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Top 10 tips for pitching your startup online

Whether you love it or hate it, pitching your startup is a big deal. Like most events nowadays, the majority of pitches are being hosted digitally. Here are our top ten tips for pitching your startup online.

Today (Friday 15 January) the startups in our current cohort will be pitching for investment at our Startup Demo Day. The event is the culmination of the latest round of our accelerator programme.

For the last three months, we have been working with these six exciting food startups to help them build, grow, and launch in the food industry. This afternoon, the founders will each have six minutes to pitch to a panel of investors, in front of a live audience, in the hopes of securing investment.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, we are hosting the event online. Pitching is often nerve-wracking and doing it remotely can add an extra layer of complexity. If done right, however, it can be very impactful.

If you nail your pitch, it could be just the catalyst to propel your startup to the next level. With that in mind, here are our top ten tips for pitching online.

Practice, practice, practice

Let’s start with an obvious but important one. You must practice your pitch – relentlessly. Practice in front of a mirror, practice online, practice in front of real people. The founders who are the best at pitching are the ones that have put in the time behind the scenes. The result is a pitch that’s as smooth as (plant-based) butter.

Alumni startup Greenwise pitching at a previous ProVeg Incubator Demo Day

Embrace the awkward pause

How you deliver your pitch is almost as crucial as what you say. Have the confidence to take your time. Speak slowly and clearly, be precise, and take a pause after key details. It might feel awkward to you, but it is effective. Pausing is the spoken word equivalent of an exclamation point – it emphasises that what you just said is important. 

Remember body language

Even though you will (likely) be sitting at a computer, body language is still important. Look into your webcam when you speak so that the audience can connect with your eyes, just as they would in real life. Think about your facial expressions and gestures too. You can use these to reinforce your points and bring your speech to life.

Put your best foot forward

Does your team have 50+ years of experience? Have you developed a patented technology? If your startup has a unique strength then put it at the beginning of your pitch. This will engage your audience from the start and demonstrate the capability of your company.

Write a script

Pitching is an unnatural situation, so you might as well be prepared for it. By scripting your pitch, you can ensure that you cover all the points you want to make. You can also cut down on filler and time your speech more accurately. Knowing what you’re going to say will give you confidence and the more you practice, the more natural your pitch will become.

Alumni startup Plantcraft pitching at a previous ProVeg Incubator Demo Day

Wifi is Queen

Technical hitches can mess up a pitch. This is particularly true of an online presentation. Make sure you have a stable internet connection and use a LAN cable if possible. You could have the best pitch in the world, but it won’t matter if your screen freezes and no-one can hear it.

Think of your setup

You also need to think about where you will be delivering the pitch since the stage won’t be set for you. Pick a well-lit room with no distractions or background noise. Sit in front of a neutral background and get yourself a headset so that your audience can hear you loud and clear.

Avoid buzzwords

Investors will likely have heard the buzzwords from your sector countless times before and they won’t land like you want them to. Holding someone’s attention can be tricky online, so don’t turn them off with overused language. If you do use a buzzword, use it sparingly and back up what you are saying.

Three products our startups will pitch today. Plant-based chorizo from Pow Foods, chocolate from Fellow Creatures, and chicken from Naka Foods.

What about samples?

An important part of a pitch is being able to handle, smell, and taste a startup’s product. When you are pitching online, that experience will be missing so think about how you can replicate it. Can you send samples to the investor in advance? If not, you could consider making a demo video of your product or product tastings to play during the pitch.

Have fun

Finally, let your positive energy shine through. This is your company and if you are passionate about it, then show it. At the end of the day, people connect with and invest in people. If you are enthusiastic about your company, others will be too. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even be interested enough to support or invest in you.

If you want to join our next cohort of startups and be one of the companies pitching at our next demo day, then apply now. We are accepting applications from innovative food and food tech companies until the deadline on 7 February.

Top 10 tips for launching a food startup

We work with startup founders from all over the world to help them build thriving companies. Although starting a business is challenging, there are certain steps you can take to give yourself the best chance of success. In this blog post, you’ll find our top 10 tips for getting your startup off the ground.

