List: Sources of Equity Financing for Food Startups

equity financing

As someone who loves food, wants to change the world, and believes that start-ups and early stage financiers can help drive much-needed change in our food industry, I keep tabs on investors working in the food and agriculture spaces. Here’s a quick list of groups working in the industry — and for startups, potential sources of equity financing.

Note: Originally published on April 28, 2015. The current publication date reflects the last time the list was updated.

Accelerators

What: Time-bound programs that typically offer mentorship, co-working space, and usually funding, often in the form of equity. Check out my list of accelerators and incubators here. The cash you’ll receive from these programs is usually not very substantial. If you’re truly fundraising, keep reading.

Angel Investors

What: Angels are individual investors who choose to invest their personal money. They often invest at the seed round. Note: Some angel investors prefer debt-financing to equity financing. (And as a start-up, you might prefer that, too.) More on convertible notes later.

Angel Food Network Chicago IL no investments as of 2015
Austin Foodshed Investors Austin TX
“connecting accredited investors with local sustainable food companies”
Branch Venture Group Boston MA
Provides funding and advice to early-stage food companies with a focus on beverage CPG, foodtech, and agtech spaces
Colorado Food Investments Boulder CO sustainable food investments
Food Angels New York NY food, alcohol, CPG, drink or foodtech companies
Hyde Park Angels Chicago IL
they have a consumer group that does some food business investing
Slow Money New York NY
“$57 million has been invested in more than 632 local and organic food enterprises through our network”
Sustainable Local Food Investment Group (SLoFIG) Chicago IL supporting Chicago’s foodshed
The Cascadia Foodshed Funding Project (CFFP) Edmonds WA
collaboration of foundation and individual impact investors seeking to use market-based strategies to grow the Pacific Northwest’s regional food economy

Equity Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding has gained a lot of attention in the last decade. There are two types.

Cash-for-perks: Crowdfunding is a way to take your fundraising efforts to the crowd. In exchange for some kind of perk (a shout out, early access to a new product, a t-shirt, etc.), startups get cash from the crowd.  See the list of crowdfunding platforms dedicated to food & beverage, consumer goods, and agriculture here.

Cash-for-equity: The other model for crowdfunding, which became a legal reality after the Title IV of the JOBS Act Jobs Act got the green light, is cash-for-equity.  Investors may be angels or funds, which puts CrowdFunding (for equity) nicely between Accelerators & Venture Capital in terms of sources of equity. The platforms listed below curate deal flow for their investors, so you’ll have an additional round of selling to do just to get listed. From there, each investor makes their own decision on whether or not they’re interested in investing.

AgFunder San Francisco CA AgTech
CircleUp San Francisco CA Consumer Goods, including food & beverage
FundersClub San Francisco CA Funds a variety of startups; food startups that have utilized this resource include SpoonRocket, Zesty, Goldbely, and Instacart
Venture.co Burlington VA Early stage investment bank packaging and selling raises from $400k-$15M; features some consumer-facing companies including food & bev

Venture Capital

What: VCs are institutional investors (i.e., individuals investing from a fund). Venture Capital firms usually invest at a slightly later stage than angels and in larger amounts, but these things are usually functions of their fund size, mandate, and investment themes. Venture Capital funding is hard to get.

