This is a shamefully late post but better late than never. I wanted to share some musings from an event last month: San Franola Granola, a local freshly-roasted granola producer, hosts quarterly food summits with the goal to “bring together some of the best minds in the space and have a productive conversation about the future of food and what that means for us all” (from the San Franola recap of the event). Sounds like pretty good mission to me!
The summer summit (held at Sourcery’s soma offices) featured speakers Katie Fitzgerald, business development associate at CircleUp, and Nate Miyaki, fitness author and coach. The speakers addressed pretty distinct topics so I’ll cover them individually.
Katie Fitzgerald, CircleUp
CircleUp is a crowdfunding platform enabling accredited investors to identify and invest in mid-sized consumer and retail businesses. It’s gotten a lot of press over the past six months (WSJ, PandoDaily, VentureBeat) and fills a previously-unoccupied niche in the funding ecosystem, enabling funding for companies that are too small for private equity dollars and too limited in terms of growth potential for venture capital.
Katie shared that, to date, CircleUp has facilitated the funding of 18 companies with a total of $18M. However it’s not easy to get onto CircleUp (and they’re clearly attracting a lot of attention): only 2-3% of companies which apply make it onto the platform. Katie didn’t share how many companies are eliminated because they don’t meet the size requirements (CircleUp focuses on companies with $500K-$1M in annual revenue) or because their business model or product falls short (more here on how CircleUp informs its decisions). She did share that, more recently, CircleUp is open to working with companies under this revenue threshold provided the team has a strong entrepreneurial track record (and even better if they bring some of their own investors to the table).
One question Katie got (which I’m sure they often get) is, “where do you send companies that don’t make it onto the platform?” Katie had a few suggestions: small business loans, friends and family, and kickstarter. Although CircleUp is filling a niche for a select small group of consumer products companies, the majority of food startups face the same funding options they always have, with the exception of kickstarter. Katie was quick to disclaim that “it’s hard to convince consumers to pay upfront for a granola bar.” I guess that’s true, unless you’re Exo and you have the insect hook – in that case it seems you can do pretty well on kickstarter…
Companies CircleUp has worked with/are working with in the food space include:
- SmartyPants: Gummy vitamins, raised $2.6M
- Peeled Snacks: Dried fruit snacks, raised >$2M
- Melt: Plant-based butter substitute, raised $1M
- Rhythm Superfoods: Kale chips, raised >$750K
- Little Duck Organics: Kid-friendly snacks raised $750K
- 18 Rabbits: Granola bars, raised $500K
- Bhakti Chai: Bottled ginger chai tea, no data on funding
- Green Zebra Grocery: Portland-based “Whole Foods meets 7-11”, no data on funding
Nate Miyaki, fitness coach
Nate is a former professional wrestler, a bodybuilder, an author, a fitness coach, and a nutritionist. His website offers his training and nutrition tips and sells his books.
The gist of his message, which I couldn’t agree with more, is that there’s a preponderance of confusing, misleading, and, in many cases, conflicting messages about what we’re supposed to eat. Nutrition standards are set by lobbyists and influenced by big food companies: the ADA (recently renamed to be the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) is the largest US organization of food and nutrition professionals and has a significant voice in shaping the national discourse around nutrition. It also boasts corporate partners and sponsors including Kellogg, Mars, ConAgra, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and General Mills. One of my favorite illustrations of how misleading nutrition studies can be is detailed in the Columbia Journalism Review piece, “Survival of the Wrongest.” Seriously, it’s a fascinating read.
So what to do in a world of mixed messages about what comprises a healthy diet? From Nate’s experience, there’s not a “one-size fits all” answer. For people who are more sedentary (exercise <3 days a week), he is a strong advocate of the paleo diet: Hunter-gatherer-inspired with fish, meat, vegetables and fruits but no grains, dairy or refined sugar. However for more active people, especially cross-fitters engaging in substantial anaerobic activity, he’s seen disastrous results from the paelo diet including a lack of energy, a lack of libido, and the confusing “skinny-fat” syndrome. For people engaging in serious exercise Nate recommends more carbohydrates (root vegetables, tubers, rice) to fuel demanding exercise. Read all about his nutrition guidelines on his website.
Thanks San Franola for getting a great group together for beers and discourse! The next summit will be held on Wednesday, November 13th from 6-9pm at the Four Seasons SF. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the list.