Three years ago, when I first started asking investors why they didn’t put more money into seafood ventures, many told me that there just weren’t enough strong businesses out there to warrant the time and energy of adding seafood to their portfolios. At the same time, seafood businesses complained that there were not enough interested investors out there. They said that without investment, new ventures were not worth building and existing ventures could not continue to grow.
These comments led to the genesis of Fish 2.0, a business competition that connects seafood businesses and interested investors. More than half of the 21 business finalists from the 2013 competition report significant business growth as a result of participating.
Now, just 15 months later, when I talk with investors about the 2015 competition, I hear a different story.
Instead of having to convince investors that they will see quality investments that fit in their food systems, technology, or supply chain logistics portfolios, we simply invite them to participate. They are enthusiastic about joining us. They know that the Fish 2.0 process pools top, interesting businesses in the sector, businesses that are worth taking the time to review seriously. As a result, the 2015 competition has the support of a broad range of investor, foundation and corporate sponsors.
The 2015 competition is open to businesses from around the world. We now offer tracks for businesses ranging from pre-revenue start-ups to established growth companies that are scaling. A total of 36 finalists will attend the competition finals at Stanford University to formally pitch their ideas and network with investors.
As a statement of their interest in the sector, sponsors have placed $180,000 in awards on the table for the top businesses, and will cover travel costs for finalists to attend the event.
We are also excited about the diversity of interests coming together for the 2015 competition because each of our sponsors brings specific interests and expertise to the events. Each looks for strong businesses that fit into their existing portfolios or that accelerate business growth around specific issue areas.
- For example, Humanity United, through its Freedom Fund, aims to eliminate human rights violations across the globe and is concerned about of the use of slave labor in the seafood industry, Through Fish 2.0, Humanity United wants to foster new business innovations that will create profits and improve social practices throughout Thai farmed shrimp and shrimp feed supply chains.
- Aqua-Spark invests in sustainable profitable aquaculture businesses including companies that improve aquaculture feeds or create other novel aquaculture technologies. Fish 2.0 fits as part of their larger effort to build a portfolio of aquaculture investments that will help feed the world and generate returns.
- Pentair, a global company with $7.0 billion in revenue, joined Fish 2.0 to help foster greater aquaculture technology innovation and to growth of the sustainable aquaculture sector.
- The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation each support Fish 2.0 to spur business development that will help meet growing market demand for sustainable seafood. The foundations each aim to inspire business innovation in seafood supply chains that supports healthy oceans and effective fisheries management.
- IdEA, a collaborative effort between the U.S. State Department, Calvert Foundation, and USAID, joined Fish 2.0 to support seafood business development in the Pacific Islands. Their support will allow businesses emerging from the region to be recognized and integrated with others from around the globe.
In addition, a number of investor sponsors have joined Fish 2.0 simply to identify good investments that create financial returns and positive impact on the world, some in particular geographies and others worldwide.
This growing attention from a diversity of investors is exactly what we need to accelerate business development in the seafood sector. But this interest could wane if an equally strong and diverse range of seafood businesses does not emerge to connect with these investors during the competition.
It’s time for all of you who run innovative seafood businesses to keep the momentum growing. Register to participate at www.fish20.org and encourage others to do the same. The more top businesses that enter, the more investor interest will mount, creating faster, stronger growth in the sector.