Startup Europe Week (SEW) is an initiative of Startup Europe and the European Commission that helps promote regional diversity and local policy within the continent. From the 1st to the 5th of February 2016 SEW put a spotlight on everything the regions are doing (and can do) to support European entrepreneurs.
You Can Group, The Future Food Institute and ASTER joined forces to host two events on the 2nd and 4th of February in Bologna, Italy to support the local startup community and create awareness around new initiatives for entrepreneurs.
Taking place inside Biblioteca Salaborsa, Bologna’s main library situated in Piazza Maggiore, the event “Feeding the Future: entrepreneurship + digital innovation for a better food ecosystem” was the perfect opportunity for young innovators to get together to discover new local funding and networking channels.
The event commenced with a hangout session with Danielle Gould, founder of Food Tech Connect in New York who explained how technology is levelling the playing field for sustainable food across the system, and helping to create more innovative and transparent ways of doing business. In 2010, Danielle started Food+Tech Connect as a blog, sharing the stories of food and agtech startups, open-data initiatives, as well as hosting events to connect these innovators with one another. The blog has now become a huge platform for good food innovation that helps people launch, grow and transform food businesses through news, online business courses for food tech entrepreneurs (Food + Tech Ed), branding courses for restaurants and food companies, and hackathons. Food + Tech Connect also has the largest Meetup network in New York, bringing entrepreneurs, investors, chefs, farmers, food artisans, journalists, and makers of all kinds together to network and explore the future of the food industry. Danielle shared that “over 1.9 billion dollars has been invested in the food and agtech space since 2014, and 6.1 billion dollars across four IPOs, which gives investors a lot of confidence in the space.” She went on to conclude that “many multinational companies are now launching funds to incubate startups, as they need to diversify their portfolios, and invest in the future of food to keep up with consumer demand and innovation.”
Following the hangout with Danielle, members from ASTER – Sara Monesi and Martina Lodi – took the stage. ASTER has been appointed to coordinate the High Technology Network and technology transfer activities of the Emilia Romagna region. They represent the regional innovation system, and play an active role in national and European initiatives. They talked to the crowd about their program KICK-ER, which helps startups launch their projects onto the market using reward based crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, Indigogo and Eppela. Martina said that the most important thing to remember was transparency and how the entrepreneur will use the money received from the campaign. “It is important to put your face on your ideas and be as transparent as possible in order to improve your reputation and gain trust,” she said.
It was then Alessio D’Antino’s turn to take the stage. The Torinese entrepreneur spoke about his platform Crowdfooding, an equity-based crowdfunding platform that connects food and beverage entrepreneurs with investors. It aims to leverage the disruptive power of the Internet to make early-stage investing for financiers, and fundraising for food and beverage startup companies, easy and immediate. Crowdfooding uses a specialised match-making system with an innovative proprietary algorithm to curate investor deal-flow and suggest investment opportunities based on personal portfolio focus and interests. The project will officially launch in London in the first week of March.
Young Milanese entrepreneur Alessandro Corti from WoopFood then spoke about his digital platform that aims to connect “Made in Italy”. The platform links producers with consumers who want to help fund agricultural initiatives. The aim is to create a more sustainable food production line by strengthening producer-consumer relationships and creating a sense of community.
From crowdfunding we moved onto education, and heard about two programs that are helping to cultivate food entrepreneurs: the Food Innovation Program (FIP) and the MBA Food & Wine at Bologna Business School.
The Food Innovation Program is a secondary level Master founded by the Future Food Institute, the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Unimore) and the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California. Inspired by creative learning and design thinking methodologies, the program provides students with the opportunity to engage in an international classroom/workshop environment comprised of theory and prototyping, teamwork based innovation challenges and entrepreneurial mentoring. The second edition of FIP will commence in September 2016 in Reggio Emilia, Italy. This year the program will also incorporate a month-long tour in Silicon Valley and a month-long tour in Shanghai, China. The Officucina, a hybrid kitchen-meets-maker-space, where the program takes place will also be launched in various locations around the globe.
To talk about the Officucina further, Antonio Gagliardi, Calabrese digital fabrication specialist was called upon. Antonio is a graduate of the Food Innovation Program and he is also a Future Food Institute Fellow. He has worked across many 3D printing projects during the program as well as with corporate partners like Barilla. He plans to work on many new initiatives when the Officucina container (previously based in Reggio Emilia) moves to Bologna’s Giardini Margherita.
“In the Officucina in Bologna I’m planning to build, with Tarek Soliman, a digital farm making an incubator for crops or any other growing systems so that we can follow growth patterns step by step. Basically it will be a 3D printer for biomaterials,” said Antonio.
The final guest speaker was Fabrizio Trigila from Parco Tecnologico Padano who spoke about the innovative business platform ‘Alimenta2Talent’, which helps develop high added value projects in Agrifood and Life Sciences. Co-financed by the Municipality of Milan and developed by PTP Science Park, the first Italian Technology Park for agri-food, agri-biotech, bioeconomy and life sciences, it helps develop a new generation of startups through a six-month business and technology acceleration program. Five business ideas will be selected, but there can only be one champion. PTP Science Park will evaluate a direct equity investment in the winning enterprise. The call is open to ideas from across the world and closes on February 29th 2016.
From Sala Borsa the event moved to gourmet hamburger restaurant Well Done for Bologna’s first Food Tech Meetup. Eight food entrepreneurs were asked to give a five minute pitch on their latest projects including: Fabrizio Malipiero (docFaber), Alessandro Corti (WoopFood), Chiara Cecchini (FeatApp), Lorenzo Salmi (Badeggs), Elena Galli (MYLbread), Marco Biasin (FruttaWeb), Antonio Saracino (ucooki) and Antonio Di Giovanni (Funghi Espresso).
Lorenzo Salmi, who has been orbiting the food innovation scene in Bologna and abroad said, “It was a good opportunity for networking and meeting. I liked the atmosphere and especially to be sincere, for a startupper, these meetings are also very important for our spirits too.” Badeggs were also asked to cater for the event. “We prepared everything ourselves,” said Lorenzo. “It is part of our mission to organise promotional events that explain that good food doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. Chef Federico Bassi and pastry chef Veronica Amoroso, members of the Badeggs team, prepared a small taste of what we usually offer at our ‘unconventional’ events,” he said.
The Badeggs platform, which connects foodies and chefs and allows both parties to upload and share recipes and culinary philosophies, will be launching in Bologna in two weeks time.
Overall the Food Tech Meetup was a great success. Antonio Gagliardi commented, “I saw Antonio Di Giovanni from Funghi Espresso. I knew him from before and to see how his project has grown was awesome. Also we had the chance to share some thoughts and ideas. I think we will work on something together soon, thanks to the Meetup we were able to see each other again after many years. WoopFood is an interesting project for me. It’s pushing forward the classic concept of sharing small farmers products through the community. I think that can give big value to South Italy’s farmers that are actually producing high quality food but haven’t got the right channels to sell it.”
Given the success of Bologna’s first SEW and Food Tech Meetup, and the fantastic networking opportunities both events provided, other gatherings have been planned for the near future. StartUp Europe Week ends on the 5th of February.