What is FoodBytes!?
Foodbytes! is an F&A networking platform, pitch competition and continuous community for mentorship, resources and support. A jumping off point for Rabobank’s clients to connect with nimble innovators and start-ups. We connect start-ups working on sustainable innovation in the F&A sector with large corporates and investors who are looking for new ideas and energy and can help the startups scale their business and impact.
Can you describe the FoodBytes! program at Rabobank?
Foodbytes! launched as a regional initiative in 2015 in North America and rapidly grew into a global platform. The highpoint is the two-day intensive pitch competition when F&A start-ups present their innovative ideas to potential investors, partners and customers. For the start-ups it’s a mini business school with intensive mentoring and investor ‘face time’. For clients it’s an opportunity to stay ahead and put their money where their mouth is on sustainable innovation.
We’re a global team working in New York, London and Utrecht. Our skillsets go from branding and marketing to banking and business analysis to data support and relationship management. I’m responsible for keeping our start-ups connected internally and externally, and for linking to Rabobank colleagues who engage with our clients.
How did you become involved?
I first came into contact with FoodBytes! as a partner. I was responsible for editorial, creative and events at Food+Tech Connect (FTC) when the founder of FoodBytes!, Manuel Gonzalez, asked our team for support in producing the first FoodBytes! in NYC and building the brand on the east coast. When Manuel got the go-ahead to expand the team in 2016, I was the second hire. Now we are a team of 13!
How do you contribute to Foodbytes! and what did you learn along the way?
I’m proud that my contribution to FoodBytes! helps to achieve the bank’s mission of ‘Growing a better world together’ by accelerating innovation in Food & Agri. Of course it’s a huge organization and things sometimes take longer than you’d like. A key lesson is the importance of relationship building to get things done. I learned a lot on the power of internal networking from my colleague, mentor and friend Nathalie Gibson. For example, when I was in Mexico on vacation, and I stopped by the Rabobank Mexico City office to discuss our platforms with my colleagues, get their insights and discuss potential collaboration.
Since I had built FoodBytes! from the ground up with Manuel Gonzalez and Nathalie Gibson, I had a very personal connection to the brand that it was hard to relinquish control as the team grew. But I’ve come to realize that it’s not my brand, it’s everyone in the team’s brand, and together we can collectively evolve it for the better.
We learn from each other, listen to each other and make each other better in our global team. Our newest colleague in the Utrecht team, Mariana Segui, is a major inspiration to me. In addition to her always-positive attitude, she has extensive F&A experience and has worked in extraordinarily diverse global teams. She’s taught me a lot about cultural crossover and optimal ways of working as we build a leading global F&A innovation offering.
Where will FoodBytes be in five years?
The F&A innovation space is moving so fast that’s hard to answer. What I do know is that we’ll continue to work nimbly and adapt to the feedback from our stakeholders. Our goal is to create a continuum of engagement between start-ups and corporates through FoodBytes!. We aim to be a beacon of innovation in the F&A industry.