Start-up Stories: N-Chroma & Phenospex

N-Chroma, a start-up producing natural colours for use in food, textile and cosmetics using biotechnological methods, won F&A Next’s early-stage start-up pitching competition. Pitching at F&A Next provided N-Chroma with a lot of impetus to drive their business forward.  Since F&A Next, N-Chroma initiated a project at Wageningen University and Research to optimize their technology, being a student at Wageningen University and Research, N-Chroma’s CEO Constantinos Patinios managed to increase guidance by the university’s supervisors and the company entered G-BiB, a biotech competition. ‘With a team of one professor, one post-doc, one PhD and 4 master students, we have high hopes of winning,’ says Constantinos. With its sensors and analysis software to assess and analyse plant performance for agriculture, Phenospex emerged as winner of the scale-up pitching competition. Phenospex aims high; the company aspires to become a world leader in plant analysis and automated processes related to plant screening and agriculture. Winning at F&A Next ‘provided us with good feedback from investors,’ says Grégoire Hummel. ‘We worked hard on our business plans. After both pitches (at F&A Next and FoodBytes! in Boulder, Colorado [editorial note]) we had a list of 10 investors that we approached and went on with four venture capitalists into more detailed discussions. We hope to close our deal by the end of Q1 in 2017.’ ‘Boulder or Bust!’ Winning at F&A Next earned both companies a ticket to FoodBytes! in Boulder, Colorado in the US. FoodBytes! is a pitching format solely dedicated to promoting and stimulating innovation in food and agriculture. ‘The vibe at Boulder was excellent,’ says Grégoire. ‘The start-up scene in the US still does have another vibe than the European one and in some regards seems more respected. For Constantinos pitching for a US audience was ‘great experience’, that taught him to focus on the customer rather than on great technology. Since then, Constantinos has re-directed his focus on ‘easier accessible markets that require less legislation for my product and that will give fast returns on investment.’ ‘Start Pitching!’ & ‘Be Persistent!’ Grégroire has learned to ‘always keep an open mind for different scenarios of funding, constellations of investors or even the amount of money you raise. Know who you talk to and what they are looking for themselves.’ Other than that Grégoires advises aspiring start-ups to ‘be persistent,’ there are no sure shots in the innovation arena. Constantinos reflects on the unique potential of summits like F&A Next: ‘where are you going to find 150-200 investors together in one place, ready to listen to your story and give you face to face feedback? It saves time, money and energy. So start pitching!’