Sunday, September 22, 2013

Invest in What You Know

We know from angel research that returns are positively correlated with experience.  That makes sense from two perspectives.  One, angels with experience in a field can better recognize a good value proposition.  Two, those angels can bring their expertise to new companies.

We know a lot about food in the Treasure Valley thanks to Albertsons, Simplot and Ore-Ida to name a few major producers and sellers.  The angels in the Boise Angel Alliance and its funds thus far have invested in three food companies. Each has taken advantage of the knowledge of food available in the Treasure Valley.

Nurture. ( Selling under the Happy Family brand, Nurture produces a line of organic, natural baby and toddler food.  This is an unusual company in that the CEO lives and works in New York and the COO, Jessica Rolph lives and works in Boise.  Both officers are mothers of toddlers with an interest in creating good-for-you food for children. 

Under Rolph’s direction the company sources its raw materials, directs the manufacture of its products and coordinates the delivery to more than 10,000 stores throughout the United States.  Nurture employs more than 25 people in the Treasure Valley, many of them with prior food experience with some of our biggest companies.

In June, 2013 Danone, the French yogurt maker purchased the company. The local angels received approximately eight times their investment, a superb return over four years.

Prosperity Organic Foods.  ( Prosperity produces a line of organic, natural butter substitutes under their “Melt” label.  Hailey resident, Cygnia Rapp created the product when dietary restrictions meant she couldn’t eat her favorite foods (like butter).  As the company grew, Cygnia and her board (I was a board member at the time) determined that her best role in the company was as the spokesperson and chief science officer.

Meg Carlson, who was an angel investor in the company and board member, became the CEO.  Meg had a very successful career as a vice president at Ore-Ida and brought to the company her in-depth experience in food development, manufacturing, marketing and distribution. Meg has attracted experienced food industry talent to the company, both as employees and directors.  The company is now beginning to scale with Melt available in about 3500 stores.

Fit Wrapz. ( Shige Toyoguchi was a personal trainer in Boise with an interest in healthy food.  He began creating foods for himself and his clients.  This led to a line of healthy frozen burritos available locally at coffee shops, athletic clubs and Albertsons.

Fit Wrapz is a seed stage company, now ready to expand beyond the Treasure Valley.  It recently concluded a seed stage round of financing led by the Boise Angel Alliance.  The capital will be used to fund the expansion as the company tests different channel strategies.

Shige attracted two very experienced directors to help guide his company at this critical time.  One is a former senior officer with Simplot; the other was a senior vice president in merchandising for Albertsons. 

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