Launching a food startup is exciting. Having a great idea for a new product or service that the world needs and actually turning that into a viable business is hugely rewarding. However, it can also be a daunting and difficult process. We’d be very surprised if any entrepreneur reached their goals without making any mistakes along the way. 

Now, don’t get us wrong, because mistakes are not always a bad thing. They are how we learn and adapt to be able to do better in the future. However, you don’t necessarily need to make all the mistakes yourself in order to learn from them. You can also learn from the experiences of others.

At the ProVeg Incubator, we support around 20 new startups every year and we continue to help our alumni after they graduate from our programme, for as long as they need us. 

From working with such a variety of companies from around the world during different stages of their journeys, we’ve gathered a wealth of information about launching successful businesses. Some members of our team also run their own companies or have done so in the past.

Of course, there is no magic recipe for success; we know you know that already. But, there are some key pieces of advice that we give out to all our startup founders. Now, we’d like to share these with you, too.

Pick the business that is right for you

Your startup will become your life. To get it off the ground and make a real go of it, you’re going to need passion for your business. If your heart isn’t in it, you won’t want to do it for long. Plus, you’ll have a hard time convincing other people like investors and customers to buy into your idea, if you don’t love it yourself. Pick a mission that you truly believe in, and you’re already giving yourself a great start.

The founding team of plant-based milk company, Pläin

Put the right team in place

We cannot emphasise this one enough. Even the best idea in the world won’t come to much if you don’t have the right team to execute it. Having the relevant skills and experience is important, but you should also choose to work with people who share your ambitions, your energy, and your vision for the company.

Do not underestimate branding

Branding is much more than just a logo and a font. It’s your company’s soul. It’s your values, your look-and-feel, and your vision. Nowadays, building a trusted and respectable brand is just as valuable as having a good product. In an ideal world, your product or service would speak for itself, but it cannot. That’s what your branding is for –  so don’t leave it to the last minute.

Branding from plant-based food startup, the nu company

Nail your elevator pitch

When it comes to introducing your company, you should aim to impress. You never know when you might meet somebody who could help your business, and having them listen to a fumbled explanation of your startup will not inspire confidence. Prepare two-to-three short, sharp sentences that describe who you are, what your startup does, and why, and then practice them so you’re ready to make a great first impression. Also, practice and nail other, more detailed versions of your pitch, especially your investor pitch.

Do your research

This one might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people are not thorough. Are you solving a real problem? Is there a big enough market for your solution? Will people actually pay for your product? If so, how much? How will you reach your customers? Do you have competitors, and what are they up to? You should know this information like the back of your hand.

Never stop talking to your customers

That research that we referred to above is not a one-time task. Your customers can continually provide you with valuable insights if you keep engaging with them. Test out ideas with consumers, request feedback, and pay attention to how people interact with your brand. This learning process could help you to improve your brand and product and might even spark fresh, new ideas.

Create content

To build a connected community around your brand, you need to provide your audience with added value. A good way to do this is with content marketing. Are you selling plant-based dog food? Don’t just advertise your kibble – write blogs about pet health and nutrition, film behind-the-scenes videos of your startup journey, and share photos of customers enjoying your products. Engage with your customer community. People love stories and are enticed by interesting content shared on the channels they use.

Plant-based meat company Greenwise pitching at the ProVeg Incubator Demo Day

Find mentors

Reach out to people, network, and speak to fellow founders and entrepreneurs. Seek out people you can learn from, and listen to their advice. Check out incubators and accelerators that can support you. You’ll still want to make your own decisions at the end of the day, but having trusted advisors who’ve been there and done that will give you an incredible advantage.

Build in buffers

This is not meant to scare you – but everything is going to take longer than you expect. Bear this in mind when fundraising, looking for production partners, and trying to get listings, for example. Build in time buffers if you can, plan realistically, and always have a Plan B in your back pocket, just in case things don’t go according to plan.

