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RG Stories: Interview with RG Challenge18 Winner Entomics

By March 13, 2019 No Comments
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Food waste is a huge problem facing society today – over 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted globally each year and if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China. With an increase in population and modern lifestyles, the burden of food waste on society and the environment is set to increase. RG Challenge18 winning startup Entomics are working hard to make a tangible difference to this global problem by driving the ‘insect revolution’.

Entomics are pioneering the transformation of organic waste into high quality animal feed. Through insect biomass conversion (or insect farming), waste is fed directly to insects and converted into higher value insect mass, rich in protein and fat which can in turn be used as sustainable animal feed. They turn unwanted food into animal feed by feeding scraps to an army of black soldier fly larvae. 

The start-up team comprises of three University of Cambridge graduates with backgrounds in biochemistry, engineering and business. The four Co-Founders met as students at a sustainability oriented hackathon organised by Cambridge University’s entrepreneurship club. Fotis Fotiadis, CTO & Co-Founder of Entomics, and the engineer of the group, participated in our RG Challenge18 accelerator programme. Entomics won the top RG Challenge18 Judges Award at the Dragons Den final pitch event and after also presenting their business to investors at the RG Connect18 conference, they won the RG Connect Startup Award. Since winning these awards, Entomics have almost doubled the size of their team, moved to new offices, expanded their R&D activities to new labs and raised crucial funding.

RG Challenge Award Prizes

This week we spoke to Fotis about his participation in Reload Greece programmes and events and his entrepreneurial journey since. Fotis spoke very positively about the value of the prizes the startup won through RG Challenge and RG Connect. 

Winning the RG Challenge18 Judges Award and The RG Connect Award was very helpful as we used the cash prize to expedite our recruitment process. The complimentary Central Working space has been very useful as we now have a base in London as well as Cambridge. The Joelson Law sessions have been fantastic, they helped us a lot, giving legal advice in several areas.”

Attending the RG Connect18 conference was a very rich experience propelled by introductions to other successful entrepreneurs, industry experts and exposure to potential investors. The event was covered by the media really well and the start-ups attending benefited massively.”

Gaining investment

Entomics met and interacted with potential investors during the RG Challenge18 programme and at the RG Connect18 conference and since participating in the events, Entomics have raised crucial funding. Fotis states  RG Challenge helped a lot to interact with potential investors, mainly through the great exposure and media coverage the start-ups received.”

Mentoring support & media coverage

When I asked Fotis what he thought the key benefits of participating in RG Challenge were, he highlighted the mentor support, media coverage and introductions to investors.

“I would say the key benefits of participating in RG Challenge were:

  • Further developed and polished our value proposition through the help of the fantastic mentors
  • Met great like-minded individuals and shared experiences
  • Gained very good media coverage and exposure
  • Introductions to potential investors and partners”

“All of the mentors were very helpful in supporting us to crystallise our strategic direction by challenging our approach and working with us through exercises to stress test our business model.”

Building a strong team

Since participating in RG Challenge, Entomics have grown the size of their team from 6 to 10 people and Fotis highlights the importance of developing a strong team. The team is arguably the most important element of Entomics as only with very strong team mates you build something great. My advice to other early stage start-ups would be to put extra attention into recruiting as this is what can make or break a company in the end.” Entomics are currently looking for driven engineers to join their growing team so visit their website if you would like to hear more.

 

Future plans

The start-up’s plan for 2019 is to “commercialise the technologies and set up the ground for scaling up in 2020”. Entomics are currently transitioning from the R&D phase to commercialisation and they are manufacturing a new plant which will be operational later this year.

There’s been an explosion of commercial insect operations globally over the past couple of years and since insects for aquaculture feed only became legal in the UK last year, the market is expected to grow rapidly. As Fotis highlights, “Food waste and food security are two massive problems facing society today and the idea of helping to solve such big problems is very inspiring for us. The ‘insect revolution’ is growing at a very fast pace and we have seen significant investment into this new industry over the past year. Investors are becoming increasingly warmer to the idea of need for alternative protein solutions and insect farming is in the forefront of this push for more sustainable food & feed.”

The RG effect

Entomics are exploring the opportunity to base their manufacturing and engineering activities in Greece. They are keen to develop their links to Greece stating Greece is known for the highly talented engineering workforce and geographically it would make perfect sense to manufacture our systems there.”

Fotis says that he is thankful for the skills, support and contacts he acquired during RG Challenge, but he admits that being an entrepreneur still has its challenges even though the rewards outweigh any sacrifices.

“Being an entrepreneur requires several sacrifices, from a less interesting social life to a much deflated bank account however the long term rewards significantly outweigh any short term sacrifices :)”

A positive testimonial for Reload Greece

It’s fantastic to hear Fotis’s positive comments about participating in Reload Greece programmes and events “To me Reload Greece is a fantastic initiative that gives me the unique opportunity to stay connected with Greece while getting very valuable exposure and support from industry experts and potential investors.”

If you are looking to fast track your startup and become investment ready, our global call for applications to RG Challenge19 is now open! Hear more about the programme here and apply here today to take your start-up to the next level.