Agri-Innovation Venture Capital Fund Norwich United Kingdom
AgTech Innovation Fund Davis CA
Aqua Capital Management Omaha NE water rights investment and management
Aqua-Spark Utrecht Netherlands
Aquacopia New York NY Venture Capital for Aquaculture
Armonia Greenwich CT regenerative farmland, brands & funds (focus on grass-fed beef)
Arthur Ventures Growth Fund Fargo ND focused on software, but sometimes makes ag software investments – Fargo, ND & Minneapolis
Avrio Capital Calgary, Toronto, Montreal Canada “innovative food & agriculture companies”
Better Food Ventures Menlo Park CA Food/Tech
Blueberry Ventures San Francisco CA “innovate brands in the food and beverage space”
Boulder Food Group (BFG) Boulder CO Food & Beverage
Bradmer Foods Baltimore MD Consulting & Investment Firm
Capitol Food Ventures Washington DC business advisory and investment firm for food & ag businesses
CAVU Venture Partners Austin TX CAVU Venture Partners is a venture capital firm that invests in firms in food and beverage; $365M fund
Clearwell Group Tampa FL
Cleveland Avenue Chicago IL Started by McDonald’s former CEO Don Thompson, this VC fund is focused on food, beverage, and restaurant concepts
Cultivian Sandbox Chicago IL AgTech
Cultivian Ventures Carmel IN
Data Collective San Francisco CA focused on big data; has made several AgTech investments
Dom Capital Group Chicago IL focused on restaurants & hospitality
Edible Ventures Boston MA currently raising a fund
Fair Food Fund Ann Arbor MI funds good food businesses
Farm2050 Palo Alto CA AgTech
Fresh Source Capital Cambridge MA sustainable food & agriculture
Fund the Food Ashville AL student-led fund started by the Kirchner Private Capital Group, focused on food security
Gastronome Ventures San Diego CA Specialty Food
GreenSoil Investments Tel Aviv, Toronto products and services focused on smart and efficient use of resources such as land and water
Inventages London, Hong Kong Life sciences, nutrition, and wellness
Isocline Ventures Charleston SC Wine & Spirits
JumpCapital Chicago IL recently invested in several food companies
Khosla Ventures Menlo Park CA recently invested in several food companies
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Green Growth Fund Menlo Park CA historically interested in CleanTech; venturing into AgTech now
Lewis & Clark Ventures St. Louis MO “We Provide Series A | B Round Venture Capital To High Potential Innovators Throughout The Midwest”
Liquid Asset Brands Chicago IL focused on innovative beverage brands, Liquid Asset invests from seed to series B
Maveron Seattle, San Francisco concentrates on consumer start-ups only
MetaBrand’s Capital Pillar Edison NJ consumer products with a focus on food and beverage, these guys provide both debt and equity financing and also provide advisory services
Mokja Ventures Washington DC $5M fund for local restaurants
New Ground Ventures Westport CT FoodTech, Branded Food & Beverage
NGEN Partners New York NY
NRV Richmond VA
Powerplant Ventures Los Angeles CA flying a little under the radar, these guys have invested in Thrive Market and REBBL; focused on plant-based ventures
Rabo Food & Agri Innovation Fund “Part of Rabo Private Equity, the Rabo Food & Agri Innovation Fund will invest in early-stage food and agriculture companies in the United States and Western Europe.”
Raptor Group Boston MA recently invested in several food companies
Salt Partners Group San Francisco CA Food & Beverage
Salt Venture Partners Boston MA FoodTech; Boston and SF
Seed to Growth (S2G) Chicago IL transformative food and agriculture companies
SJF Ventures Durham NC AgTech; NYC and SF
Smallholding Investments San Francisco CA early stage ($1m-$10m revenue) food and consumer products
Sonoma Brands Sonoma CA founded by Krave Jerky founder
SOS Ventures New York NY runs the FoodX accelerator and has made several investments in the food space
Spiral Sun Ventures Chicago IL “We are a mission-based seed capital fund that promotes a healthier lifestyle by investing in companies that create better-for-you consumer products.”
True North Venture Partners Chicago IL “invests in early stage companies with disruptive innovations that can reshape socially important industries such as energy, water, agriculture and waste.”
Upfront Ventures Santa Monica CA Partner Kara Nortman backed Power Supply/Territory in their most recent round
Uprise Ventures New York NY invested in Sir Kensington’s; focus on the consumer space; emphasize connecting companies with key influencers
Valley Oak Investments San Francisco CA Early-stage food, agriculture, and health & wellness companies
Village Capital Washington DC Also invests in ag, ag-tech, and aquaculture

Other VC groups making occasional food investments: Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Hospitality Capital (NYC), Maveron LLC, SV Angel, True Ventures, Obvious Collection, Revolution (Steve Case: Sweetgreen), Yellowstone Capital

Corporate Venture Capital 

What: Corporate VCs are institutional investors in the sense that they’re investing out of a fund, but their investments are usually bankrolled by a parent corporation who wants to fund innovations in their industry (often because it gives them a line-of-sight into emerging trends and opportunities). Depending on the size of the fund and its strategy, these groups may have been formed as part of the firm’s M&A strategy. Note that CPGs launching an internal fund is a strong and growing trend.