Stay on top of your cash flow

One of the main reasons for startup failure is running out of funds. Establish budgets, track all of your spending, and limit your early expenses in order to help mitigate that risk. Don’t dream when it comes to your financial model – make solid and plausible forecasts. Make solid and plausible forecasts. Also, don’t feel pressured to quit your day job if you can’t afford to do so right away (although, at some point, you will need to fully focus on your startup). Having a steady flow of income can give you financial peace of mind until your business really takes off.

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Surviving and thriving in times of corona

Corona is a test for the whole economy – and even more so for startups. In this post, we look at how innovative plant-based and cellular-agriculture food startups can tackle the current crisis – and how ProVeg Incubator is supporting them during this unprecedented challenge.

The corona crisis is a global phenomenon – it affects countries on all continents and is hitting health systems, financial markets, the economy, and global society as a whole. The International Monetary Fund is forecasting the “worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.” The Covid-19 pandemic carries immense uncertainty and threat for businesses. It is tough to predict what the world will look like when the storm is over. How will food startups working on plant-based and cultured innovations fare during this crisis? 

Startups need partners in the food industry who will believe in them and accompany them on their entrepreneurial journey. They also need partners that provide sustainable funding. Furthermore, they need to have a sound strategy when it comes to commercialisation and scaling. It has to be solid and flexible in equal measure, especially in times of crisis – like now. 

Corona is a test for startups in all of these regards.

Let’s have a look, for example, at the industry partners and networks that startups rely on. The out-of-home market has basically collapsed. Foodservice is stalled, with restaurants, cafes, schools, and canteens closed in many countries. Even when the shutdown loosens, it will take a long time for the industry to recover. 

Food delivery has benefitted from this gap in the market but is not strong enough to make up for the losses. Retail, meanwhile, is booming, as customers stock up on staples and non-perishable food. However, supermarkets are tending to focus on big brands and essentials in the current crisis. Against this background, startup innovations are getting less attention.

Kathi Ohens and Csaba Hetényi, the founders of plant-based deli meat company Plantcraft

Funding rounds at risk

On the financial side, startups are also facing challenges. Yes, there is still a lot of money in the market – However, ongoing funding rounds may be endangered, stalled, or even postponed. Many venture capitalists, family trusts, and other investors will now prioritise their existing portfolios and take their time to assess the situation. They will wait and sit out the crisis. The risk of valuations going down is very real when there are fewer active investors around. 

It is great news that companies such as Impossible Foods are defying the crisis, having recently raised huge rounds of fresh funding. Remarkably, plant-based-chicken startup Rebellyous Foods just successfully raised a Series-A round of funding. But, chances are, that many investors will now tend to stick with the bigger fish, while early-stage startups may be stalled on their growth path.

So these are the threats, and they are real. Now, what are the opportunities?

Some impact investors focusing on plant-based and cellular-agriculture startups have confirmed to us that they are still feeling bullish. They have reason to believe that, both now and after the crisis, innovative, impact-driven startups will thrive even more. 

Consumer behaviour may tend to be more savings-oriented for a longer time. Yet, health and the environment will be more in focus in the wake of corona. Diet considerations and diet change will also become even more important over the next few years.

Startups working on healthy plant-based and cultured alternatives have a chance to stand out in the coming times. Alternative proteins that are sustainable, clean, and high in wholesome and functional ingredients will be in high demand in the long run, especially among millennials and future generations. Consumer scepticism about food tech might yield to more openness, with tech-driven food startups benefitting from such a situation.

Show stamina, rethink strategy

In the meantime, cutting fixed costs to a minimum and preserving cash flow is essential to survival. One promising path may be government-support programmes that include loans, down payments, and short-time-work benefits. Unfortunately, such programmes often only address established companies and are not applicable to early-stage startups.

In the meantime, startups will need to be adaptive, creative, and patient – and prove that they have stamina. This is the time to reconsider your go-to-market strategy, work on your forecasts, and strengthen your network, for example, your ties with suppliers and co-manufacturers. Think about new ways of commercialisation and scale-up. Consider building your food-delivery business and work on your DTC channels. Or think about entering new markets that you may have neglected until now. 

