Funding To Food Tech Startups Reaches New Peak
Posted at 16:54h, 11 Aug 2015 in List Archive by Bonnie Halper No Comments 135 Likes Share

Good morning, All,

We took a food handling safety class – as is required by law in New York, in order to work in the food business, and we are preparing to launch Sweet Freedom (coming soon). While the class was both informative and enlightening, in light of the bigger picture – what’s happening with our food supply/food itself, and various companies’ attempts to disrupt food – that was two plus days of our life that we’ll never get back again.

California, that part of the world that has attempted to reinvent or disrupt everything from ride-hailing (Uber and Here Are the Internal Documents that Prove Uber Is a Money Loser) to house cleaning (Homejoy) has spent quite a bit of time and money of late taking aim at food itself (Funding To Food Tech Startups Reaches New Peak – someone please fund another food delivery service soon!). Between Soylent, described in Crunchbase as having been developed “from a need for a simpler food source. Creator Robert Rhinehart and team developed Soylent after recognizing the disproportionate amount of time and money they spent creating nutritionally complete meals.” Just add water and voila: $22.3 Million from investors, mostly to disrupt programmers from having to take time away from their work to forage for food/feed themselves. As Soylent investor Chris Dixon also pointed out, it only costs about $10/day for the regimen. Part of the reason for having developed Soylent was to help feed the Third World, where food is sparser and note to self and Silicon Valley investors who might not be aware of how the lower 99% lives: $10/day per person for food is First World pricing.

The good people who brought you Soylent also altered the original recipe, as Soylants (as we call Soylent aficionados) complained that it caused flatulence. Never mind that Soylants must chew gum in order to keep their jaws from atrophying: apparently, humans were meant to masticate, but never underestimate the critical importance of eliminating flatulence. Which Soylent did, and which our diabetic husband used to ingest as a partial meal replacement (lunch) – until they changed the formula, upped the carbohydrate load, and set off his diabetes. Meaning, that the current formulation is not as ‘healthy’ as the original. We suppose it’s just a simple case of commerce over science, and speaking of which, there’s this: Sex, lies, and eggless mayonnaise: Something is rotten at food startup Hampton Creek, former employees say. “More than a half-dozen former employees who spoke to Business Insider say that the company used shoddy science, or ignored science completely, stretched the truth when labeling samples, and created an uncomfortable and unsafe work environment, partly in an effort to meet production deadlines.” Hampton Creek did raise $120 Million to ‘help shape the future of food,’ and never mind that vegan mayonnaise has been commercially available for years. In fact, Trader Joe’s makes a quite good one.

While we’re on the subject, it turns out that Kind bars are not so healthy. Almond Milk has no almonds in it and heads up to people who feel that being gluten free is healthier as a lifestyle: in commercially available gluten free baked goods, the wheat has been replaced by primarily with rice flour and potato starch. That’s an unhealthy combination, which greatly increases one’s carbohydrate intake and has been leading to the rise of Type 2 diabetes in the celiac community. Something which we warned about six years ago, when we first started developing our own gluten free line (and use a much healthier alternative than rice flour/potato starch/tapioca starch). Type 2 diabetes is cumulative, so careful there. And while gluten intolerance is not fatal, diabetes can be.

Sometimes, falling back on common sense helps: would you sit down to a snack of rice, potatoes, tapioca and sugar? Those are the primary ingredients in most gluten free cookies and cakes.

We know that this may seen a divergence from our usual focus on tech, but when leading tech investors put their focus on food and food substitutes, we take heed. This is an industry that tends to pay attention to what comes out of the mouths of whom we’ll call rockstar investors, like Andreesen Horowitz’s Chris Dixon, and Hampton Creek investors Khosla Ventures, Founders Fund, and Salesforce CEO and founder Marc Benioff. Having a lot of money or being successful in one vertical doesn’t make you smarter than the average bear or master of all things. So when it comes to food and Frankenfood, as with anything, consider the expertise of the source – and careful what you’re willing to swallow. Onward and forward.