Distributed Ventures funds startups in the fintech, healthtech, and insurtech industriesRead more...
Finistere Ventures invests in startups in the food and agriculture spaces
Venture capital used to be a cottage industry, with very few investing in tomorrow's products and services. Oh, how times have changed!
While there are more startups than ever, there's also more money chasing them. In this series, we look at the new (or relatively new) VCs in the early stages: seed and Series A.
But just who are these funds and venture capitalists that run them? What kinds of investments do they like making, and how do they see themselves in the VC landscape?
We're highlighting key members of the community to find out.
Arama Kukutai is co-founder and partner at Finistere Ventures.
Kukutai has been an investor, company founder and entrepreneur in the Agribusiness sector for over 20 years. He served as Executive Chairman of PKW Farms, a successful diversified investment entity involved in dairy farming and aquaculture activities in New Zealand, Asia and Australia. He also led the New Zealand government’s Trade & Investment agency in North America, following which he emigrated to the USA. He has led the creation of Finistere’s global portfolio and network in AgTech which includes offices in New Zealand, Tel Aviv, Israel, San Diego and Silicon Valley, and Dublin, Ireland. Mr.
Kukutai serves on the boards as a Director or Observer of current portfolio companies including AgGenetics, Biolumic, CropX, Growers Edge Financial, Plenty, Taranis and ZeaKal as well as the Fresh Start and Sprout accelerators. He has been an active speaker, writer and thought leader in Agrifood sustainability and investment trends, including through Finistere’s partnership with PitchBook Data.
He holds law and business/agronomy degrees from the Victoria University of Wellington (NZ).
VatorNews: What is your investment philosophy or methodology?
Arama Kukutai: We invest in the agriculture and food sectors, which has been really experiencing pretty significant growth in terms of capital deployment, particularly over the last five years, if you look at the rate of investments that have been, and continue to go, into it.
We learned in the COVID world that ag and food are not only essential services, but also a multi-trillion dollar GDP global set of enterprises and supply chains that have really lagged investment from venture capital, really until the last decade. We do some work with Pitchbook data, and when we were kicking off that work we realized there were really very few curated data sets on the ag and food sectors in terms of technology and venture investing. So we started doing some work with them about five years ago, mostly to build a taxonomy, as we call it, or a classification system, because ag and food is really a horizontal supply chain, it’s not really technically a vertical. So, there’s a lot of different types of technologies; in fact, pretty much every type of technology that you'd see venture investing in, whether it's biotech, data science, material science, novel platforms like e-commerce and B2B/B2C trading, is present in the ag supply chain. That's at the other end of the supply chain as well, all the way through to consumer products, including breakout categories like plant-based proteins and plant based-milks, for example, which have attracted a lot of capital. Also things like delivery services that have also exploded over the course of the last four or five years. I guess the punch line here is that in the last decade, since 2010, close to $37 billion of venture capital has flowed into food and ag, with food being more B2C oriented and ag being more B2B oriented. And that's a compound growth rate of over 40 percent year-on-year. 2020, despite COVID, is on track to beat the title for 2019, which in itself was a record year for agrotech investing.
There's been more and more firms popping up, even just with ag and food. That's absolutely been the case over the last five years, where there's more generalists, there's more strategics but there's also more specialists firms. We've participated in it from the start and we've been investing in the space since 2007, so that was really before there was a sector. We were driven by a thesis that, at one level, the world is going to have to continue to invest in technology to just meet the actual demand for food in an absolute sense, with continued increased population, with pressures on land resources due to urbanization, deforestation, with pressure on productive capacity from climate change. Forget the political debate on who caused it, the reality is that it's real: we're seeing bugs and pathogens turn up in locations where they weren't present before because the climates are warming and they're moving further north, for example. So, that's just one of many examples of changing climate. I'm from New Zealand, originally; when I was a kid, growing up in our farming district we never had droughts but we’re having droughts now and they're significant droughts. They're not Australia or California style droughts, but they're droughts nonetheless. We also see changes to the monsoon weather patterns. So, all of these present technical challenges and practical challenges for the food supply chain because most of our food is still growing outside. It's the last great manufacturing enterprise that’s working outside at the vagaries of the climate and the weather. So, those things require investment and technology solutions. Technology is one of the reliable levers we can pull to help scale production, while we've got a consumer, especially in developed countries, that wants to know, more than ever, where their food came from. I would argue that the anti-GMO backlash was driven as much by ignorance and fear as it was by any fundamental science that proved that GMOs are unsafe. There really is no science that does say that. And so, the farming community learned a little sharp lesson that, in the absence of clear communication, people fill in the blanks for themselves. We have a lesson there around how technology should be applied and the need to keep the consumer, and the regulators, fully in the loop.
