Colorado Springs startup FoodMaven is getting a boost – financially and otherwise – from a big name in the food industry.
Walter Robb, former co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, has joined the board of directors of FoodMaven, a business based on “oversupplied” food. Robb is also investing in the company; Patrick Bultema, FoodMaven CEO and co-founder, declined to detail the size of that investment but called it “significant” and “sizeable.”
Robb’s connections and credibility in the industry, meanwhile, are extremely valuable to FoodMaven, Bultema said. “Obviously, there’s some degree of validation to what we are doing to have someone of his stature joining. He has great insights that he brings to us in terms of the food system.”
Robb stepped down as co-CEO of Whole Foods at the end of last year in a management shift that left co-founder John Mackey as sole chief executive. Once news of the change broke, Robb was presented with a wealth of opportunities, Bultema said. “We were humbled and honored that we were the first thing he said yes to.”
Through an online marketplace, FoodMaven buys surplus food from grocery stores and distributors and sells it to restaurants, institutional kitchens and commercial food preparation businesses. (FoodMaven does not normally reveal its suppliers, but Whole Foods was disclosed as one in a Wall Street Journal article; that relationship is separate from FoodMaven’s ties with Robb, Bultema said.) For the suppliers, the marketplace represents revenue rescue for food that otherwise would have been lost,” Bultema said. The buyers, meanwhile, get quality food at a significant discount from wholesale, he said. Food that doesn’t rapidly sell in the marketplace is donated to charity.
FoodMaven is an agriculture-tech startup, founded in August 2015 by Dan Lewis, president/chief innovator, and Patrick Bultema, CEO/chairman. Its stated goal: keep food out of landfills. Food companies at every point between the dirt and the dinner table sign contracts with FoodMaven. When extra food shows up at their loading docks — most often produce, meat and dairy, which can’t sit in a warehouse for an indefinite amount of time — FoodMaven takes it off their hands, stores it and sells it to commercial and institutional kitchens across Colorado Springs and Denver. In the Springs alone, FoodMaven sells to 120 restaurants, plus school districts, senior living centers, caterers and even the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
Last week I was fortunate enough to go to Fast Company’s Meeting of the Most Creative Minds conference in Los Angeles. The conference featured several amazingly innovative companies that I will also write about later but my favorite aspect was the other attendees. Most of these companies were based in LA but a few flew from all over the nation (and some even other parts of the world!) and there is one that I cannot get out of my head. BitSource is a company who is breathing life back into a sleepy town in eastern Kentucky. The economy there had heavily relied on the coal industry and had suffered tremendously in the loss. Two former coal miners founded BitSource with a mission to bring back jobs to Appalachia country.
The company offers an array of web development services from programming languages to media and VR design to application development (and much more). The founders knew coal miners to be logic-based thinkers willing to work hard and learn. Afterall, when you’re down in a mine and something breaks, there’s no one to guide them in diagnosing and fixing the problems. Coal mining is a highly technical field that relies more on engineering smarts than on physical labor so they knew the laid-off workforce would be primed to learn code and utilize their technical skills. “Appalachia has been exporting coal for a long time.” says Justin Hall, the company’s president who I met at the conference. “Now we want to export code. We’ve got blue-collar coders.”
Some of their work includes web design for Big Sandy Resources, Inc. a river dredging company. They worked on-site to capture footage and information about the services and materials that they provide. BitSource created the website and features then trained the BSR team so that they could update and manage the site internally and make change on demand when they add a new service, product, or project. Check it out here! BitSource worked with Hashtag Appalachia and Unity to create an augmented reality application that uses artwork on a garage door as a trigger. The trigger can call any animation or content that they specify when you hold up your phone and engage the trigger by pointing it at the artwork. See a video of the project here: https://vimeo.com/214003642 Another great project BitSource completed is for their city, Pikeville, Kentucky. They created infographics, animations, an interactive map and software solutions for the city’s Office of Economic Development. The projects range even further but you’ll have to check them out to learn what other awesome things their up to.
Justin Hall was voted one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business this year and the company is quickly becoming a leader in sustainable redevelopment of our country’s workforce. BitSource provides pragmatic problem-solving, modern project management, and diligent quality assurance and is passionate about their customers. For this and many reasons I wanted to highlight this company.
This year has been the hottest year on record and this has been a trend for the past 3 consecutive years. Fire season has moved from summer to February in many wildfire hotspot locations. For 3 days last week, I was trained by Al Gore on the current state of the climate and how to become a leader in the topic – a Climate Reality Leader. 972 people being in Denver, CO wanting to learn, network, connect, motivate and take action had me certain that the most successful people would see the possibility of tackling this pertinent issue head on.
With 97% of scientists aware that the climate is changing due to human causes, climate change is no longer a liberal or conservative issue. Al Gore calls it the Sustainability Revolution. Like the Industrial Revolution and the Digital Revolution, sustainability is finding its way into every industry and its making business more efficient and cost-effective, and with it comes a better quality of life. Yet deniers still wave their hands in protest.
