For the third consecutive year, Apple tops the list of most innovative companies.
Local Food Lab: The Bay Area's Incubator for Food Startups
Teaching business planning and strategy skills to aspiring and existing food entrepreneurs, Local Food Lab is an accelerator and incubator dedicated to helping food and farm startups grow, collaborate and innovate.
The company, based in Palo Alto, Calif., was founded in mid-2012 by Krysia Zajonc, 27, and Mateo Aguilar, 39, while both were undertaking graduate studies at Columbia University, she in business, and he in design.
"Columbia Business School's Lang Fund was not only instrumental in helping us refine our idea for Local Food Lab," Zajonc said. The Lang Fund became Local Food Lab's first investor through a program in which the school invests in alumni startups.
"We started Local Food Lab because we had been both food product and food service entrepreneurs, and we had seen the many difficulties that face startups in this sector," she said. "Unlike our counterparts in technology, food entrepreneurs have very few opportunities for high quality mentoring, business education, seed capital, or collaboration with like-minded peers. This is particularly the case if the entrepreneur wants to create a startup that is profitable, and also aims for a food system that is more healthy, just, and sustainable. We saw a huge need for a lab that served the needs of sustainable food and farm entrepreneurs."
With three employees (and currently hiring), and more accelerators planned, the young firm is breaking ground: In 2013, Local Food Lab is holding three accelerators, including a Winter Accelerator in Palo Alto, from Feb 11 - March 19, and a Spring Accelerator in New York City, from April 8 - May 14.
"In the summer we will hold a three-month incubator in which a small group of high-potential startups will work closely with investors and industry mentors to grow and launch their businesses, with the goal of securing investment in their startups immediately following the program," Zajonc said.
Entrepreneurs can expect to leave the program with a complete business plan, an investor pitch deck, and a robust and reliable network of other entrepreneurs and food system stakeholders ranging from distributors and co-packers to investors and developers.
Local Food Lab is disrupting the traditional launch of a new food ventures by applying tools historically reserved for young technology firms to new food businesses. Zajonc said, "I liken this to when the non-profit world began looking to business to find newer and more efficient ways to run their organizations."
As the world continues to face social, environmental and economic food-related issues stemming from the consolidation of food systems, Local Food Lab operates on the philosophy that "fostering new financially and environmentally sustainable food and farm startups is a crucial first step in re-creating resilient local food economies."
To read more about Local Food Lab's entrepreneurs, check out their fall 2012 cohort.