Courage, creativity and caffeine came together for the Techstars Food + Tech Startup Weekend in the New Hope Network office May 17-19 in Boulder, Colorado. More than 30 passionate members of the food and tech industries collaborated in a fast-paced, incubator environment to pitch their ideas to use technology as a tool to solve issues in the food system.
I kicked the night off by providing context, highlighting issues that our food system currently faces and providing examples of technology-based solutions such as FullHarvest and NioLabs. Jane Miller of Lily’s Sweets then delivered an inspiring keynote before participants were given just 60 seconds to pitch their early stage ideas. Teams were quickly formed from the most popular ideas and work ensued with haste, with only 48 hours left to develop a fully fledged business plan.
Saturday began with eager eyes, all teams focused on honing their vision and assessing market viability. How can we influence sustainable packaging provided at restaurants? Are consumers willing to crowdfund local farmer initiatives? Can we connect restaurant managers and chefs with higher quality staff? Is there a way to accelerate the launch of CPG startups?
To help guide the teams and perfect their final pitches, more than 20 mentors from Boulder’s local food community lent their expertise and knowledge. Between the informed guidance of the mentors and copious amounts of snacks donated by local food sponsors, the teams hastily crafted a final pitch deck to present to the panel of five industry judges on Sunday night.
With only 5 minutes to present the entirety of their business plan, the teams were judged on customer validation, business model and execution. The teams were closely competing for the grand prize package, which includes two badges to Natural Products Expo West 2020 and more. The winning team was PlasticScore, an app which empowers consumers to record the type of packaging they receive at a restaurant (styrofoam, plastic, compostable, etc). This information is public, showing restaurants without sustainable packaging that their customers care. The app then connects restaurants with sustainable packaging suppliers, earning revenue through referral sales.
PlasticScore and the Food + Tech Startup Weekend event served as a reminder of the strong ecosystem that exists for food and technology. With an opportunity to connect and problem solve, the weekend-long accelerator showed there is a plethora of opportunities to create innovation for good within our food system.