Meet 33entrepreneurs - A Food and Wine Accelerator That Thinks Big

Here's a great alternative to crowdfunding for social food tech entrepreneurs

33entrepreneurs pitch competition winners for 2015
2 food tech startups win major funding at a pitch competition. Susie Wyshak

There's no shortage of ways food startups with a good idea and a good team can raise funds these days. Food business incubators, angel investment sites like Angel List and CircleUp and local-food initiatives like Slow Money are popping up like quinoa.

But the French-based 33Entrepreneurs takes a different approach to funding food, wine, travel and food tech startups. The 33Entrepreneurs accelerator is like a crash MBA course, funded with 15,000 Euros," Kevin Campus explained.

The Great American Food Startup Search

Over several months in the Summer of 2015, the small team behind this business accelerator toured the U.S. in a quest to find businesses on a big mission. 

The team met ran 10 startup competitions, met with 500 startups and heard 120 pitches in Wine, Food & Beverages, and Travel Tech. The tour ended in San Francisco at the Bon Appétech conference on "Good Food Innovation." Short-listed startups from around the country displayed their projects, as part of 80 startups seeking attention and funding for their work.

Then the fun began. A mere 11 startups got up to pitch on stage. Two would win $100,000 each.

That is a nice chunk of money, especially compared to the effort to otherwise fundraiser such a lump sum. Two clear trends related to Good Food Innovation emerged.

Startups Focused On Reducing Food Waste and Landfill 

Woman-led Feeding Forward, now Copia, took home $100,000 for its efforts to end hunger.

The startup already had a track record of re-directing food wasted at events to people who need the food. It didn't hurt that Feeding Forward has a clear business model and had already landed a partnership Super Bowl 50, for which they will be a food recovery partner.

The Super Bowl folks estimate the recovered food will help feed over 1 million people.

The organization gets a tax deduction for the donation. So, why can't caterers and food service operators more accurately predict the amount of food needed? They just can't. This is a huge problem to be solved.

Maybe it was a too early stage, but Eat Your Spoon whose sorghum-based utensils end utensil waste, did not win. The Austin-based team started out testing edible bags. They soon learned people don't want to eat their bags; still, the bags can be composted.

On the other hand, sorghum can be grown on 80 percent of world's arable land, which makes their edible spoon recipe an interesting and scalable idea.

Then again, other edible spoons are on the market as are entirely edible food containers — most notably from Loliware, which got investment on Shark Tank.

Startups Enabling Cleaner Food and Wine

Perhaps it's all the food recalls and allergens afflicting many eaters, but clean-tech centered on food and wine took center stage at Bon Appétech.

A Personal Food Testing Device

So you're sitting at a restaurant, worrying your gluten-free meal might have some gluten in it. You pull out your 6sensorlabs device, pop in a disposable "pod" and take a sample.

Instantly you know if the food is safe for you to eat.

The company will add other allergens and  bacteria testing capabilities over time.

Is there a market for on-the-spot food testing? Well, more than 17,000 people signed up to score their sensor.

A Red Wine Filter That Makes Headaches History

PuraVino figured out that there are 16 million over 35 years old with > $75,000 income. These women are the prime target for PuraVino's red wine filter .

The filter eliminates histamines and sulfites from the wine that can lead to headaches and other annoying side effects that apparently increase as we age. 

The company is seeking FDA approval for this product that not only will make wine drinkers happy but will be a major boon for red wine sales.

Sustainably Caught Tuna With Low Mercury Levels

SafeCatch tuna does something simple yet so important. They test tuna for mercury, and can only tuna steaks that meet the SafeCatch mercury level standards.

That way, the company can position its tuna as safe for pregnant women and babies.

Good Food and Wine Innovation Takes Many Shapes

Another $100,000 winner was Industry, a startup out of San Diego, CA. (If they can land that as a company name, I will be beyond impressed.) The team had a simple pitch: The LinkedIn for the food and beverage industry. While plenty of food and beverage job search websites exist, Industry aims to be a place to manage your entire job and accomplishments portfolio.And they had a revenue model laid out.

My personal favorite was Fika, to be renamed Crema, an app to help independent cafes understand and reward customers for their loyalty.

The really interesting thing about 33Entrepreneurs is their approach to making small investments and intensively working with the food / wine tech startups — in Bordeaux, France. If you're setting out to seek to fund, this passionate, and the creative accelerator is well worth a look.