The overarching point here is that food and ag has become a carrier of huge investor interest. It’s growing and there are all sorts of players that are interested in it from a sustainability angle, given the amount of greenhouse gas impact and water pollution impact, for which we direly need solutions. So, it's attracting a broad base of investors and managers, many with overlaps but also many with distinct points of view. It's certainly an exciting space for us to participate in. We've already been in the space for more than a decade, but I'm just very excited by the prospects and also we should all be a little daunted by the challenges we face. Again, COVID has shone a light on some of the fragilities of our food and agricultural production system that needs strengthening.
VN: What are some of the verticals you invest in within the food and agriculture space?
AK: One area that we're really excited about is deep technology disruption. Everybody on our team either has a technical and/or operating background, so we tend to like to really get in the weeds and understand the technology and science. As I mentioned, we're typically investing in companies in areas that have massive, massive markets, so market risk, market size, market traction is something we can pretty readily address. Like every VC, we’re critically interested in the team, but that, again, is sort of table stakes. That’s something you have to be interested in and focused no matter what category of VC you’re in. More importantly, in our space, is the horizontal nature of it, meaning that you're looking at a lot of different, and often interlinked, technologies. That means having an understanding of how they work. The second piece is, how do they work in their context in the supply chain? Whether it's on the farm, whether that's within the supply chain between the farm and food processing manufacturing distribution, or whether that's on the consumer side, working back towards the farm. So, we do invest across all of all three of those buckets. We take a deep technical view on them.
We are excited about disruptive technologies in food production, those are really high on our list. We're investors in companies like Memphis Meats, which is one of the leading cellular agriculture cultivated-meat companies. They are really reimagining the way in which the entire livestock, or production animal process, can be replaced with, essentially, a process which does not harm or kill animals but is still capable of producing actual meat, as opposed to plant-based substitutes. So, Memphis is a super exciting, super interesting company with a market size of like $1.5 trillion dollars for livestock and/or production animal replacements, including seafood.
Another area were very interested in is indoor farming. We were an early investor in a company called Plenty, which is one of the leaders in controlled environment agriculture. Essentially, they’re growing from seed all the way through to harvested plant, leafy greens, berries and fruits inside a fully enclosed, indoor growing system. So, not a greenhouse; sunlight doesn't get in to the facility, but they use LED light spectra and intensity to generate a lot more yield and much greater productive efficiency, while using a lot less water. They can do that anywhere in the world, within reason, because it's not weather or climate dependant on where you're located. So, you can also relocate the supply chain very close to the consumer and deliver the product super fresh, local, more nutritious, and better tasting. It's also a better product from a consumer standpoint than what you can grow in a greenhouse, let alone in the field. It doesn't require pesticides, so it doesn't require washing. It's grown in what looks a lot like cleanroom environments.
I mentioned these two because, really, if you went back, even a decade, would you have described either of those things as farming? Probably not and this is the point: technology is reimagining the way in which we produce our food, and, therefore, it's reimagining how we do farming. And that's one area that we were super interested in.
One other I’ll mention is that, while that's true and it's exciting, we still actually also have to work with conventional and practical agriculture today. That's not going away anytime soon. We need all the tools we can get our hands on to feed the planet, so we're also really interested in how we can make existing agriculture more sustainable. And what does that? Using water more wisely, reducing GHG and climate impact, improving soil health, carbon retention and, frankly, making sure that we engage in farming systems that are more sustainable for future generations than some of the current models we have that are overly reliant, for example, on artificial fertilizers, like nitrates and ammonia. That by itself is a massive area of focus. Agriculture today directly produces something on the order of 12 billion gigatons of CO2 equivalent. If we don't have technical improvement, then you can just look at the straight line production growth necessary to feed the population we predict we’ll have by 2050, and that will triple GHD level. Frankly, arresting the process, let alone reducing it, requires some really significant technical breakthroughs. For example, in the last five years we've discovered microbes called misantigens that exist in the gut of cattle, which are actually responsible for producing methane that the cow burps. So, the reality is it's actually not the cows themselves that are self producing methane, it’s bacteria in their gut. That discovery was made by New Zealand scientists. A ton of work has been done in Australia, and it will be done here in the US and in Europe, on how we try and restore or suppress the level of methane produced by livestock. In New Zealand's case, that's actually the main GHG emission; nearly half the country's emissions are not coming from flights or transport power generation, it’s coming from cows. That’s a remarkable statistic for one country, but across the agricultural sector, it really lagged only behind transport in terms of the emissions globally. So, this is a huge topic. I mean this is the topic that is going to be getting addressed for decades. In some respects, actually, it's kind of a clean tech issue that is facing agriculture and it is going to require both normal and new technologies, like the alternative meat production and the alternative plant production that I mentioned with Plenty and Memphis and companies like them. But it's also going to require massive sustained investment and improving every aspect of the farm to food supply chain as it exists today. I've just mentioned some of the examples, like livestock, but you can go into other areas, like food waste. There have been some very significant dollars going to companies addressing both upcycling of waste food as well as, for example, companies like Apeel that are doing coatings to increase the shelf life of products like avocado, for example. So, food waste in the system is also incredibly important.