Take Plantcraft, a ProVeg Incubator startup that makes plant-based deli products. They are now pushing to bring their pate and pepperoni to European markets quicker than planned. This way they can address increasing demand in this food category in Europe and compensate for the high uncertainty in the US market due to corona. 

Sander Sieuwerts of Incubator alumni startup Brannatura. Photo credit: Cadenza Zhao

Support from accelerators

As for new funding, think beyond venture capital. Now may be the right time for young startups to plan and launch a crowdfunding campaign. Brannatura, another startup that participated in the ProVeg Incubator programme, has prioritised setting up this type of campaign in the face of the corona crisis. Another great way to get support and access to funding are incubators and accelerators such as the ProVeg Incubator. Their resources and networks have proven to be invaluable for startups – especially in times of crisis.

At the ProVeg Incubator, we help startups in many different ways. Together with founders, we analyse strengths and weaknesses and set goals for the upcoming months. During our three-month programme – which we offer twice a year and for now completely online –  our mentors and team coach startups in topics such as food law, branding, and fundraising. 

Mentoring, matchmaking, and connections to food-industry experts are now more important than ever. Additionally, for the first time, the ProVeg Incubator is now giving a cash grant to each accepted startup, along with the opportunity to receive follow-up funding of up to 180,000, on completion of the programme.

We stand up for mission-driven food startups – so they can not only survive this crisis but thrive once it is over.

Five reasons to join ProVeg Incubator

Are you a food innovator? Do you have an exciting startup, but need support in getting it off the ground? Then read on!

We are currently searching for promising companies to join ProVeg Incubator as part of our next cohort of startups. Since the Incubator launched in November 2018, we have worked with over 45 startups from all over the world, helping them to raise more than €22 million and launch over 40 products. Still need convincing? Here are five great reasons to join us…

We will fund you up to €200,000

Yes, you read that correctly. Every startup that joins ProVeg Incubator will have the opportunity to secure up to €200,000 in funding. We’re not saying it’s all about the money, but that’s a significant amount of cash that can really help a business. Particularly in the early stages, you are going to need cash for R&D, product development, and recruiting, for example.

We know who you need to know 

Everyone has heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know”, right? ProVeg Incubator has an extensive network of partners, investors, retailers, and food industry experts that we will connect you with. Every founder needs support on their entrepreneurial journey and having the right people in your network is essential to achieving your business goals. 

ProVeg Incubator co-working space in Berlin

You’ll get individual mentoring 

We assign every one of our startups with a personal mentor, who is experienced in areas the company needs help with most. We work with over 50 renowned experts, skilled in retail, marketing, investment, business planning, branding, product development, and building a team. They provide support and advice to our startups with regular one-on-one coaching sessions. 

You’ll have access to all of our services 

As well as participating in all of the workshops, expert talks, and exclusive events that are part of our programme, by joining ProVeg Incubator you’ll get access to many other services. For example, our co-working space in Berlin, our 20k+ member test community, and the know-how of our food industry, food services, and research departments. You’ll also benefit from V-Label certification and our links to key industry events, fairs, and media publications. 

Co-founders Christopher Kong and Elin Roberts of ProVeg Incubator alumni startup Better Nature

You’re joining a community

Many of our alumni startups tell us that one of the most valuable assets of our programme is the community it creates. When you join ProVeg Incubator you’ll join a group of like-minded founders with similar goals to transform the global food system. You might all have different products, solutions, and business models, but you’ll face many of the same challenges. You can support and learn from one another. We’ll also connect you with our alumni founders who have been there and done that.

So, are you ready to apply? Applications are now open for the next cohort of startups, kicking off in spring 2021. The programme lasts three months and consists of a mixture of in-house weeks and remote working (Covid-19 dependent).

Submit your application on our website today. Just click the link or go to the apply section at the top of this page.