Our team recently noticed that we passed the one-year anniversary of the first Mixing Bowl event. It caused me to reflect a bit on the last twelve months.
Last January 21st we held a “Toss up” meeting at the Runway accelerator located in the same building as Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco. We had a group of around 60 people attend a discussion on “The Changing Last Mile of Food”.
I remember preparing a background presentation to guide our discussion for that event– and questioning my sanity at the time. (What am I doing? My background is telecom/mobile/internet investing–not food!) There were smart, experienced practitioners in the space coming to the event that could run circles around me with their domain knowledge. I remember thinking I must be crazy to do this.
Yet at a number of food-related meet-up events and conferences in Silicon Valley in the preceding months, it felt like there was something missing. There wasn’t a forum for well-intended “foodies” to talk to “techies” to talk to “aggies” to talk to corporate “suits” in an on-going, business-focused fashion. The lack of that on-going dialogue and information-sharing seemed to be impairing the potential successful application of Silicon Valley-type innovation to the food and agriculture markets. Certainly, I was inspired by events like the @foodtechconnect SV Hack Meat and @timmywest’s Future Food Tech hackathons, but decided to launch the Mixing Bowl to sustain the momentum and discussion those events had started.
The first Mixing Bowl event last January was well received, and feedback from experienced food folks like @stephanienaegli of Nestle and Adam and Joyce of @bbfdirect encouraged the set-up of another “Toss Up”. In turn, that second event convinced us to do our “Food IT: Soil to Fork” conference with @FeedCollab at Stanford in June. The amazing attendance and energy at the event sealed it– the Mixing Bowl is, indeed, filling a need for a continued dialogue between food, agriculture and IT innovators. It was then that the Mixing Bowl committed to this space for the long run.
The second half of last year included a Food Geeks Travel day trip to Salinas, an informative trip to New Zealand, a “Silicon Valley meets Food Valley” Food Geeks Travel trip to The Netherlands, an Idea Hack on scaling local food in Pescadero, CA, and a final “Toss Up” event in San Francisco with @iftf.
Compared to a year ago, FOOD IS HOT right now in Silicon Valley! Silicon Valley is a frenetic place with tons of networking events and an already over-stimulated and over-caffeinated tech demographic. The result is a small geographic space with a huge case of Attention Deficit Disorder. Recently we have seen a number of new conferences and incubators pop up connecting food and agriculture to Silicon Valley. While this is generally a good thing, it does make us wonder if we are seeing too much of a good thing. I’ve been in Silicon Valley since late 2000 and have seen technology sectors with their high-priced conferences hyped and abandoned. For those of us leading the charge in this space, it behooves us to avoid the fate of past tech fads and not lose sight of the bigger goal of responsibly raising and sustaining awareness of the real needs and real opportunities for tech innovation in the food and agriculture space.
From a Mixing Bowl perspective, we are committed to working with others in Silicon Valley, across the US, and outside the US who share our values of openness and collaboration— so please come and mix it up with us!
As a last point, I’d like to give thanks to the many people who have encouraged the Mixing Bowl over the last year, and who have taken the time to educate about the sector— including our friends at @TomKatREF Ranch and in Pescadero– and, of course, the Mixing Bowl Team and Advisors who make this so much fun day in and day out.