• Vivian Leung

MassChallenge Tackles the Massive Global Food Crisis, One Partnership at a Time





As the old English saying goes, you are what you eat. While that certainly is true in many ways, it doesn’t paint a complete picture. Not only are you what you eat, but what you eat impacts the planet, the economy, and in some cases even religion and politics. What we produce, how we produce it, the resources we consume, and the morality and ethics behind food, have all played a part in shaping our global society today. More importantly, it will continue doing so in the future.


So it only makes sense that MassChallenge Switzerland, who is part of one of the biggest startup programs in the world, plans to dedicate approximately ⅓ of its resources to helping build food and foodtech startups.


MassChallenge will, of course, continue to welcome startups from all industries and categories (after all, you never know where a great innovation will come from). However, the call for better food systems has been quite clear for them. Not only are many of MassChallenge’s major corporate sponsors looking for new food innovations, but they see communities, government organizations, and even universities searching for solutions to our global systemic food problems. It’s an area where they see a lot of people investing right now. And with approximately 300 out of 1000 startups who applied to the most recent accelerator program being food-focused, it was clear to MassChallenge Switzerland that they needed to dedicate more activities to help the startups that can answer this growing demand for food solutions. That is why they have decided to host their first Sustainable Food Systems Forum this year.


“Startups have the ideas, corporates have the ability to scale those ideas” Matt Lashmar, the managing director of MassChallenge Switzerland, explains to me. Many of their major partners, such as Nestle and Givaudan, have a vested interest in sustainability. This means MassChallenge is in a great position to help create some amazing partnerships that could help tackle some of the hottest food topics in the world today, so why not do it?


In every industry, startups can suffer from their own unique growing pains. When it comes to food and foodtech business development, the journey can be a long and slow process. Not only do food startups have to make sure they meet strict food safety guides and regulations, but they also need resources to locate and create the production and distribution systems needed to deliver their products to the end consumer. A corporate can help a startup fast-track these processes exponentially, while the startup brings their new, disruptive, and innovative ideas to the corporate. It’s a win-win-win-win situation: win for the startup, win for the corporate, win for the consumer, and a win for the planet.


While going digital certainly has had its challenges, Matt and the whole team at MassChallenge Switzerland are super excited to be bringing this Sustainable Food Systems event to the world. Aside from the fact that having a fully online program is more convenient, reduces travel emissions, and saves startups time and money, their online events have been much bigger and had better attendance. They are so excited by the idea of going digital, in fact, that many of their programs will be moving towards either a fully-online or hybrid online format, even post-CoVid-19. For them, this digital format has been a huge enabler: It means now that great startups across the world can more easily access and tap into the amazing resources MassChallenge has to offer.


“I’ve got some really cool connections,” Matt explains, and it is at a scale not found in most local startup ecosystems. With connections to some of the biggest food corporations in the globe, top-notch mentors and lecturers, and a long list of VCs, there is no doubt that they indeed have some very cool connections. “What if I enable or give those connections across Europe? Or even the world? You can still sit in your local ecosystem, still sit in your local accelerator, but you can actually join the MassChallenge program and get the benefit of all this scale. The startup ecosystem is becoming completely connected. This is really going to change how accelerators operate. I’m excited about that potential.”


Everyday is an experiment when creating new digital experiences, however, and this new format for the Sustainable Food Systems Forum is no exception. The “wow” factor and buzz that comes from being in a face-to-face event has been difficult to achieve in the online format. However, Matt and his team have worked hard to create an interesting and interactive forum that will hopefully inspire food startups while giving them sound, candid advice on how to grow their startup.


“We tried to create a lineup that would add value and be interesting. Then we have this challenge on the final day where we try to connect these high quality startups with corporates who can help them scale their ideas. We are hoping to create some value and that people will enjoy it.”


MassChallenge Switzerland’s Sustainable Food Systems Forum & Pitch Challenge will be held Sept 22 to 24th. To learn more about the event and register as an attendee, click here.






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