Then, last but not least, you can look at changing consumer diets. We've got a second wave, or maybe a third wave, of plant-based milks. I saw a really interesting statistic where oat milk has overtaken soybean milk as the second highest selling category of plant-based dairy, just behind almonds. I think last year they had nearly 300 percent growth and they've overtaken soy milk, which was really, until five or six years ago, one of the few alternatives actually on the market if you wanted a vegetarian, vegan quality milk. The other overarching comment I'd make is about the pace of change, particularly driven by consumer requirements and food tech, and now we add onto this what we have in the COVID world, where people are dining at home. This year was the first year since 1994 when growth and expenditure on food at home outstripped growth on spending out of the home, like at restaurants and on takeout. So, it’s been over 25 years since people reverted back to dining at home at a faster rate than their dining expenditure out of the home. That is remarkable and it's hurt some; folks doing restaurant tech probably aren’t enjoying the world too much at the moment. But, in our space, we're investors in a couple of really successful direct-to-consumer food companies, Farmer’s Fridge, and Tovala, both based in Chicago, actually, which is becoming a huge food tech hub. They've benefited from the fact that consumers are dining more home because they're selling meals to be consumed at home.
So, hopefully that just gives you a broader picture of the universe we're playing in and our views on where it's going.
VN: What is the size of your current fund and how many investments do you typically make in a year?
AK: We’re managing about $200 million. We’re typically doing Series A, Series B, as the lead or co-lead and we're doing four to six investments typically in a year. Typical check sizes can range from as low as $1 million to as much as to, say, $6 to $8 million in the first initial check.
We typically have a pretty big premium and focus on co-investing with other expert funds that bring something complimentary to the skills around the board table that we have. So, for example, this year, we made an investment in Tovala, which I mentioned. That was just over $20 million round. We were the lead investor, but we also brought other investors with us and collaborated with some of the existing businesses on the company. The two other major new investors that came in with us were OurCrowd, out of Israel, who are an early stage VC that we've done quite a bit of work with in both Israel and the US. And then a strategic investor, the venture arm of Comcast Universal, the media giant, co-invested alongside us. That kind of syndicate construction is also really important, we think, in terms of building a support team around the CEO and management, that can really guide and assist and help and lean in where we're needed, but also have financial resilience to be able to survive speed bumps or bumps in the road, whether it's economic cycle or other factors. Great case in point with COVID, this year we've actually done 11 investments, the new ones plus also follow-ons, and every single one of our companies in our portfolio that was actively raising has been able to raise money despite COVID. I’d put that down to having good companies but also one of the things we've learned over time is the importance of having great syndicate partners and we're pretty fortunate to have that.
VN: What kind of traction does a startup need for you to invest? Do you have any specific numbers?
AK: Across a horizontal like ag and food it can vary a lot. We have invested in companies that have no revenue, and may, in fact, never have revenue because they're building deep technology products that are likely to see them get acquired before they actually go through regulatory and/or go-to-market. This includes companies in areas like plant sciences, for example. We made an investment this year in a company called Enko, which is doing novel chemical discovery, so it's very much in deep tech and probably a longer R&D cycle type company. There we were less interested in seeing what revenue they had, because they didn’t have any, but more interested in what their discovery pipeline looks like. It goes back to my earlier point that to answer a question like that you actually have to know what it is you're looking at. So, our team includes people like myself, who has an agronomy soil science background. We have people like my partner Spencer Maughan, who's a PhD plant geneticist; Ingrid Fung, who’s a molecular biologist; Jennifer Place, who’s a chemical engineer. So, as you go through our team, we look at a company like that and say, ‘Okay, this is less about revenue and more about the potential and differentiation of your science, your technology and the addressability of global markets.’ The crop protection market is about a $85 billion per annum market, so it's a solution for farmers to help them protect their crops and defend against weeds, pathogens and insects while we're manufacturing food outside. So, there's got to be an ongoing perpetual problem.
