Fish 2.0 Offers Cash, Advice to an Ocean of Seafood Start-Ups

Civil Eats
  • Sara Harrison
  • January 25, 2018

With the seafood industry in transition, these entrepreneurs are pitching ways to make it more sustainable.

In a large ballroom at Stanford University’s Arrillaga Alumni Center, jittery entrepreneurs make their way onto a small stage to pitch their sustainable seafood ventures. Out of 184 applications, only 40 have made the cut. Among the finalists are a mail-order oyster startup that will ship the food overnight to your door, a manufacturer of devices that track lost fishing gear, an Alaskan processing facility looking to expand, and training programs that teach Peruvian fishermen how to operate more sustainably.

They’re taking part in the third bi-annual Fish 2.0 competition, and the stakes are high. Many of these entrepreneurs have never made a pitch in front of an audience before. And with some of the largest and most respected investors in the sector, including Rabobank, Aqua-Spark, and Obvious Ventures, eagerly looking on, competitors are anxious to make a good impression. Flanked by projectors and armed only with a microphone and a remote to advance their slides, entrepreneurs from as far away as Italy, Peru, and the Solomon Islands have only a few minutes to make their pitch in front of a four-judge panel and a room full of potentially lucrative connections.

With global demand for sustainable seafood growing rapidly, the industry hasn’t been able to keep pace. Programs like Fish 2.0 hope to meet that demand and support the sector’s growth by connecting investors to emerging businesses. Similar to accelerators like Mixing Bowl, Imagine H2O, and the Chobani Incubator, Fish 2.0 aims to strengthen the sustainable seafood movement by helping ventures become financially sustainable, scalable, and profitable.

Although Fish 2.0 is framed as a competition, networking is what really matters for most participants. The eight competition winners each receive $5,000 in prize money, but for past winner Norah Eddy, whose company Salty Girl Seafood sells sustainable fish in ready-to-cook, pre-marinated packages, the experience and exposure were more important than the actual cash. Eddy says the connections she fostered at Fish 2.0 two years ago have remained fruitful for Salty Girl, which has expanded its line of products since they won a prize at the competition.

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Tags: 2017 Finals

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