Meet the Maker: Danielle Gould of Food+Tech Connect
What attracted you to building Food+Tech Connect and what inspired you from the start?
Never in a million years would I think I would be where I am today, but five years ago I had two "ah ha" moments that forever changed my life. The first was when I realized we could use information technology and data to make good food more affordable and accessible for all. The second was when I realized that the only way we can solve our biggest problems is by bringing people from diverse backgrounds together to break down the problems in new ways and work together to co-create new solutions. It was at that point that I realized I could help transform the food system by ensuring people have access to the information, skills and connections they need to catalyze a better food future.
At the time, most people thought I was crazy, but as I watched technology and new business models transform other industries like financial services, healthcare and even the government, I knew I was on to something. I started writing to evangelize how data and technology were transforming the food system (and making it more equitable, sustainable and healthy) and to highlight all of the incredible early innovators who were doing just that. Then I started hosting events to create a space for people from the worlds of food, agriculture, technology, design, investment and public policy to connect, learn and collaborate.
What are your plans to further develop the business over the next year?
We recently launched Food+Tech Ed, an online learning community that offers affordable, expert-taught online business, marketing and tech courses. We're working with the best and brightest entrepreneurs, investors and marketers to lower the barriers to success for food innovators. Launching and growing a business is especially tough when it comes to food (80% of new small food businesses fail), but through videos, step-by-step tools and community, we want to make it easier.
We currently have 5 courses, including: Food Startup Branding 101, The Power of Brand Growing Your Restaurant Business, Food Startup Venture Fundraising, Crowdfunding For Food Entrepreneurs and Fundamentals of User Research. We will also be launching more business planning, sales, marketing and e-commerce courses over the next couple of months, so stay tuned!
What advice would you give someone that is building a company?
I have a couple pieces of advice, which I try to keep in mind every day:
1. Keep it simple and focused: do one thing really well before you begin adding other products or launching new services. As an entrepreneur, you probably have lots of ideas (I know I do), but you can't do them all well at the same time (especially with a small team). Get out and talk to your customers to understand their problems and prioritize which ideas to focus on first.
2. "Create more value than you capture": This is one I've borrowed from tech veteran Tim O'Reilly. The businesses that are most successful in the long term are the ones who focus on creating value for all of their stakeholders - customers, employees, investors, vendors, communities, etc. - rather than just making money. If you help others achieve their goals, they are way more likely to help you.
3. Be good to yourself and your employees: As a startup, it's really easy to work crazy hours and to throw work-life balance out the door, but there's more to life than work. It's been proven that unhealthy, unhappy people are less productive. So I remind myself and my team to make time to take care of themselves and spend time with the people they love.
What has been the most memorable moment since launching?
Definitely our hackathons, like Hack//Meat and Hack//Dining. We've worked with renowned organizations like Applegate, Google and Chipotle, as well as The James Beard Foundation, GRACE Communications Foundation and Animal Welfare Approved to host hackathons that bring farmers, restaurateurs, artisans, developers, designers, investors and policy makers from all over the country together to rapidly prototype solutions to big problems in 48 hours. More than an event, we've catalyzed a global movement of people who are hungry to collaborate and tackle industry-wide food challenges.
My most memorable moment was from our sustainable meat hackathon, Hack//Meat Silicon Valley, when a rancher told me that he had traveled 6 hours to participate because he couldn't believe that people wanted to help him solve his problems. He said it was the first time he felt empowered to change his situation.
If you were a food or beverage, what would you be and why?
I would be a bottle of Mezcal, because I'm fiery.