That's one end of the spectrum; on the other end of the spectrum, if you look at consumer products companies that we’re investing in, like Tovala, Farmer’s Fridge and others, in those sorts of companies we're typically looking for some level of single digit millions in revenue. It may be low single digits but it needs to be something where they can demonstrate that there is market traction. Even from there, though, it's a long, long road potentially to building a high growth, high value company. So, we are also looking for that point of differentiation, whether it's technical, whether it's marketing. What is it that you've got that is going to help your product stand out from the crowd? For example, we're seeing a lot of alternative dairy products right now, we're seeing a lot of alternative plant products. How do those stand out? What's different about them? Is there a functional nutrition difference? Is there a processing difference that addresses the cost of goods or shelf life? Is there a sustainability component to this in the way in which the product is sourced and produced? We want to understand where the technology and other points of differentiation are and we really want to understand, is this a company that can scale and really become a significant or dominant player in that segment?
When it comes to indoor growing and alternative protein, there are really difficult technical and market challenges to overcome, so these companies will require a pretty significant investment. I'll go back to the syndication issue and the ability to bring scale capital compared to these companies. We're thinking about that even at the Series A and B stage because you have to. Typically food and ag are more capital intensive. It’s not software.
VN: What do you want to see from the team that makes you want to invest?
KA: The team being important is true across every VC because those are the people who are going to drive the growth and success of the company. I start with a few things: firstly, I really want to understand their depth of understanding of the problem and the solution. What pain point or points are they solving? How well do they understand the solution and every aspect? Not just technical; you'll often get founders who have a technical background so they're happy to talk about the technology, but maybe less comfortable when it comes to market. Maybe they have a good marketing background but are kind of vague on the technology or intellectual property. What about financing the company? Then, critically, building their own team. How relatable are they as people? What do we think about their ability to attract talent and to hold their talent to build a world class team?
That's why we spend a lot of time getting to know people that we're going to be investing in and partnering with. We believe that being a partner is important because these are typically going to be long term journeys; they're not going to be measured in months, they're going to be measured in years. So, if you're going to start a relationship with somebody you're going to be working with for years, how would you approach that? Probably pretty similarly, right? Do we think this is a group we can work with, that we can coach and mentor when we’re needed?
The only thing scarcer than capital is trust. So that's another lens to think of it through: how do we build trust both ways? We're certainly not a venture group that comes on and says, ‘we know all the answers. We're going to try to wait around and we’re going to tell these rookie entrepreneurs how they should go about doing it.’ I've seen that approach and that's not an approach I've subscribed to or liked. This also applies to how we pick the other investors we want to work with. We want to work with investors who have their own perspective and views, but who have shared values around how they're going to work with entrepreneurs, where the entrepreneurs are at the center of the picture. Our job is to support them, and if, god forbid, we are ever in a situation where we can’t keep supporting them because we don't believe in them anymore, then we still want to have a respectful conversation around how we transition and build value for everybody going forward. Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that not every founder/CEO survives the journey as CEO, so that's something else to think about. If we have strong relationships, we'll be able to have those tough conversations when we have to.
VN: How has COVID affected valuations and investing over the last six months or so?
AK: Companies are not just raising capital, they're raising it at even greater levels, but there is a bifurcation. There are companies that are raising mega rounds of $100 million or more; we’ve participated in a number of those types of deals. So, most companies are often finding it easier to raise capital because they’ve got larger capital source providers thanks to momentum in the market, technology, partners and platform. If you look at ag and food, all top 10 of the food deals this year so far have been over $100 million, and then six of the top 10 deals in ag have been over $100 million.
On the point of valuations, I tend to find that valuations are pretty sticky. The companies that have raised a lot of money, the existing investors will be reluctant to take money on it at anything less than a flat round, not a down round. Sometimes taking a down round is the right call, by the way, in terms of sizing valuation and continuing to make sure you've got supply of capital but it’s not a path that anyone wants to take. In 2020, you're going to see that valuations tend to hold up if the companies still have capital and have a runway and many investors are funding those companies so they can continue to make progress.
