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The world’s first founder summit and pitch competition dedicated to female-identifying founders building the future of plant-based innovation will take place on December 5.

Called VWS Pathfinder, the virtual event strives to ‘inspire, educate, and empower rising female-identifying leaders to bring compassion to the plant-based and food tech industry.

VWS Pathfinder

The event, organized by media and events organization Vegan Women Summit, is offering a top prize valued at $50,000. This includes a $10,000 cash prize sponsored by Purple Orange Ventures, $35,000 of branding services from Evolution Bureau, global membership to WeWork office space, and more.

The event will include CEO panels, founder chats, and session programming featuring more than two dozen of the world’s leading founders and CEOs in the plant-based space, including Miyoko Schinner (Miyoko’s Creamery), Shama Sukul Lee (CEO of Sunfed Meats), Daniella Monet (Co-founder of Kinder Beauty Box), and Denise Woodard (Partake Foods).

A number of notable venture capitalists will be joining from the food technology industry. They include Matilda Ho (Bits x Bites), Lisa Feria (Stray Dog Capital), Regina Hecker (Blue Horizon Ventures), and Miray Zaki (Dismatrix).

Plant Based News is a partner for the event, which is being sponsored by leading plant-based companies across the world, including Upfield, Miyoko’s Creamery, and Califia Farms, in addition to more than half a dozen venture capital firms, including VegInvest, Big Idea Ventures, and Vegan Capital.

Bias

Recent research by the Vegan Women Summit found that of 160 female-identifying founders and top executives at plant-based and cell-based food startups, 48 percent of respondents say they have faced bias during the fundraising process, with 75 percent of those women saying they have faced gender bias specifically.

VWS Pathfinder will help raise awareness of this ‘persistent gender inequality that female entrepreneurs around the world face in fundraising and connect the brightest emerging ideas in plant-based innovation with leaders in venture capital’.

Jennifer Stojkovic, founder of Vegan Women Summit, said: “Almost half of female founders and CEOs in the food tech industry have encountered bias, particularly gender bias, from investors, while nearly half of all female founders of color have experienced racial bias.

“VWS Pathfinder creates a platform to showcase and drive investment to these underfunded and overlooked up-and-coming founders, while bringing out the industry’s top leaders much-needed and educate this future generation.

“With founders and CEOs joining from five continents, we are proud to create the much-needed amplification for these voices and will feature a lineup with more than two-thirds founders of color.”

Diverse talent

Lisa Feria, CEO of Stray Dog Capital, is a venture capitalist who is supporting the event. She said: “Stray Dog Capital is proud to continue to support Vegan Women Summit through the VWS Pathfinder event. It’s been proven that diverse teams deliver outsized returns and we fully support the female founders that are driving so many of these startups.”

Miyoko Schinner, CEO of Miyoko’s Creamery, added: “The future of the planet depends on finding the best and brightest talent across the world to change the food system.

“By building a more inclusive, global ecosystem to empower, cultivate, and support female founders through VWS Pathfinder, we can bring more solutions to the table, move quicker to enact change, and create a kinder future for us all.”

Taking part

Founders from around the world can apply to take part in VWS Pathfinder have until October 23 to apply. Ten semi-finalists will be selected and then narrowed to five finalists, who will be announced on December 1.

Both the selection committee and the final jury panel will consider ‘the market impact, team experience, growth potential, business model, differentiation, and value proposition of each pitch’.

Challenge

“The challenge we’ve given ourselves at Vegan Women Summit is to find innovative ways to build the next generation of female founders in the plant-based space,” Stojkovic said.

“Through our recent survey results, we have discovered more than one-third of female founders entering the space move towards a more plant-based diet after founding their company. We are eager to explore this opportunity and create a mainstream entry point into the industry for founders coming from all backgrounds.”

You can find out more about Vegan Women Summit here and find out more about VWS Pathfinder – including how to submit a pitch – here

Maria Chiorando

Maria is the editor of Plant Based News. As a former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers, as well as Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle.