Norwest partner, Priti Youssef Choksi recently did a Q&A with the team behind the Future Food-Tech Summit where she shared her advice for aspiring food tech start-ups and discussed her most exciting investment of 2020.
See below for the interview and if you’d like to hear Priti discuss the topic in further detail, she will be speaking on the panel “Scaling Start Ups: Choosing the Perfect Partner” at the upcoming Future Food-Tech Summit on December 3rd. Register here.
Can you tell us more about your focus at Norwest Venture Partners and what you look for in a food-tech start-up?
I’m a partner at Norwest Venture Partners where I focus on a broad range of areas including consumer brands and software. My investments include the versatile footwear brand, Birdies and cell-based meat company, Memphis Meats.
The criteria I use for evaluating food tech start-ups are similar to the framework I use for assessing investments across the board. I look at the size of the total addressable market, the strength of the founding team and their unique insights on the space, product differentiation, competitive moats, and the ability to execute successfully across go-to-market, branding, etc. There are, however, additional considerations for food tech start-ups. Specifically, cost – relative to replacing existing products, capex investment and payback period, and most importantly, taste and mouthfeel of the product – if it doesn’t taste good, you’re not fooling anyone!
What has been the most exciting or surprising investment so far this year?
Earlier this year, we invested in Memphis Meats’ Series B funding round. Memphis Meats is a pioneer in the cell-based meat industry with a vision of providing a sustainable, humane and healthy alternative to conventional meat while also helping to secure the global food supply. The funding represents the largest capital infusion for any company in the cell-based meat space, pushing the industry forward. We were inspired by CEO Uma Valeti’s vision, strong leadership team, and potential to build and scale a cell-based meat platform. We believe the alternative protein category will continue to grow exponentially, and Memphis Meats has the opportunity to build a great business and have a positive impact.
What advice would you give to a start-up when seeking investment?
Be clear about what is important to you as you pick your investor – size of fund, expertise in the industry, contacts to grow the business, etc. Create a short-list of partners and firms that fit your criteria and ask for warm intros from your current board members and advisors. Have informal chats with potential investors and test for fit – after all, these are multi-year relationships you will be building! Once you have your top 3 to 5 investors identified, pitch them with a clear vision that includes specific asks on both the fundraising and strategic fronts. Remember, once you secure the financing, the real work of company building starts – leverage your investors and advisors to help get you to the next level.
What will you be looking out for at Future Food-Tech this December?
I’m keeping my eye on a number of trends. Obviously, anything related to the cell-based meat space is interesting to me. As a firm, we’re also tracking companies tackling food waste – we’re an investor in Imperfect Foods, which is making a huge impact in decreasing food waste. Other key areas that seem promising include microbial alternatives to dairy and novel plant-based proteins. Additionally, I’m excited to hear about the latest innovations in food supply chain and food safety, especially in the form of robotics, hardware and software.
This Q&A was originally published on the Future Food Tech Summit website.