New investors, by the way, are finding it tougher to put money into deals because how do they go meet the team? How do they do diligence and meet the other investors? We are, because of the competitive industry, having to figure out, just like the entrepreneurs. How do we build that trust? How do we do that when visiting in person has been more challenging? We're gonna see people recognizing that the pandemic is not ending anytime soon. We need to figure out a new way to do business, and that's going to include taking probably some vision risk around how much exposure we have as a result of traveling, even while we are using PPE protection. There's going to be a much greater reliance on doing work and scaling up businesses based upon working remotely. I think people are shocked at just how much progress you could make working in a remote environment while still maintaining good productivity and so forth, despite working out of office. It’s certainly been the case for us. There are certainly new challenges, including how do you manage morale and how do you manage team engagement? But we're all finding new solutions to those problems.
I don't expect a big valuation collapse anytime soon in our sector but what I think is that 2021 will bring some moments of truth and reckoning for many companies because they're gonna have to figure it out today. They may have punted the ball down the field, so now you're going to have to pick it up.
VN: There are many venture funds out there today, how do you differentiate yourself to limited partners?
AK: One, we’re not a new manager. We’re on our third fund, we've got a track record. That always helps. Second thing I would say is that, as I've sort of mentioned earlier, in the agrifoods space, it helps immensely if you've got an operating background. So, we're not a private equity type group that's all about financial engineering; we are really primarily looking at company building, and we have a lot of experience in doing that. To some extent, it's helped us get them to some of the leading companies in the space because of our expertise. Not to pat ourselves on the back much here, but it's fair to say our expertise is well recognized by entrepreneurs who have sought us out. We've now got 30 plus portfolio companies we’ve invested in and we've got a big reference base of other CEOs who can say we’ve been a valuable contributor around the table and in helping build the company.
The other two critical things are, one, you’ve got to get a deep technical understanding, especially in companies that have the technology right, not just investing in companies as a trend, which we're seeing a lot of in food. We're also seeing this in relation to the number of people who’ve got newfound religion around sustainability. I've probably had enough of people saying how important carbon sequestration is when they’ve got a finance background and have never actually been on a farm. To be blunt and honest, I don't really want to get sustainability lectures from people who don't actually know what it is, but it's a mark of how, to some extent, the ag and food sector are being discovered by the mainstream, which I think is a good thing. It needs to be made mainstream on a broad capital basis to help grow these industries in a sustainable way.
The other thing we've done from day one is we’ve recognized that innovation and food and agriculture is a global enterprise. And so, today, we've got a presence in Israel and Dublin, covering the EU, and now New Zealand, covering Australasia. We also have one of our teams based in Canada and, of course, the bulk of our team are in the United States. We're interested in innovation coming from global sources, even if they end up being applied here in the US, because food and ag have traditionally attracted a lot of public R&D. Governments generally recognize being able to feed your population and support your farming communities are good things. I was chairing a conversation of venture capitalists yesterday with Secretary Perdue from USDA specifically on this topic of how to maximize greater value from tax payers’ investment into fundamental science and agriculture through public private partnerships, because this is something we've been doing for close to a decade in other markets. Last year we won, as part of a consortium, a license from the New Zealand government to operate an agrifood incubator. And we also won, similarly, an RFP from the Israeli government Innovation Authority, which is regarded as one of the best incubator accelerator programs, with local partners in Israel. We were the only international foreign partners in that group. So, we don’t do seed stage investing ourselves directly at Finistere, but we are partners on a number of seed and early stage accelerators, particularly internationally, where we're leveraging public science R&D. We believe that you need a technical edge to improve the sustainability and profitability of farming, and having access to public R&D dollars is a pretty good way to get ahead. We also bring these innovations to universities and research institutes who are generally very good at commercialization. So, you need the entrepreneur and private capital to help.
VN: Venture is a two-way street, where investors also have to pitch themselves. How do you differentiate your fund to entrepreneurs?
AK: This is a journey or a dance where these founders do have choices and so they’re as much interviewing you for what you can bring to the table as you are with them. The way we approach it is to recognize that we're interested in them for a reason. We also recognize the value we can bring. I often invite new partners that we're working with to go and talk to other CEOs that we’ve worked with. Don't take our word for it, go and talk to the people we work for. We can also introduce you to other investors, by the way. So, I think we’re pretty well known as being a collegial player in the space, a collaborative player. We like to build teams and we like to build partnerships, and I don't think there's any way to fake that. Smart founders figure out whether you're genuine. And then, yeah, they have to make the choices and sometimes we’re the party they want to work with, sometimes we’re not. That's fine.
