Interview: Food Tech Matters Partner Foodland Ventures on the foodtech start-ups coming out of Asia and North America
Food Tech Matters Partner Foodland Ventures talk about the agri-foodtech space, their work and the start-ups they’re investing in.
Foodland Ventures is a VC and accelerator investing in the new generation of foodtech founders changing the global food industry with technology. With operations in Asia and North America, they partner with leading F&B brands, industry partners, mentors, and investors, helping start-ups grow their business.
What does the agri-foodtech sector in your country look like?
Although we are located in Taiwan, we look at the larger international foodtech space including APAC and the North American market. If we’re taking a closer look in Taiwan, we see that the F&B industry is really accelerating the adoption of technology. At the same time, initiatives like Startup Island Taiwan is giving great support to start-ups here and agri-foodtech star-tup trends are definitely on the rise.
We believe that the engineering and technology talents in this area offer great opportunities for agri-foodtech innovations like on-demand delivery and the cloud kitchen model. Start-ups like JustKitchen and 3 SQUARE are examples of cloud kitchens here in Taiwan, with other very successful cloud kitchen start-ups in the region like Rebel Foods from India, and Yummy Corp from Indonesia.
What is the most important progress made in agri-foodtech in your region?
In terms of the APAC region, since the pandemic, we see very fast progress made in technology adoption from consumers and businesses alike. Because of strict restrictions, what would take years to implement and get used to had to be rolled-out in months, if not weeks. Taking contactless ordering as an example, we see a huge growth in the market for online ordering platforms as smaller vendors and independent restaurants have also implemented the technology during Covid.
Which areas of the agri-foodtech sector are in particular need of innovation?
With Covid, consumers are paying a lot more attention to the traceability of produce. The nature of traditional open markets and wet markets are not ideal for tracking the safety of the food you put in your mouth. E-grocery will play an important role in the innovative ways consumers now buy their produce. Companies looking to tap into the market will need to accommodate to the consumer behaviours here as people tend to buy small portions of ingredients as opposed to buying in bulk like the US.
What are the challenges currently faced by the agri-foodtech industry?
As the F&B industry has been relatively more “traditional,” we think the biggest challenge is to have the solutions in the agri-foodtech sector really gain market traction. At our accelerator, we put a big emphasis on the connections we bridge for tech companies and F&B groups. This is to make sure tech startups and businesses can find common ground through their mutual interest.
What are the most important characteristics you look for when investing in start-ups?
When investing in early stage companies, a lot of what you look at is the founder and the team, and their abilities to face challenges and solve problems together. But what we value most is whether the team has a good understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Only by having this understanding, the team would be able to have a strategic vision of where they want to go and what resources they need to get.
Which start-ups have you worked with/accelerated and why?
As our VC and accelerator really values the unique characteristics of different startups, what we’re offering is not program-based but a tailor-made acceleration process that focuses on investor and industry connections. Throughout the process, we want to highlight two startups – Yo-Kai Express and Tsaitung Agriculture.
Yo-Kai Express is a restaurant automation startup based in Silicon Valley taking the form of vending machines and self-driving cars. We’re impressed by their ambition to not just build machines but a platform for global foods. That’s why they’ve attracted global distributors to form strategic alliances. We’re also highlighting Tsaitung agriculture, a fresh produce platform connecting farms to restaurant and family tables. Their quick responses in the recent Covid outbreak in Taiwan allowed them to build a direct-to-customer business in six days as dining-in was restricted. This further proves that a team’s ability to respond and pivot quickly is crucial in startups.
Do you invest globally or in specific regions?
We invest globally. With operations in North America and Asia, we’re looking for innovators no matter where they are, as long as they’re solving the industry challenges and problems with innovations.
What is your advice for start-ups beginning in this industry?
It’s important to make sure your product can find product market fit (PMF). That is to say, make sure what you offer actually solves a problem in the industry. Start-ups can sometimes be fixated on the technology advancements they make and forget to examine the industry needs while this could be the most important thing that determines your success.