"To protect your business from copycats, make sure your product is consistent and of good quality": An interview with Andrew D. Ive of Big Idea Ventures

Big Idea Ventures Asia

Andrew D. Ive is the founder and managing general partner of Big Idea Ventures, a Venture Capital and Accelerator Fund. Its purpose is to solve the world’s biggest challenges by supporting the world’s best entrepreneurs.

The BIV Food Accelerator, based in New York City and Singapore, invests in plant-based foods and ingredients to impact climate change, animal welfare and personal health. Alternative protein startups that are interested to join the program can apply here.

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    Andrew D. Ive

Can you give us a little insight into the BIV Food Accelerator program and explain what participating startups can expect from it?

We focus specifically on plant-based foods, cell-based foods, technologies and ingredients. Our goal is to raise 50 million dollars in total for the first fund and so far we have Tyson Foods, Temasek and others on board.

Our program is dedicated to startups that are providing plant-based and cell-based alternatives to meat, seafood and dairy and develop alternative ingredients and technologies that enhance these spaces.

With our New Protein Fund, we are investing in companies across three categories: plant-based products, cell-based meats and ecosystem drivers in technology and ingredients.

We then work with those companies in our BIV Food Accelerator, a five-month program based in New York and Singapore. Each Accelerator participant receives 125 thousand dollars cash investment and 75 thousand dollars in-kind investment.

How is the Accelerator program structured?

Within our 5-month program, we scale by bringing in business experts and mentors. We found that companies that go through aggressive growth have specific points in their evolution as businesses, where they are vulnerable to collapse.

In our Accelerator program, we are focused on bringing in the right experts early. We help startups find the right partners for scaling the business as well as match them with the best ingredient companies and manufacturers to make sure the product is as good as it can be.

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Partnerships are the second foundation. We bring in market-leading companies along the value chain specialized in ingredient manufacturing, production, distribution, retail and foodservice to build the eco-system around our companies in the plant-based space. And as we get the best companies in our portfolio, we scale and work with them in each region through our partnerships.

If a product gets really good market traction, we want to be able to bring it into other regions of the world efficiently. And we think we can do that by having the right partners in each geographical area.

Powerful product innovation leads to followers and copycats. How can young companies protect themselves from this?

Some entrepreneurs are concerned that their idea or product are going to be copied by a large company. This concern stops them from driving the business forward.

While it is always possible for competitors to copy a product, the best protection aside from copyright and trademark is becoming a well-known brand in the market. Also, making sure the product is consistent and has good quality.

I believe, being the top brand preferred by consumers in the market can protect the company in the long run.

Can you share your personal perspective on where the food innovation is headed: Which trends in the alternative protein sector should we expect to emerge?

A lot of products that we see in the plant-based market right now have been focused on taste rather than on their nutritional value. Therefore, some of these products contain over-processed or too many ingredients.

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    Big Idea Ventures Team

What I think is going to happen over the next three to five years, is that we will get the second and third generations of products, and they will deliver a great taste with a better nutritional value and a cleaner label.

We are getting to the point in food innovation where we can create great flavours with lower levels of sodium and sugar or over-processed ingredients and that is what we are going to see over the next years in the plant-based food sector.

What are your sources of inspiration in business? Which videos, TED talks, podcasts, books or articles could you recommend for those starting their business in the food industry?

A lot of my inspiration comes from the entrepreneurs that I interact with. We've just received 200 applications from startups in the plant-based space. And I get to read 200 stories about companies, people, their motivations and missions. Helping these founders change the world for the better is my inspiration. It’s a true David vs Goliath story every day.

Once we select the companies, we get to hang out with the founders and work with great entrepreneurs. For me, that is very energizing and much more inspiring than any book or podcast.

About the author

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Virginia Benz
Hospitality Consultant for HOSPITALITY.digital Inc. (A company of METRO AG)

Virginia Benz-Nicholas is hospitality enthusiast and consultant based in New York City. She supports HOSPITALITY.digital Inc. on a project basis, scouting local innovation and trends in the F&B, Hospitality and Retail sector to promote the transformation of the industry.

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