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Ahead of VWS Pathfinder, the world’s first pitch competition dedicated to female plant-based founders, the Vegan Women Summit has announced the five top finalists that will showcase their animal-free solutions to a panel of renowned experts and investors in the industry. The competition, which will take place in a virtual live event this Saturday (December 5), notably attracted nearly two-thirds of women of colour applicants and over a quarter of Black founders in a show of inclusivity and diversity.
Handpicked from an impressive pool of 800 pitch applications from 31 countries around the world, including 60% women of colour entrepreneurs and more than a quarter of Black founders, the finalists that will be pitching their concepts at the VWS Pathfinder hail from China, Israel, Germany, the U.S. and Canada.
Among them are Whistler-based Aki Kaltenbach, founder and CEO of plant-based seafood brand Save Da Sea Foods; Astrid Prajogo, founder and CEO of Shanghai’s peanut protein chicken startup HaoFood; Courtney Blagrove, co-founder of Whipped Urban Dessert Lab in New York; Isabella Iglesias-Musachio, co-founder of Berlin-based mycelium alternative meat company Kinoko Labs; and Renana Krebs, co-founder and CEO of Algalife, a Tel Aviv firm developing algae-based sustainable fibres.
The cohort will be competing for a winner’s prize valued at over US$50,000, including US$10,000 cash reward sponsored by Purple Orange Ventures, US$35,000 worth of branding services from Evolution Bureau and more perks such as a global membership to WeWork office space.
Among the 30-plus industry figures, experts and investors that will feature in VWS Pathfinder include Miyoko Schinner, the founder and CEO of famed plant-based dairy brand Miyoko’s Creamery, Matilda Ho of China food tech venture fund Bits x Bites, and Daniella Monet, actress and co-founder of Kinder Beauty. Stray Dog Capital, VegInvest, KBW Ventures and Big Idea Ventures are some of the names of the impressive list of top funds and investors in the space also joining the pitch event.
Establishing these strategic partnerships is a difficult endeavor, made even more arduous by being a member of a disadvantaged group that historically lacks access to the resources and networks available to others.Courtney Blagrove, VWS Finalist, Co-Founder of Whipped Urban Dessert Lab
Commenting on the diverse pitch application turnout, Vegan Women Summit founder Jennifer Stojkovic said she was “thrilled” and believes the summit represents the “first step to finally get these founders the much needed recognition, support, and investment they deserve,” given the pervasive gender inequalities that female founders continue to face, particularly in fundraising.
This summit is our first step at Vegan Women Summit to finally get these founders the much needed recognition, support, and investment they deserve.Jennifer Stojkovic, Founder of Vegan Women Summit
“The frozen dessert market has historically been devoid of diverse representation in the field and our team has experienced that while grit and work ethic is a critical part of the equation for success, having strategic connections to the right people at the right time is crucial as well,” remarked finalist Blagrove. “Establishing these strategic partnerships is a difficult endeavor, made even more arduous by being a member of a disadvantaged group that historically lacks access to the resources and networks available to others.”
“VWS Pathfinder by Vegan Women Summit is taking action to change this dynamic and we are extremely proud and excited to take part in a summit that allows us to increase our brand awareness, promotes diversity and representation in the plant-based food innovation field, and also promotes increased access to plant-based foods for all people,” adds Blagrove.
All images courtesy of VWS.