Food Investor Panel

Food Investor Panel

A January 10 gathering in San Francisco for food entrepreneurs featured investors from most major asset classes, including (right to left) Kevin Murphy of Encore Consumer Capital, Meredith Schwarz of General Mills Ventures, Adam Salamone of Harvard Common Press, and Andy Donner of Physic Ventures.

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Ananda Neil and Matthew Wise

Ananda Neil and Matthew Wise

Neil is the founder of Artisan Growers & Producers, which was on hand to distribute samples of its foods. Wise is the organizer of FoodStartups, the co-founder of Cosemble, and the co-founder and executive producer of Founderly.

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

A Luscious Spread of Food Samples

A Luscious Spread of Food Samples

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

A Crowd of Food Entrepreneurs Gathers, Hungry for Advice

A Crowd of Food Entrepreneurs Gathers, Hungry for Advice

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Bruce Shaw and Ramsey Walker

Bruce Shaw and Ramsey Walker

Shaw is founder and president of Harvard Common Press, one of the nation's leading cookbook publishers.

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Red All Around

Red All Around

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Willo Margarita Mix

Willo Margarita Mix

Willo Cocktails, a co-sponsor of the FoodStartups event, was founded by former Northeastern University student Starielle Newman.

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Moksha Beer

Moksha Beer

Moksha co-sponsored the FoodStartups event. Their craft amber ale is available at Indian restaurants around the Bay Area.

Photo by Tony XQ Chan, courtesy of FoodStartups

Andy Donner and Wade Roush

Andy Donner and Wade Roush

Donner is a partner at Physic Ventures and was on hand to represent venture capital on the evening's panel. Roush is editor of Xconomy San Francisco.

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Camille Zanette

Camille Zanette

Zanette is U.S. Brand Ambassador for Champagne Devaux. She shared champagne samples with the panelists.

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Matt Wise Calls the Meeting to Order

Matt Wise Calls the Meeting to Order

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Adam Salamone

Adam Salamone

Salamone is associate publisher of The Harvard Common Press, and represented the angel investing community on the panel.

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Andy Donner

Andy Donner

Physic Ventures has invested in Yummly and Revolution Foods, among many other food- and health-related companies.

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Ryan Caldbeck

Ryan Caldbeck

Caldbeck is founder and CEO of CircleUp and represented crowdfunding on the panel. CircleUp invests in consumer goods companies, including many food-related busineses.

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Wade Roush

Wade Roush

Roush has moderated three FoodStartups events since November 2011.

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Meredith Schwarz

Meredith Schwarz

Schwarz is the manager of General Mills Ventures in Minneapolis and represented corporate venture capital on the panel. General Mills Ventures invests in food technology, packaged food brands and digital media.

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Rapt Audience

Rapt Audience

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Kevin Murphy confers with an audience member

Kevin Murphy confers with an audience member

Murphy is the director of Encore Consumer Capital and represented private equity investing on the panel. Encore has invested in numerous food startups, including Aidells Sausage Company, California Splendor, Ciao Bella Gelato, and JuiceTyme.

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Kevin Murphy takes questions from food entrepreneurs

Kevin Murphy takes questions from food entrepreneurs

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Ananda Neil, Tracy Lawrence, and Matthew Wise

Ananda Neil, Tracy Lawrence, and Matthew Wise

Attendees adjourned to Paragon Bar & Restaurant for drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Lawrence is founder of Chewse, a 500 Startups company.

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Joyce Guan, Tim West, and Todd Eichler

Joyce Guan, Tim West, and Todd Eichler

Guan is founder of Buyer's Best Friend. West is founder of Cerealize. Todd Eichler is a food entrepreneur.

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Bruce Shaw, Marcia Hooper, and Wade Roush

Shaw is president of The Harvard Common Press in Boston. Hooper is with HooperLewis LLC in Dedham, MA.

Krysia Zajonc, Mateo Aguilar, and Avital Ungar

Krysia Zajonc, Mateo Aguilar, and Avital Ungar

Zajonc and Aguilar are cofounders of Local Food Lab, a food startup accelerator. Ungar is founder of Avital Food & Wine Tours.

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Kevin Murphy, Tracy Lawrence, and Abby Sturges

Kevin Murphy, Tracy Lawrence, and Abby Sturges

Sturges is a designer and founder of Culture Kitchen, a 500 Startups company.

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Michelle Paratore and Andreas Sæbjørnsen

Michelle Paratore and Andreas Sæbjørnsen

Paratore is co-organizer of FoodStartups. Sæbjørnsen is co-founder of Founderly and Cosemble and co-organizer of FoodStartups.

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Adam Salamone, Hamburger Maven

Adam Salamone, Hamburger Maven

Photo by Tony XQ Chen for FoodStartups

Silicon Valley has acquired a taste for food. Not the kind with calories, but the business of food: making it, distributing it, serving it, and helping people discover it. Among both entrepreneurs and investors, there’s a fast-growing enthusiasm  for finding both high-tech and low-tech ways to bring new shopping and eating experiences to consumers.

That was the clear takeaway from a FoodStartups gathering in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood on January 10. It was the fifth such meeting since late 2011, and the largest to date, with 170 people cramming into the ninth-floor SOMAcentral startup space at 153 Townsend to hear a panel of investors talk about the funding options available to new food companies.

The panelists covered all the major asset classes in the investing world, with the exception of non-profits/social enterprise and pure (non-accredited) crowdfunding. As the moderator, I asked each panelist to explain what types of companies they invest in, what advice they’d give to budding food entrepreneurs, and what signs they see that it’s a good time to be starting (and investing in) food-related enterprises.

I was too busy moderating to take notes, but in general the panelists agreed that it’s a promising time for food startups, given consumers’ rapidly changing tastes and their openness to new ways of discovering and buying foods. But getting a new food startup off the ground is probably as difficult as ever, and inevitably requires lots of bootstrapping and friends-and-family funding before it can rise to the revenue level where angel, venture, or private-equity investors might be interested.

Here’s a rundown of the panelists.

Representing venture capital: Andy Donner, partner at Physic Ventures in San Francisco. Donner’s firm has invested in food companies such as Yummly and Revolution Foods.

Representing the angel investing community: Adam Salamone, associate publisher at Harvard Common Press, a Boston-based publisher of cookbooks and parenting books.

Representing corporate venture capital: Meredith Schwarz, manager of General Mills Ventures in Minneapolis. It’s a corporate venture fund focused on investing in food technology, packaged food brands and digital media.

Representing crowdfunding: Ryan Caldbeck, CEO of CircleUp in San Francisco. As I explained in a July 2012 profile, CircleUp runs an online clearinghouse where accredited investors can vet consumer goods companies in the $1 million to $10 million revenue range.

Representing private equity: Kevin Murphy, director of Encore Consumer Capital in San Francisco. Encore invests exclusively in leading consumer products companies, including JuiceTyme, Aidell’s, Ciao Bella Gelato, California Splendor strawberries, and Zuke’s dog and cat treats.

FoodStartups is a non-profit co-founded by Matthew Wise and Andreas Sæbjørnsen, who are also the co-founders of media startup Founderly and event sharing platform Cosemble. The photos above were taken by Tony XQ Chen, a producer at Founderly, and are used by permission (thanks Tony!).

If you missed the FoodStartups event, don’t despair—Wise says the next one is coming up February 21. Meanwhile, try catching the tail end of the Fancy Food Show at San Francisco’s Moscone Center—it runs through January 22.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy.

  • http://www.dailygrommet.com Jules Pieri

    This is a really great slideshow. Wonderful photos and really made me want to be there. More! More!