Climate denial comes in various forms:
Climate change is not happening
All is due to natural causes
Sure it’s happening, but we’re going to love it. (more beach days)
We can’t afford to do anything
Perhaps the facts are too big to take on – they are relentlessly suggesting urgency in climate action. Global warming is a global issue with planet-wide variables and consequences, so an individual can get lost in the crowd and wonder why they must be the one to change and ask why today, rather than next year?
If we stopped emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere tomorrow, 50 percent would fall out of the atmosphere within one generation. That would make a world of difference for our environmental hazards like flash floods, droughts, wildfires and ocean acidification that now affect every population, not just the residents in coastal Florida or the divers in Australia. We have a renewable market that is currently competitive and is already replacing coal and natural gas. Does this mean you have to install solar panels today? There are a world of possibilities from changing your light bulbs to turning off power strips when you leave the house to installing a Nest thermometer. Whether you make these small changes or can afford larger ones like an electric car, everyone has a place in transitioning.
And if you think its up to liberals and people of the green mentality, the red state of Texas is today’s leader in renewable energy. Why? Because renewables are a growing industry with pay off, both financially and for the health of the planet. With financial payoff, even if you’re a climate skeptic, there’s a monetary reason to reverse our impacts and plan for our future.
Smaller enterprises want energy developers to spread the green, allowing them to get in on the renewable wave rolling through America. The dynamic has made it easier for larger corporations with more demand to buy wind and solar electricity but it has nudged out the less brawnier brands.
The guys at Google and Facebook, for example, are stimulating the need for wind and solar energy that they are using to feed their electricity-starved data centers. The developers of those energy projects, in return, are getting solid customers that are buying their output at a fixed price over a certain period of years.
But individual commercial and industrial customers aren’t generating the type of demand that can propel big energy projects into the market. Now, though, that may change. The same so-called power purchase agreements that are used to attract the likes of Microsoft, Intel and SAP can also be parceled out to smaller businesses, albeit in much smaller blocks of energy and for much shorter time frames.
“We connect the corporate community to power purchase agreements,” says Paul Schuster managing director for Altenex, a unit of Edison Energy, in an interview. “We have noticed those larger-to-mid-sized energy users need to achieve cost efficiencies, which can be done by buying smaller blocks of renewable electricity.”
A traditional power purchase agreement, for example, might require a company to buy 100 megawatts and it would last 20 years. But the contract now offered to the smaller players might be for 10 megawatts over 10 years.
So how does all this work? A wind developer can’t go forward until it knows that it can sell its output into the market at a fair price. Because there are tax breaks for both building the project and buying the output, developers have proved able to sell that product into wholesale markets.
Let’s say it is an insurance company or a bank that buys the bulk of the wholesale power before it would be resold into retail markets: They often line up the major corporate outlets or Internet giants and contract with them to sell the energy at fixed prices over a set number of years. What Altenex is doing is going to that insurer or banker — in this example — and offering to market smaller blocks of electricity to commercial and industrial businesses.
“The return on equity should be infinite,” says Schuster. “Customers, in fact, are not putting down any upfront capital. Hopefully, they are buying renewable energy at the same cost or lower cost than they are paying for fossil energy.”
Is the corporate green market on fertile ground? PriceWaterhouseCoopers says that it has grown over the last 24 months and that it will continue to expand. Seventy-two percent of the companies it surveyed said that they are pursuing renewables, noting that they want to be more sustainable and to use green energy to hedge against volatile energy prices.
Green electricity sales in the form of voluntary power purchase agreements grew by 4% in 2015, adds the National Energy Renewable Laboratory. Contracted green power sales from those deals grew by 13% in 2015, it notes, and now total 10.2 million megawatt hours.
The larger companies are the main drivers with the likes of General Motors, Hewlett Packard, Johnson & Johnson, Tata Motors and Walmart setting a goal to run their entire operations using green energy. That includes a number of different options — everything from investing directly into deals to buying their electricity through power purchase agreements.
Austin-based TreeHouse, a home improvement retailer focused on eco-friendly construction materials, has selected Dallas as its first stop outside its hip hometown. Tuesday, it will announce plans to open a store in early 2017 in a new shopping center in North Dallas.
TreeHouse CEO and co-founder Jason Ballard believes he can sell the world on eco-friendly homes in the same way that Tesla is broadening the customer base for electric cars. As the first retailer that Tesla has authorized to sell the Powerwall, its battery for the house, TreeHouse is already a powerhouse of sustainable good. They are also one of the top-selling retailers of Nest smart-home products, Ballard said.
“We resist being a niche company,” Ballard said. “We’re not just for customers with dreadlocks and card-carrying members of environmental groups. We’re going to prove with the Dallas store that we’re not a store for special people, we’re a store for everyone.”
Single-store sales have increased 35 percent every year, he said, without disclosing annual sales. Inc. Magazine said last fall that the store was on track to do $10 million in 2015.