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TechScale Berlin: The women at the forefront of Berlin foodtech

EXB resident techxpert Jewell Sparks on why diversity matters to a company's bottom line and the women contributing to the future of food and agriculture in Berlin.

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In honor of International Women’s Day, which took place last Sunday (March 8), I wanted to give a shout out to all the women in digital, corporate innovation and startups. YOU ROCK! For this week’s TechScale Berlin, I want to share with you what is happening in the agrifood space and highlight a few great women contributing to the future of food and agriculture in Berlin. Before we get into all of that, a little note on the important contribution that women and diversity can make to a company’s bottom line.

Diversity Matters

We constantly talk about diversity amongst leadership teams (startups, SMEs, corporates) but very little is being done about it. Diversity spans the areas of national origin, industry backgrounds, gender balance and career paths.

In 2017, BCG published a study, The Mix That Matters: Innovation Through Diversity, which surveyed more than 1700 companies in eight countries (Austria, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Switzerland and the US) across a variety of industries and company sizes. The study concluded that innovation revenues start to kick in when more than 20 percent of managers at a company are female. Companies with above-average diversity scores reported 45 percent above-average innovation revenue. We have heard this all before, but where are all the female founders? 

Agri-foodtech funding takes off

According to Agfunder’s Agri-FoodTech Investing Report, foodtech and agtech startups raised $19.8bn in venture funding (1858 deals and 2344 unique investors). The report states that Europe’s VC industry “continued to mature, and it was noticeable in agri-foodtech as investment increased 94 percent year-over-year to $3.3 billion”. A few of 2019’s top 10 investment categories included: eGrocer, cloud retail infrastructure, restaurant marketplaces, restaurant tech and ag biotechnology. 

Of course investments in alternative meats and dairy continued to thrive and Beyond Meats IPO leapfrogged the interest in alternative meat and seafood in full swing. 

The agri-foodtech’s investor base is quite diverse and inclusive of corporates, global VCs and generalist investing in the space. Temasek and SoftBank were notable entrants into the agrifood investment space, but S2G Ventures continues to lead, investing in companies such as Beyond Meat, Trace Genomics (Diane Wu, Poornima Parameswaran), New Leaf Symbiotics, Innit, Blue Prairie, AgVoice, and Ataraxis, just to name a few. If you are a German-based (especially Berlin) agri-foodtech founder with a solution that mimics anything similar to these startups, I say have a coffee meeting with investors within your network as soon as possible and make your business case. Need help with this? Contact me. “We all need food,” as I say. 

Women putting a dent in the agtech and foodtech space in Berlin

As I was researching foodtech and agtech startups in Berlin, I was shocked to see that more women were not in the space. Maybe I should say appalled to be more specific. I know a few women who are changing the trajectory in the areas of food and venture and wanted to highlight them this week. There are more superwomen of food who are not listed. No worries, this storyline is to be continued.

Simone Strey: CEO of Plantix

The tech master, Simone founded Plantix (PEAT GmbH) in 2015. Plantix is ​​an app that enables you to identify plant diseases and pests. The user takes a picture on their mobile phone camera, which is then analysed with artificial intelligence to make a suitable diagnosis and offer appropriate treatment tips. According to Crunchbase the company has raised €12.2 million in funding.

Doreen Huber: Co-founder of B2B FoodGroup

A serial foodie, Doreen founded Lemoncat in 2016 and is now the co-founder of B2B FoodGroup which is one of the world’s leading platforms in the business catering sector. They are active in eight countries and have more than 3000 catering partners. 

Mengting Gao and Verena Hubertz: Co-founders of Kitchen Stories

Mengting and Verena founded Kitchen Stories in 2013. The food recipe site features step-by-step photo instructions and video tutorials on making dishes of various types. In 2018, BSH Home Appliance Group acquired a 65 percent share in the global food platform.

Jenny Boldt: Co-founder and CEO of Mealy

Superwoman Jenny, alongside her partners (Florian Feigenbutz and Tim Strehlow), co-founded the Mealy app in 2015. Mealy is a recipe app from food bloggers for food lovers. Those who download the app can follow their favorite food bloggers and receive new recipes according to their personal tastes. Jenny is also head of startups for Bitkom which is the Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media. 

Manon Sarah Littek: CEO of Katjesgreenfood

This impact investor is the ex-managing director of DLD Ventures and is now investing in the future of food. As the CEO of Katjesgreenfood, she sits on the board of Foodstirs and is a global force. A woman of action, and one of the few female investors based in Berlin, she’s aligned with the European Green Deal Farm to Fork Strategy ensuring that Europeans get affordable, sustainable food. 

That’s all folks… more to come on this topic next week.

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