The Startupbootcamp Mentor Spotlight is a series of interviews profiling inspiring stories from our extended network of mentors at Startupbootcamp FoodTech Rome. Today, the spotlight is focused on our mentor Jewell Sparks, from the USA.
Wilhelmina Jewell Sparks is a global executive who has worked in both Corporate and Startup environments for over 20 years preparing markets and launching innovative products and services in science, technology, retail, and food industries. She is the CEO of BiTHOUSE GROUP (www.bithousegroup.com) which is a global business development cultivator fostering collaboration and innovation culture amongst corporates, innovators, investors, government and community. For the past couple of years, she has focused on intrapreneurship strategy and development, innovation scouting and integration of startup solutions for Corporate Venture Capital Funds and government entities as the need for customer engagement, growth, digitalization and corporate innovation increases. She serves on several global advisory boards: IADAS (International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences) and SXSW Accelerator, amongst others and is an active advisor/mentor to several startups and accelerator programs focused IoT, AI, mobility, food, retail, entertainment, fashion, sustainability and health. Jewell is the founder of the AgTech FoodTech Summit and the Chairwoman and Co-Founder of the Food und FoodTech Group of the Deutsche Startup Association. “Bridging the Gap,” by “Connecting the Dots” is her motto. @jewellsparks
“So, Jewell, what brings you to Startupbootcamp FoodTech? Why did you choose to join Startupbootcamp FoodTech as a mentor?”
I have been a mentor for over 15 years of my professional career. I have had a very successful career and I believe in giving back. SBC FoodTech was one of the first accelerator programs in Europe focused only on food with global recognition. I am a big fan of all things global. I also like supporting first movers. People sometimes don’t give first movers sustainable support because they always think they can do it better. Maybe this is true, but I know being the first is always the hardest and I respect those who take risks prior to it becoming the mainstream conversation. Pioneers see things and know things that others don’t. I like to support those who take risks no matter what the majority is doing. This is why I choose to spend time out of Germany to give back to the founders.
M: “As an expert in food technology and innovation, what do you look for in an early-stage startup and what is the most critical aspect to get an investment?”
I look for a good team. Skills can be acquired, but ethical people and passion is something that is hard to find. In order to get investment, I feel that the investment models for food must change. Founders of foodtech companies are not founders of software companies. Food has a different cycle: resources are needed for r&D, manufacturing, certifications, sales, and marketing in order to build a brand and be successful enough to enter a competitive marketplace. I look for a good product, excellent technology, business development skills and most importantly passion for success.
M: “How do you see the future of foodtech?”
As we all know, we must figure out how to feed 9 billion people by 2050, we will need to utilize technology, as well as circular systems in order for this to happen. FoodTech is gaining recognition across the globe, and we need everyone involved, because we all need food. Not just the so-called experts, each and every one of us must eat. We all can participate in creating solutions needed to ensure our safety and wellbeing as it relates to food for the future. While we are in the process of new food discovery and/or utilizing technology to generate food, we need to also not forget why we all need food in the first place. Food provides us with the nutrients needed to stay healthy if and when we eat right. Nutrition needs to also move to the forefront as we start generating food products via cutting-edge technology solutions and/or utilize technology to create diversified forms or food.
Want to connect with our mentors? Come to the Demo Day, taking place in January the 25th. Request an invitation using the form below.