20 Million and Change Ventura CA Patagonia’s clothing, food, water, energy, and waste fund
301 Inc. Minneapolis MN General Mills’ corporate VC
7-Ventures Dallas TX 711’s VC Fund
Acre Venture Partners Santa Monica CA Campbell’s $125M fund
Boulder Brands Investment Group Boulder CO Boulder Brand’s early stage investment group; they’ve got an M&A group, too
Constellation Ventures Victor NY Constellation Brand’s venture arm; emphasis on spirits
Cultivate Ventures Washington D.C. Hain Celestial’s venture arm
Distill Ventures London United Kingdom Diageo’s VC fund for investing in alcoholic and non-nonalcoholic beverage brands
Dupont Ventures Agriculture, etc
Eighteen94 Battle Creek MI Kellogg’s $100M fund that launched in June 2017
Emil Capital Partners Greenwich CT owned by Tengelmann Group
General Mills Ventures Minneapolis MN (for brands with revenues of $3MM or more)
Maumee Ventures Maumee OH Ag Innovation, owned by The Andersons
Monsanto Growth Ventures San Francisco CA AgTech
Tyson New Ventures, LLC Chicago IL Tyson Food’s new $150MM fund focused on innovation in its core fresh meats, poultry and prepared foods businesses
Unilever Ventures Englewood Cliffs NJ Unilver’s €450mm fund headquartered in London, with a US office in Englewood Cliffs, NJ
VEB Atlanta GA Coca Cola’s fund
ZX Ventures New York NY AB-InBev’s VC fund for investing in alcoholic beverages

Growth Equity

What: Growth Equity shops are institutional investors (i.e., individuals investing from a fund). Growth Equity firms invest at much later stages, and at much greater amounts, than VC firms. Conceptually, you might think of them as sitting between venture capital and private equity (see below), but growth equity is ultimately a segment of private equity.  These investors prefer de-risked investments, invest when companies have tens of millions of dollars in revenues and/or EBITDA, and create value through profitable revenue growth. Hence, growth equity.

2x Consumer Products Growth Partners Chicago IL Generally with revenue between $2 million and $25 million; no pre-revenue businesses
Advantage Capital Agribusiness Partners New York NY agriculture investing; some growth equity, some PE (they’re an RBIC)
Anterra Capital Amsterdam, Boston focus on companies that are transforming the safety, security and sustainability of global food
BIGR Ventures Boulder CO growth equity fund providing value-added, strategic partnership and capital to promising early-stage natural and organic products; http://bizwest.com/2016/09/07/boulder-investment-group-reprise-raises-55m-new-natural-products-fund/
Greenmont Capital Partners Boulder CO green consumer products
Pontifax Los Angeles CA foodtech, agtech
Sunrise Strategic Partners Boulder CO provides growth capital and expertise to emerging brands in the healthy, active and sustainable living space that resonate with millennials, have a strong proof of concept and have reached approximately $10-$20 million in revenue




Private Equity

What: Private Equity shops are institutional investors (i.e., individuals investing from a fund) using a combination of equity and debt (also known as leverage).  In the eighties, private equity transactions were known as leveraged buyouts, or LBOs. Like other investors, the size of private equity investments are typically a function of fund size and strategy, but these are late-stage buyouts.  Turnarounds may or may not be involved.

AGR Partners Davis CA evergreen fund focused on food & ag value chain
Alliance Consumer Growth NYC and LA consumer goods, including food & beverage
Altamont Capital Partners Palo Alto CA Their consumer portfolio includes a few food companies
Arbor Investments Chicago IL Food & Beverage
Arlon Capital New York NY middle-market food & agriculture
Equilibrium Capital San Francisco, London, Portland (OR) recent ACM Permanent Crops Fund is focused on … permanent crops; SF and Oregon
Farmland LP San Francisco CA buys conventional farmland, converts to organic
First Beverage Ventures Los Angeles CA PE arm of First Beverage, focused on “emerging beverage companies”
Goldner Hawn Johnson & Morrison Minneapolis MN
Hancock Agricultural Investment Group Boston MA row & permanent cropland
Homestead Capital San Francisco CA operating farmland
Investeco Sustainable Food Fund Toronto Canada
JH Whitney & Co New Canaan CT invests in some consumer goods & restaurant groups
Kainos Capital Dallas TX
Kirchner Food Security Group Ashville AL Agriculture
Paine + Partners Chicago IL Food & Agribusiness; Chicago, NC, CA
Retail & Restaurant Growth Capital Lp TX just like it sounds, but they invest $1-3M along side other PE firms and try to add value through consulting services
Rural America Fund Chicago IL growing middle-market rural American companies, principally in agriculture or ag-related businesses
Sherbrooke Capital Wellesley MA branded consumer goods
Southern Pastures Auckland New Zealand pasture land
Sovos Brands San Francisco CA team of CPG veterans, backed by Advent International
Swander Pace Capital San Francisco CA consumer products; SF and NJ
Verlinvest NYC, Singapore, Paris, Brussels consumer-focused fund with a food & beverage (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) theme; shareholders are all from AB-InBev
VMG Partners Los Angeles CA lower-middle market, branded consumer products; SF and LA
Winona Capital Chicago IL some branded food products

Think this list is missing a group or someone important? Want to update your organization’s listing? Email me.





Be the first to comment on "List: Sources of Equity Financing for Food Startups"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*