Founded in 2020, Trellis Road is a micro venture capital fund focused on investing in the high-impact foodtech sector. The brain child of Anna Ottosson and Erik Byrenius, both previous founders who exited startups, the fund was born out of a desire to support early stage food tech startups that are looking to transform the global food system to make it more sustainable, ethical and healthy. Initially using their own money, the two invested in projects to fast-track their knowledge. Now, two years later, Trellis Road is a fully fledged operation with an $18 million micro fund at its disposal and the fund has invested in 16 startups across four continents. Notable companies include Bluu, Bond, Herotein and Mission Barns amongst many others.
In this interview, Ottosson talks to Green Queen’s Sonalie Figueiras about investing in foodtech startups for the future, how previous founders make the best investors and why kids belong on Zoom calls.
GQ: What is a micro VC fund?
I’ve seen a few different definitions and numbers but according to a Forbes article the definition is “micro funds — defined as sub-$50 million, or sub-$100 million vehicles to invest in startups”.
Editor’s note: Trellis Road has an $18 million micro fund. It will be used to make investments between $200,000-$500,000 in pre-seed and seed funding rounds.
GQ: You say you took no pension fund or corporate money. Why is that?
We wanted to focus on Limited Partners (LPs) who themselves had experience working with early stage startups, and for a fund this small it simply wouldn’t have made sense with big institutions as LPs.
GQ: Founders and operators make up the bulk of your LPs. Are they good investors in your view?
We think so. Our experience is that people who know how hard it can be to found a startup and who have done it themselves are great supporters for founders.
GQ: There’s pictures of your kids included in Trellis Road’s story. Why have you included them?
First of all, Trellis Road was born out of our shared dedication to have a positive impact on our kids’ future, so they’ve been at the core of what we want to build from day one. Secondly, we’ve both mainly been working from home during the pandemic (as so many others have) and we think a lot of parents can relate to the challenges of managing zoom calls and having young kids at home at the same time.
GQ: Have there been any stand-out portfolio highlights yet?
We obviously love all of our investments (16 so far!) but the cases where we’ve gotten to know the founders very early in their journey always holds a special place in our hearts. For example, Sara and Max building QOA (creating the world’s first 100% cocoa-free chocolate), Deniz and Jacob building plant-based tuna company BettaF!sh and Lara and Mark building local supply management platform Hier Foods.
GQ: Your investment model is drastically different from regular Venture Capital funding. What do you think can be done to make the sector better?
There are a lot of really great VCs out there (but obviously a lot of really bad ones too!). In general I think more investors should look at how they can invest in companies that are not only financially attractive but also are working on solving important problems, especially with regards to climate change.
GQ: Is that why you’ve chosen to focus on sustainable food systems?
The food system is such a fundamental part of the challenges we’re facing related to climate change, environmental issues, human health and animal welfare. There are so many different aspects of the food system that needs to be disrupted.
GQ: Why Trellis Road? What is the meaning behind your name?
The dictionary defines a trellis as “a frame which supports climbing plants”. It felt like a subtle yet important nod to how we want founders to feel about us; a structure/support you can lean on if and when you need/want. Again, in our experience, founders need a network of supporters around them, and we hope to be part of that support.
Disclaimer: Sonalie Figueiras is an advisor to Trellis Road.
All images courtesy of Unsplash.