FoodX innovative food startups do a demo day in Brooklyn

As seen in New York Business Journal:

Published December 4, 2015

Startup food businesses looking to provide healthier, sustainable options took the stage in Brooklyn last night at a FoodX accelerator event featuring young companies with ideas that ranged from helping small farmers keep vegetables fresh to turning a bottled water purchase into a philanthropic event.

Shen Tong, the CEO and founder of Food X, says that in exchange for 8 percent equity, the program provides startups working on food innovation ideas with $50,000 and mentor sessions from the likes of Ben Cohen, the cofounder of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and Dorothy Hamilton, founder of the International Culinary Center, and of the James Beard Foundation. The current crop of nine companies featured at the demo day and seeking funding at Verboten in Williamsburg included companies in three areas, all focused on healthier, sustainable eating practices: consumer packaged goods, agricultural technology, and marketplace apps.

FoodX is one of four accelerators backed by venture capital firm SOSV. It is a 14-week program that has the companies working under one roof in lower Manhattan as what Tong calls “cohorts,” because he thinks of each one as a cohort of learning, with teams learning from mentors and one another.

“We have a co-working space, we want to create a safe environment for them to fail fast,” Tong said. “We are helping them to fail fast, so that they succeed faster.”

Tong has experience in shaking things up. He was one of the organizers of democracy movement in Tiananmen Square back in 1989 and was subsequently exiled to the United States, where he ended up attending college in Boston. Now based in New York, he is an entrepreneur and investor and food activist, with ties to key people in the industry.

FoodX has a network of 200 experts that the “cohorts” can tap into, including experts in hunger issues, consumer behavior, food law compliance, packaging and all the major aspects of creating consumer goods.

The accelerator so far has 15 companies at the post-revenue stage and their aggregate revenues for 2015 will be nearly five times that of last year.

“They move into the revenue and earning stage fairly quickly compared to tech companies,” Tong said. “That’s what’s different from food innovation.”

With yesterday’s demo day, it has now had 25 companies total go through the program.

Here’s a look at the nine that presented:

Givn: This is a spring water brand derived from North American sources that aims to make people who buy bottled water feel better about doing so. It uses the Tom’s shoe charitable model. For every bottle sold, a day’s supply of water goes to a person in need, helping the approximately 1 billion people who lack access to clean water worldwide.

Crema: This app helps indie coffee shops take on Starbucks by providing them with the same ordering and payment abilities and uniting them on one platform that lets coffee fans use a mobile map to locate them. The company, which takes a 2.9 percent fee per transaction, has secured 30 coffee shops in Montreal, and wants to grow its U.S. presence in five cities: New York, Montreal, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco.

ForkYoo: Acknowledging the popularity of cooking at home for millennials, this startup partners with New York City restaurants on chef-prepared meal kits that provide the fresh ingredients and the instructions to make meals at home. Unlike the big meal-kit players like Blue Apron, it saves on cost and waste, by keeping delivery local. The company, which has four partners so far, including La Sirene, charges a 30 percent transaction fee.

Bizzy Coffee: This organic coffee product takes advantage of the cold-brewed coffee craze, but brings the taste and the caffeine to supermarket and big-box shelves by providing a product with a year-long shelf life. It’s already being sold on, and the company is meeting with Target and Costco.

TruEnergy: Cofounded by a former professional hockey player with other athletes on its team, TruEnergy is a green tea drink that re-energizes and rehydrates without making people jittery as energy shots do. It includes vitamins that many people are deficient in, including several of the B vitamins, and Vitamin D. The company is doing a micro launch in New York City through fitness facilities.

ChugaChaga: This ready-to-drink tea beverage is made from an ethically-harvested fungus found on birch trees that contains more antioxidants than blueberries. It’s designed to bring cancer-fighting agents to the healthy drink market.

Wakati: After the founder realized how much produce goes to waste worldwide because small farmers can’t keep their harvests cool, he came up with Wakati, a solar-powered tent designed to keep fruits and vegetables fresh without the use of expensive cooling.The 170 units it has sold so far will collectively save $100,000 a year.

Cookmood: This app turns home chefs into paid teachers by allowing them to throw cooking classes that are live streamed, so that viewers can learn to, for instance, cook ceviche from a Peruvian, while interacting with classmates. Home chefs just need a cellphone, tablet or laptop to conduct classes. Cookmood takes a 20 percent commission for the classes.

Booster: Launched in Paraguay, this startup delivers agronomic data to farmers who don’t have access to information on rainfall and weather, and who need help with pricing their produce. The company charges farmers $1 per month via a mobile platform and is looking to expand into other Latin American companies.

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