Eat your hearts out Shark Tank fans. This week, twenty-one entrepreneurs will be pitching their innovative ideas in a competition that actually has to do with marine life—and after months of top-notch business coaching, odds are, these opportunities would drive even Mark Cuban and Co into a funding frenzy.
Today is the last day for the two-day finale of Fish 2.0, the first-ever business plan competition for the seafood industry. Three winners will be selected to receive cash prizes, but the value of Fish 2.0 for most entrants has been the application process itself. During the nine-month lifespan of the competition, dozens of innovators benefitted from personalized business advising—including support from our executive director, Cheryl Dahle, and entrepreneur-in-residence, Matthew Quetton—and ample opportunities to network with investors, industry players, and each other.
Fish 2.0 founder Monica Jain described the competition as a “giant hypothesis” in preparing small businesses to scale and connect with investors. The creators weren’t entirely sure what would come of the experiment. While many innovative ideas regularly surface in the seafood industry, few are truly “investment ready.” The competition—similar to other competitive platforms to drive change— sought to address that gap. And it worked: at its launch, more than 80 entrepreneurs seeking both advisory and financial support for a range of business ideas applied to participate.
The list of finalists and semi-finalists illustrates this richness and diversity of innovation: A community-supported fishery out of Monterey Bay with 16 pick-up locations and counting; a software startup looking to promote seafood traceability without compromising the intellectual property of fishing companies; an ex-fisherman turned businessman who helps small fishermen deliver higher-quality fish into premium markets; and a forward-contracting startup that’s changing the transaction model to decrease instability in the supply chain.
The enthusiastic response to Fish 2.0 is a validation of two central tenets of Future of Fish: that innovation in the sustainable seafood space is not only present, it’s prolific; and that the same frameworks for investing in any other industry can also be applied to fish. (As our founder, Cheryl Dahle, noted during the recent SOCAP13 conference, if you know about investing, you know about investing in seafood.)
Since our beginnings, unearthing and celebrating innovation in the oceans space has been a core element of our mission at Future of Fish. Our own talented cohort members offer another snapshot of the wealth of creative for-profit solutions that can drive sustainability. A critical element of the success of Fish 2.0 has been its pragmatic, business-focused approach, guiding entrepreneurs through a process that helps them meet the needs of traditional investors while ensuring that seafood sustainability remains an important element of the assessment criteria.
Today, entrepreneurs, investors, business advisors (including Future of Fish team members), and other industry players will select the inaugural winners of this competition. Regardless of who takes home the prizes, we tip our hats to all the innovators and the chance this competition presents them to talk with investors about the business opportunity that is sustainable seafood.