By Kerri Crossey, Seedbed Pre-Accelerator Programme Manager
As applications open for EIT Food’s Seedbed 2020 Pre-Accelerator Programme, Kerri Crossey shares why validating your business idea is one of the most important steps you can take in growing a business and how Seedbed helps to support entrepreneurs at this vital stage of their journey
As the challenges in our food system grow ever more urgent and varied, the appetite for innovations across a number of fascinating areas is increasing from all corners of the investment world and society at large.
At EIT Food, we’ve seen some brilliant ideas come through our programmes in the last year, and are excited about their growth potential. Investments in food innovation are growing at pace and show no signs of stopping: according to Pitchbook, funding for food tech has skyrocketed from about $60 million in 2008 to more than $1 billion in 2015, and unique investments from VCs and private equity funds doubled from 223 in 2015 to 459 in 2017, according to CB Insights.
Why validate your agri-food business idea first?
With rising pressures to feed and nourish 9 billion people in a safe, responsible and sustainable way by 2050 - whilst simultaneously dealing with the lack of available resources for food production and effects of climate change - innovations in food technology will play an important role in transforming our food system and achieving global food security for future generations. As a result, there can be a temptation to launch new ideas as quickly as possible in order to get ahead of the market and gain traction before anyone else does.
But taking the time to properly test your idea with the market you’re aiming for - and with those that you perhaps haven’t considered before - is a step that is not worth skipping.
Not only do companies gain a sense of security that their product or idea will succeed once it is launched by testing it first; they can also gain insights and adapt their innovation whilst it is relatively early and the associated time and financial costs are minimal.
By knowing the size and budget of your market, you can also get a much clearer idea of the financial potential of your idea.
Moreover, perhaps the most important benefit of the validation process is creating relationships with future customers. You are setting yourself up for success by creating an appetite for your product and tailoring it to its buyers before investing valuable time and money.
Introducing the EIT Food Seedbed programme
EIT Food’s Seedbed programme, a multi-location initiative which trains and supports teams over a six-month period to help them better understand the needs of their customers and validate their business ideas, is designed for early stage products or services that utilise innovative agrifood technologies. These businesses should be aiming to make a big impact on the food sector, including the way we produce, deliver, consume, recycle and value our food.
Seedbed’s customer-discovery programme allows you to test the market directly with 100+ potential customers and learn how to progress from commercial proposition to validated business. At the end of the programme, you’ll pitch your idea to a panel of industry experts, receiving constructive feedback and the chance to secure up to €20,000 follow-on funding from EIT Food to help bring your product to market.
Throughout this game-changing customer discovery programme, you’ll be supported by an EIT Food Seedbed hub lead and will also have access to an expert mentor who can provide a much-needed industry perspective.
We’re particularly keen to see diverse teams, because EIT Food firmly believes that this is key to a more sustainable, healthy and trustworthy food system.
Want to hear from Seedbed participants about what they got from the programme? Introducing Lorenzo - from 2019 winning team 2BNanoFood
The bigger picture: meeting the Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) were developed by the United Nations (UN) as a call to action by all countries to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere. In order to successfully achieve them, we require a transformative change in the food system towards those which are inclusive, sustainable, efficient, nutritious and healthy.
EIT Food’s strategic objectives, listed below, support these goals - and it is important that the applicants for Seedbed outline how they can contribute to at least one of these objectives:
- Supporting Europeans in the transition towards a smart food system that is inclusive and trusted
- Creating consumer-valued food for healthier nutrition and affordable personal nutrition choices
- Building a consumer-centric connected food system: Developing a digital food supply network where consumers and industry are equal partners
- Enhancing sustainability: Developing solutions to transform from the traditional ‘produce-use-dispose’ model into a circular bio-economy.
Your Seedbed journey
After a really successful 2019 where we supported some truly game-changing ideas to test the market, we’re excited about seeing this year’s applications to the Seedbed programme.
By supporting you in this vital step of your business’s journey, we’ll help you to develop a refined product, more confidence, some great customer relationships and a detailed business plan and value proposition. In return, you’ll bring ideas that have a strong social and environmental purpose, baked in from the beginning; a strong and diverse team with complementary skills; and an appetite for growth.
For more information on what kinds of ideas and teams we are looking for, as well as detailed information on where we are holding our bootcamps and the application process, check out the Seedbed webpage.
Applications for Seedbed 2020 must be completed and submitted by Sunday 15th March 2020 at 5pm.