Frequently Asked Questions
For any questions not addressed below, please reach out to our Program Manager, Laura Habegger, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
+What is The Food Foundry Accelerator?
The Food Foundry is a Chicago-based accelerator program by Relish Works designed to support, connect, and propel innovative startups who are rethinking the food industry. Built in partnership with 1871 and Gordon Food Service — our program offers access to national foodservice business resources, distribution and supply chain resources, advanced curriculum, access to restaurant operators, mentors, and more.
+Who is Relish Works?
Relish Works is an innovation hub focused on challenging the status quo and pioneering the next evolution of the food industry. Relish Works was developed to generate innovative solutions to the most pressing food industry problems by creating partnerships, designing new solutions, or investing in and supporting others. Located in the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago, Relish Works operates within a thriving ecosystem of startups, companies, universities, and other incubators.
+Who is Gordon Food Service?
In 1897, Isaac Van Westenbrugge started a butter-and-egg delivery service using a horse-drawn cart. Now, 120 years later, Gordon Food Service has grown to become the largest privately held and family-managed foodservice distributor in North America. Gordon Food Service distributes to foodservice operators in the Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest regions of the United States and coast-to-coast in Canada. The company also operates more than 175 Gordon Food Service Store locations in the U.S., which are open to the public and provide restaurant-quality products and friendly, knowledgeable service without a membership fee.
+Who is 1871?
Founded in 2012, 1871 was created to support Chicago’s digital startup community. Since that time, it has become the hub for the city’s thriving technology and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Today 1871 is the home of more than 400 early-stage, high-growth digital startups. Located in The Merchandise Mart, this 150,000 square foot facility is also the headquarters of nationally recognized accelerators, industry-specific incubators, tech talent schools, the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition — the state’s leading technology advocate, a number of Chicago-based VCs, and satellite offices for Northwestern University, University of Illinois, University of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, DeVry University, and DePaul University.
+What is different about The Food Foundry accelerator than other programs?
The Food Foundry is the only program that combines the resources of a national foodservice distributor (e.g., industry expertise and mentors, access to customers, access to real-world test environments) with a premiere regional startup ecosystem (e.g., access and networking with seasoned entrepreneurs, peer startups, programming and other 1871 resources) and deep professional expertise in human-centered design and concept testing (e.g., professional expertise at Relish Works, Inc.).
+How is the program structured?
The Food Foundry accelerator is 16-week program that begins in mid-January. Selected startups will join a cohort of 3-5 other startups in January, 2019 to attend the program at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. Programming is a mix of group-based learning curriculum, mentor-guided growth, and visits to Gordon Food Service facilities and customers in Grand Rapids, MI and other regional locations. Importantly, the program will be tailored to the needs of the startups that join the cohort.
+What mentor support will my organization have?
Each startup will have access to a network of mentors that includes successful entrepreneurs, subject area experts, and foodservice industry professionals. This includes over 500 mentors through the 1871 mentor network, Relish professionals and “Friends of Relish”, and Gordon Food Service industry leaders. Throughout the program, each startup will be able to work closely with mentors responsible for guiding progress.
+Do I have to relocate?
To benefit fully from the program, relocation to Chicago is preferred. Startups will have access to space both at Relish Works and 1871. In specific cases, remote participation will be considered but startup participants will be required to travel for a minimum of one week per month.
+Do you provide financial support or take equity?
The Food Foundry makes investments in each individual startup who become part of our cohort in the form of a blended investment. In addition to capital, we provide office space, administrative support, mentorship, a structured curriculum and training, resources and perks through 1871 and GAN, and access to our community and network
+Are applicants only in Chicago area considered?
By no means! The Food Foundry is looking for the best entrepreneurial teams and solutions to big problems; we realize that these can come from anywhere. We accept all US based startups and will consider applicants from around the world, even if they have already incorporated in their home countries. We can help you work out the best process for creating a US company (or US parent company) in which we can invest. Often, founders will keep their original entity as a subsidiary of the US parent company and that entity will continue to operate.
+What are requirements for Eligibility?
We are looking for early stage startups with solutions for food industry issues across the value chain, from farm to table. Companies with supply chain, distribution, transportation, and mobility solutions in particular will benefit from the industry knowledge and access provided by Gordon Food Service. * Stage: We are looking for early stage startups who either have some evidence of sales or customers or have taken steps to determine product market fit. Applicants with only ideas are not eligible. * Industry: Nearly all solutions that could be applied to the food value chain from farm to table are eligible. Exceptions include CPG and agriculture companies which are not in scope. * Revenue: We have no particular revenue requirements but will be looking for companies that have some evidence of a prototype or pilot, and initial market traction.
+What is the application and selection process like?
Applications will open mid-August through mid-October, 2019. All eligible applications will be reviewed, and the team will select a finalist pool. The finalists will be invited to Relish Works in downtown Chicago to interview with The Food Foundry Selection Committee in mid-November. Of the finalists, 5 startups will be selected to participate in the program beginning January 13, 2020.
+Can I speak to someone about the program or application process?
If you have questions that aren't answered on our website or this FAQ, please email Program Manager, Laura Habegger, email@example.com.
+When is the application period?
Applications for our second cohort will run mid-August through mid-October, 2019. If you're interested in learning more about our program prior, please sign up for our newsletter or reach out to our program manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
+When will companies be notified of finalist selections?
Finalists will be notified in November 2019.
+Is there an advantage to applying early?
Applications are considered on a rolling-basis. The earlier you apply, the longer we have to get acquainted with you and your business.