WeWork Is Launching An Accelerator Focused on Food Tech Startups

WeWork Labs has its eyes set on food tech startups, according to TechCrunch. The innovation program was relaunched by WeWork, the coworking space giant, about a year ago. Now, it is hoping to grab the attention of early-stage startups from across the world.

Currently, WeWork Labs has locations in Washington, D.C., New York City, Houston, and Seattle, along with various other international locations. The labs feature workshops, introductions to VCs, mentorship and pitch events to help founders grow their businesses and skills.

WeWork Labs’ food tech initiative comes as more investors lean into food tech and other food-focused businesses. According to a report by Food Tech Connect, $1.08 billion in venture capital investments were made to 99 beverage and food industry agreements in 2017.

“I do have to say, food carries a disproportionate amount of weight and attention,” Global Head of WeWork Labs Roee Adler said to TechCrunch. “We think it is one of the most exciting areas in the world right now, because this isn’t merely about encouraging businesses — this is about the future of the world, no less than what our children will eat.”

Companies like Seamless and UberEats have led the way for food delivery platforms, while others like Goodr are providing a sustainable, philanthropic way to conserve food waste. These startups can target a variety of issues including food insecurity, grocery shopping, and delivery services.

Food-focused startups are becoming increasingly popular and now some of these companies are hoping to make it big. Instacart, the online grocery shopping startup, announced it wants to IPO later this year. The company raised more than $600 million in funding last year to gear up for the big move.

WeWork is hoping to tap into the food tech gold mine by leveraging its tools and connections for blooming companies. The company told TechCrunch that there may be more specialized initiatives from WeWork Labs in the future.

Ethnic Diversity Makes Impact Investing More Profitable, Study Shows

Diverse companies perform better, according to a new study by McKinsey & Co. The report found that impact investing—investing in companies with a diverse board—is more profitable in the long run.

Companies with a gender diverse board of directors are 21 percent more likely to have an above-average profitability, according to U.S. News.

“Companies that are able to attract and retain talent are going to be more successful financially over the long term,” Christopher Greenwald, head of sustainable and impact investing research and stewardship at UBS Asset Management in Zurich, Switzerland told U.S. News. “With policies to support women throughout their careers tend to be better at managing their human capital and attracting the best employees.”

The study also looks beyond gender diversity citing that companies with greater ethnic diversity are 33 percent more likely to see a higher profitability.

Impact investing aims to benefit social environments while demonstrating financial returns. The Annual Impact Investor Survey from 2017 found that impact-investing funds have amassed more than $77 billion in assets.


645 Ventures announces $40 million fund to help scale start-ups

Dessy Levinson is Vice President and Head of Story at 645 Ventures, a venture capital firm based in New York.

We are excited to announce 645 Ventures Fund II, a $40 million oversubscribed fund that enables us to continue to support world-class founders and help them scale their startups from the seed stage to growth stage and beyond.

With our new fund, we’re seeking to partner with passionate founders who are building post-launch, software and Internet companies that are targeting large markets ($1 billion or greater). We partner with founders who have a high degree of commitment and domain expertise, who have also put in the sweat equity to take their companies from the concept stage to early product-launch. We are selective, conviction driven investors rather than spray and pray investors. This approach results in a more concentrated portfolio that we support through 645 Ops, our internal value-add practice.

Our approach emphasizes establishing relationships with exceptional teams early in their startup’s history, where we spend time getting to know the founders, market, product, and key milestones. We provide targeted resources to these founders, at times even before investing, as a way of showing value and building mutual conviction. Founders seek to partner with us because our focused, resource-intensive approach helps accelerate the trajectory of their businesses.

Echoing the startups we back, our first project, Fund I,  was our MVP. For four years, we put our heads down and worked day and night to prove that VCs too could be scrappy and startup-minded. We built technology, tested it, incorporated feedback from our customers (our founders and LPs) and iterated tirelessly. As we tell our portfolio and each-other, “hard work works.”

Our new fund focuses on companies with the following characteristics:

  • Sectors: SaaS, infrastructure software, and selective consumer technology companies, such as online marketplaces and direct-to-consumer brands
  • Stage: Primarily post-launch companies that demonstrate early product market fit in terms of rapid customer and user growth. We will invest at both seed and Series A.
  • Revenue Scale: We focus on companies that have the potential to reach $100m+ in revenue over the long term.

Although our firm is young, many of our portfolio companies –– including Fiscalnote, Iterable, MM.LaFleur, and Goldbely –– have grown from seed to growth stage businesses that now demonstrate large revenue scale, reaching or exceeding $50 million in net revenues. We are pleased to partner with these teams as they grow their companies into category leaders. It is our portfolio founders’ success that gives us the conviction that we are charting the right path, and the passion to provide them with our very best.

If you are a founder and would like to get in touch with us, please send an email with an executive summary on your business to ideas@645ventures.com. We look forward to hearing from you.


This $36 Million Fund Is For Black Women Founders — And “It’s About Damn Time”

Photo: Backstage Capital

Arlan Hamilton isn’t new to supporting underrepresented founders. Whether that means women, people of color or LGBTQ founders, Hamilton (founder of Backstage Capital) and her team have been there. So it comes as no surprise that they were able to bring their “It’s about damn time” fund to life. At the United State of Women Summit, Hamilton announced that Backstage Capital launched a $36 million fund that will invest in black women founders, $1 million at a time.



“This has been in the works for several months,” says Hamilton in an exclusive email to AfroTech. “It had a few iterations, but in the last couple of months, I made the decision that the money would go to funding black women specifically and $1 million at a time, specifically. It was very intentional and something that … I knew would probably get pushback from some people, but I have the greatest conviction around it. There’s a lot that goes into raising a fund of this size when you’ve had less than $5 million under management as a new fund manager, but I was up for the challenge.”

Before the year is up, Backstage Capital will be investing in two to three companies, the first of which should be announced in June or July. The remaining investments should be announced throughout the fall.

Following the announcement of the companies receiving funding this year, Hamilton said she anticipates funding about five to six companies in 2019.

In an industry that still sees an underrepresentation of black women, a fund like this is incredibly important. The fund will focus in on a population that has largely been ignored — only 0.2% of venture capital funding goes to black women.

“There have been daily challenges,” says Hamilton. “And when you’re attempting to do something like this that is breaking new ground, most of it has been in changing the hearts and minds of people who have been working in an industry for years and decades and getting them to see the light.”

Backstage Capital will remain industry and regionally agnostic when evaluating the thousands of companies they anticipate seeing this year, open to any industry and any field as long as they’re led by black women founders.

One piece of advice that Arlan shared about knowing whether taking venture capital money is right for your company or not is to understand that you are essentially taking on new partners in your company and that you’re giving away equity that you start out with.

“My advice would be to first see if you could do it on your own, if you can bootstrap,” she says. “If you can find some friendly checks (which isn’t always easy, obviously, but sometimes it’s available), if you can generate revenue, if you can make money from your company without needing to raise. There have been several companies that have done that to great success. They never raised a penny of venture capital, and they’ve gone on to do amazing things. So it’s important to really decide if this is right for you, to really do your homework, to listen to other founders who have gone through it, to really have a strong grasp of what you’re getting yourself into. It’s not for everyone, and it’s a serious matter.”

And although this fund will no doubt change lives and help change the landscape of tech, Hamilton knows there is so much more work to be done.



“We are no longer accepting the scraps at the end of the dinner table in venture capital and beyond as black women,” says Hamilton. “We asked nicely, and now it’s our turn.”