Kuwait's Savour Ventures Is On A Mission To Help Food Startups Get Access To Funding And Support
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This article is part of a series on pioneering entrepreneurs in Kuwait that Entrepreneur Middle East has built in collaboration with Kuwait Finance House. Kuwait Finance House is considered a pioneer in Islamic finance or Sharia’a compliant banking, with it being the first Islamic bank established in 1977 in the State of Kuwait, and is today one of the foremost Islamic financial institutions in the world.
If you’ve got an idea for F&B startup, Savour Ventures, the first food vertical accelerator in the Middle East, is one you should consider joining. From agritech, food distribution, retail, wellness and food-related apps, the accelerator seeks out early-stage startups from across the food value chain, and help entrepreneurs bring their products and services to the market. Savour Ventures supports them through infusing US$50,000 in capital, a strategic curriculum from their partner Creative Startups, a co-working space spot, access to industry-centric workshops and a global network of more than 50 mentors from leading food companies, investors and Creative Startups’ alumni network of more than 120 startup founders.
Founded in 2016 Savour has received 790 applications, with 11 startups that have been supported by the incubator. Initially created to address the challenge of having access to funding and development support for MENA food startups, founder and Managing Partner Rashid Sultan says that their main target is to give food startups a boost in their early-stage through the Kuwait-based accelerator. So far, the accelerator have completed two sets of cohorts and are currently executing their third, equaling to a total of 16 startups that they’ve invested in through the accelerator. Their second target is to fund startups in the Series A stage, which they’ve done by investing in nine later-stage startups across the region, including BulkWhiz, ReserveOut and Foodics. Sultan comments, “These investments enable the growth of the food startup ecosystem as a whole, along with diversifying our risk/return profile.”
Since its debut, Sultan notes the positive welcome it has received from the local community as the accelerator has accelerated the growth of founders’ ideas and business. He says they’ve observed an emergence of vertically focused accelerators as well in Dubai, Lebanon and Bahrain, focused on women founders, agtech and fintech. “We believe this appearance is a direct result of understanding that vertically-focused accelerators are more adept at achieving the desired results than vertical agnostic accelerators. Investors and startups alike understand that domain experience is key.”
Fall 2018 cohort
As for what’s next, Sultan says they plan to grow through three avenues. First, is by creating Labs, their new programs across MENA designed for idea-stage food startups, which are aimed to increase the funnel of startups by helping them validate their idea and start on the right track earlier on. Their second growth endeavor are external investments, which they plan to do so through increasing investments in later stage startups that will add value to the regional food value chain. Lastly, they aim to educate the ecosystem more, from “educating investors how to invest in startups and delivering insights to support entities on our findings of startup growth in the region.”
Excerpts from a conversation with founder and Managing Partner Rashid Sultan:
What has been the most negative feedback on Savour Ventures that you have received, and how did you go about it?
The negative feedback we have received on our services is isolated to developing our program structure. As we grow and develop our organization, homing in on the best practices will be crucial to our development.
One example of how we went about resolving negative feedback was to listen to our startup founders. Considering founders from all over the Middle East join us in Kuwait for the duration of the program, many complained it was difficult to manage the program while being away from home and family in one stretch. To combat that, we restructured the program design completely to enable the startups to go back and forth without losing out on the benefits of being on the ground in Kuwait.
What are the three main pillars of the profit model of Savour Ventures? How has that changed over time?
The main pillar of our profit model is a return on investment(s). One being the investments we make within the accelerator program and the other is the investments in later stage startups outside the program. Our original model was to invest 60% through our accelerator program and 40% in later stage startups; however, with our strict and diligent acceptance process for startups we currently stand at closer to 50/50 which in turn balances our risk profile.
Fall 2019 cohort
What are some of the considerations that entrepreneurs should keep when starting up a business in Kuwait, and why?
First, [consider] what customer pain you are solving, and whether you are delivering customer satisfaction enough to keep customers coming back. Second, Kuwait is an extremely competitive market within the food industry, so you must ensure your startup is providing a unique product with clear value. And finally, be sure to explore your funding options and understand how it will affect your startup in the long run. Whether that's applying for a government loan or exploring a local venture capital firm, make sure you know the strings attached.
Lastly, what are some of the opportunities that you see available in the Kuwaiti market today, and what would be your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
The opportunities we see in the Kuwaiti market today are cloud kitchens, using data to better serve customers, and supply chain management solutions. Our advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to base your idea on solving a real problem. Go beyond providing a creative concept but design a business that people never knew they wanted, but really needed. Solving customer pain is the core of every business without it; your business is just another startup poised to fail.