Also, if you miss an opportunity this time, maybe it comes back around, so we stay engaged with the people that we genuinely have interest in. If we don't have interest, let's not waste people's time by stringing them along. We give them a straightforward answer as soon as possible, and it may be ‘no’ or may be ‘not now,’ and here are the reasons why it's not now, let’s stay in touch. We recruit people who behave in that way and share their perspective and we try to model that behavior, so there's a consistent way of how we operate and perform.
The key thing we don't do is make the mistake of saying, ‘well, gosh we know better than the entrepreneur.’ We may have a different view or viewpoint, and we're happy to hear their viewpoint and we're happy to make the best arguments. We're looking for founders who can think that same way. If you’re dogmatic and say, ‘It’s going to be my way or the highway,’ you’re probably not a good fit for us. We want to be able to contribute to the growth of the company, that's something we enjoy doing, and it’s a fine balance between helpful and at times being overbearing, but good relationships continue to stand those stress points. In fact, actually, that's true of the wider set of relationships we have with the other investors, who are trying to help the CEO and help the management team at the companies. So, the short answer is we let our track record and how we’ve interacted and behaved with people speak for themselves, which has been a pretty successful approach for us.
VN: What are some lessons you learned?
AK: We definitely get to see firsthand the transition and then the skills that are needed as companies grow and scale. It's somewhat of an adage that founders of the company aren’t always the best people to take the company through all the way through to an exit. There are some but there's many who are not. One of the interesting things is living through those experiences and, frankly, figuring out how to navigate those most challenging transitions in companies. That has been rewarding and challenging, but pragmatically an important skill you need to have.
The other thing that’s been surprising but amazing is just the explosion and growth of interest in the food and ag space. When we started, there were very few other venture investors in the sector, and now it seems like there's a new fund every week focusing on the space. I guess you could say, ‘Gosh, these are folks that are competing for some of the same LPS’ and maybe in some cases they are, but it's also emblematic of the fact that this is a sector whose time has really arrived. We've been kind of slogging it from base camp, and the summit is still some ways off in the space, but we've got a lot of company and a lot of people now that are equally motivated and excited and passionate about how we feed the world sustainably. How we do that by building great businesses at the same time? That's been one of the more gratifying parts of the journey for me, having spent more than a decade directly in VC and then a decade plus more in farming and an international trade before that. I certainly feel pretty lucky to have been on this journey and, frankly, we're now moving into an entirely new level of activity and creativity and growth.
We’re at a time when the world really needs new solutions to the way we feed and clothe and support ourselves off the land and off new technologies like indoor growing, which, as I mentioned before, are redefining the way in which farming is operating. So, I’m just really excited to be part of that, to be honest.
VN: What excites you the most about your position as VC?
AK: I like the whole ecosystem that we're in, whether it's working with our investors, strategizing or working with them. Probably the part I really enjoy the most is rolling my sleeves up and helping founders and helping companies get something done. It gives you a very close to the action view of companies and it’s a reminder of what our mission is here. Yes, we are obviously focused on making investment returns, but we're also focused on doing so by helping entrepreneurs build great companies that feed the world sustainably. So, that's the mission every day for me, certainly.
Fortunately, despite changes in the world and challenges, those opportunities continue to grow and flourish and multiply. So, I expect that there will be plenty for me and the team to do going forward here.
VN: Is there anything else that you think I should know about you or the firm or your thoughts about the venture industry in general?
AK: One of the things we're also really committed to is growing diversity and inclusion; this is an industry that’s been mostly male dominated. We've been very interested in having an international platform which exposes you to a lot of different cultures, and you realize farming and food are universal languages. It might have different flavors, but we're all speaking the same language in that sense. So, bringing greater diversity in the sector is something that I'm personally really committed to, and so is my partner Spencer.
Sitting alongside that too is having a sense of mission, particularly around future generations and sustainability is something that we're really passionate about walking the talk on, especially given the companies we’re investing in and supporting. So, those two frame frames, sustainability and diversity, are really important currently as well as being really important future development things for the sector.
Support VatorNews by Donating
Read more from our "Meet the VC" series
Oklahoma City-based Cortado Ventures invests half the fund in healthcare and life sciencesRead more...
Telosity invests in mental health startups, with a particular focus on adolescents and young peopleRead more...