At Upcycled Foods, Inc. we believe that realizing our vision will take an ecosystem of stakeholders focused on creating shared value—from supply chain through to shopping cart. Strategic investors, who play a unique and dual role of shareholder and stakeholder, are too often under-appreciated in the public arena. Waterpoint Lane is our most recent strategic investor, joining a cohort that includes Griffith Foods, Barilla, Molson Coors, Oisix, and of course our cherished community investors from WeFunder and MicroVentures. We are excited to share more of their story with you here.
Waterpoint Lane is a venture capital firm that specializes in unlocking transformative opportunities in the agrifoodtech sector. The Toronto-based fund’s managing partners Ben Gibbons and Meifan Shi are dedicated to revolutionizing the global food system by investing in entrepreneurs that are reshaping the way we produce and consume food. Given Upcycled Foods, Inc.’s focus on accelerating sustainable food design, promoting well-being, and driving positive change in the food industry–our two firm’s missions found natural alignment.
To dig deeper, we asked Ben and Meifan to answer a few questions here.
Could you share a bit about your background and the rationale behind you launching the fund?
The global food system is facing unprecedented challenges, and the need to revolutionize it has never been more critical. To address these challenges, we need to improve the way we produce and consume food. With our food system being responsible for 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions annually, we see significant opportunities for innovation to reduce emissions that contribute to food insecurity, climate disasters and other socio-economic issues. We launched the WPL Sustainability Fund to support companies leading the charge to improve sustainability in the “agrifoodtech” sector, as both a financial and strategic partner.
As to our backgrounds, Waterpoint Lane is led by Ben Gibbons and Meifan Shi. Ben is an accomplished investor with over two decades in the field, specializing in growth stage companies, with a focus on agriculture and food technology. He brings extensive background in capital raising and managing financial transactions, having facilitated over $2 billion in private company exits to strategic buyers, private equity firms, and capital markets. Ben’s commitment to sustainability is evident in his portfolio of leading investments. Meifan is a seasoned leader with a proven track record in driving significant value creation in strategic investments across start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. With a wealth of experience advising CEOs across various sectors, Meifan specializes in leveraging data driven insights and technological proficiency to strategically scale growth. Her leadership extends to not only amplifying revenue growth and marketing/brand management, but also aligning businesses for successful exits.
We feel fortunate to have you on board! Could you elaborate on any specific criteria or attributes that you look for when selecting start-ups to invest in?
We are focused on growth stage investments in companies beyond the commercialization stage leveraging technology to drive sustainable practices throughout the agrifood supply chain. We seek out collinear opportunities—which is to say companies whose mission drives both impact and future profit (i.e. the better they do the more impact they have).
We consider both land-based and ocean-based opportunities and are looking at how changes in the way we use energy and new technologies for managing water can have a big impact on our food supply chains.
We currently have a strong thesis in the following key verticals:
- Regenerative/sustainable agriculture: technology and services that can support farmer transition/practices to optimize outcomes at an economic level for the primary producer.
- Food waste: technology and service models that mitigate, upcycle or recycle the significant food waste generated from the farm to the retailer.
- Hyper-localization of food production: increasing the amount of food produced where it is retailed/consumed to reduce the carbon emissions and costs associated with food transport.
Building on this, and for the benefit of our readers, what initially attracted you to Upcycled Foods, Inc.?
Given our investment strategy, we had set out to proactively identify a company that could create meaningful impact to the food waste problem. We set our sights on the upcycled food space specifically after analyzing its potential as a circular economy solution that improves supply chain resiliency and creates significant economic value.
In the time that we spent with the leadership team during diligence we were impressed with their vision of both the company and the sector at large. We see Upcycled Foods, Inc. as the leader in the upcycled food economy, having already demonstrated impressive traction with strong partnerships with leading food companies. We are particularly excited about the Innovation Lab and how the company works with customers as a true innovation partner. Through their existing and future technology, expanding portfolio of ingredients and expertise, we expect Upcycled Foods, Inc. to create great ongoing customer engagement and product pull-through as the vanguard of the movement.
We are eager to advance our mission together! How should we be thinking about actively engaging and collaborating with you to foster growth and shared success?
Waterpoint Lane is dedicated to actively supporting the growth of the companies we invest in. Our strength lies in using our broad network and expertise to help these companies grow and access the funding they need. Beyond capital, we collaborate with experts in operations and technology to enhance innovation across the portfolio. Through partnerships with industry leaders, we broadly aim to help our portfolio companies grow quickly, create better customer experiences, and improve how they operate, benefiting all stakeholders.
Our goal is for our strategic selection of portfolio companies to transcend singular financial success. Our pursuit extends to identifying enterprises that not only yield outsized growth individually but also synergize harmoniously within our ecosystem. This approach ensures that our portfolio thrives collectively, with complementary entities fortifying and elevating one another.
Let’s expand on this a bit further. How does Waterpoint Lane typically measure the success of its investments, and what indicators or milestones do you consider significant in evaluating progress within a partnership like ours?
Waterpoint Lane is focused on generating impact alongside economic returns for our investors. At the stage of investment that we are focused on, economic success is typically focused on revenue growth and building out key strategic customer relationships. Another key indicator of economic success is the completion of a subsequent round of investment that supports the next stage of growth of a company, a process we actively support. On the impact side, we tailor indicators of success bespoke to each investment. With UP, Inc. we will be focused on measuring the volume of food waste diverted back into the food supply chain. This measure is tied to both economic benefit (in terms of value creation for the food system) and environmental impact (reducing use of virgin ingredients upstream and mitigating emissions downstream).
Ben, Meifan, thank you for shedding some light into your fund for our community! If folks want to get in touch with you directly, what is the best way for them to reach you?