said, “We don’t fund businesses that I can’t help accelerate.”