A rite of passage in order to enter the ToasterLAB acceleration program, pitching for the selection committee is a major source of stress for our applicants. For the members of the committee, it's a chance to be suprised and amazed - by new product ideas or out of the box thinking, by ambitious entrepreneurs from around France or the world.
Get your backstage pass to the selection committee with Noëmie Simon, food innovation coordinator for our partner Terres Univia.
Terres Univia, a committed member of toasterLAB
The partnership between ToaserLAB and Terres Univia goes back to 2018 with the launch of the Prot'Eat start-up contest. The goal of the contest was to help innovative solutions to emerge around the topic of pulse-based foods and tomorrow's plant proteins. Prot'Eat also gave us two of our alumni: Graine de choc and Life Loving Foods, the contest winners who were subsequently accelerated by ToasterLAB.
For Noëmie, choosing Vitagora and ToasterLAB as partners was an easy choice: "We had common goals - building economic value for our regions, promoting French excellence abroad and fostering food innovation". She continues, "like us, Vitagora is interested in the whole food value chain, from the field to the consumer."
After a first, and successful, collaboration, Terres Univia is continuing its adventure with ToasterLAB as a 2019 founding member, and a willing participant in the selection committees.
a typical selection day for toasterLAB
Following each call for applications, a dozen or so start-ups and SMEs are invited to pitch for the selection committee made up of representatives of ToasterLAB's founding members. This is a decisive (and stressful) moment for the applicants and the main chance to convince the jury of the value and scope of their project.
Of course, the burning question is "how?"
While the committee members share a general idea of what they are looking for, each one has their own areas of interest. For Noëmie, "naturally, I am looking out for any ideas that offer added value to the sector of oil/protein seeds, or any new food products or innovative processes". But she is also interested by "any projects that promise to solve problems for agriculture."
Advice for future pitchers
After having seen around 50 start-ups pitching, Noëmie observes that "while the pitches are generally pretty good quality, and the entrepreneurs are engaged and enthusiastic, I can't help seeing the same mistakes over and over: too much time is spent on the general economic and social context and not enough of the specific innovative character of their own project."
Get to the point!
Dear pitchers, we need to get this of our chest. The selection committee is made up of food business professionals, this is their world. They know that the world's populations is growing and it will need feeding. They are well versed in the climate crisis, the protein crisis and any other large challenges facing today's food industry. They want to know what YOU are going to do about it.
So, stop beating about the bush. And talk about you.
What's your strategy?
Another area of improvement for Noëmie is that "start-ups often have a hazy grasp of the reality of their markets". Once your innovation has been revealed, you need to prove to the committee (just as you will to future partners and investors) that there is a market for your product or service. So don't stint on any market information you may have, or defining characteristics of your target consumers... basically anything that contributes to your development strategy.
While Noëmie, as stated, has a vested interest in pulses and plant proteins, other start-ups have been able to surprise and amaze her with their ideas. "I'm especially maternal about the 4th cohort [accelerated in 2018] who I have been able to follow during their acceleration and beyond. In particular Greenspot Technologies and Nbread Process for their amazing technological solutions, that promise to revolutionise what goes on our plates." Among the others, "It was probably Kuantom and Aveine who surprised me the most with their solutions. Their growth since their acceleration shows the timeliness of their projects." Among the start-ups of the latest cohort, she was very impressed by Biomédé "who offered a great answer to the increasing problems around soil health".
Concerning the up-coming applicants, Noëmie wants to see the emergence of "start-ups and SMEs offering services to the food processing and agricultural sectors. A lot of young entrepreneurs are focusing on consumers while there is so much to be addressed for professionals."
Start-ups and SMEs, make the most of this advice to brush up your pitch! And apply to ToasterLAB by August 26th, to join the 2019 cohort of our 100% Agri-Food acceleration program. Apply here: https://toasterlab.vitagora.com/apply
Par Claire VO
ToasterLAB's Program Manager, Claire "VO" is in charge of our start-ups' acceleration and post-acceleration, as well as intrapreneurship. After 12 years with Vitagora, Claire's unparalleled knowledge of our network is put to good use while integrating our startups into the food business ecosystem! E-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org