MassChallenge donates millions in its first Swiss awards

Swiss accelerator backs 6 start-ups in fairtrade coffee, food fraud, probiotics & more

By Louis Gore-Langton

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Fair trade

Swiss start-up incubator MassChallenge has dished out almost €1.4m in funding to food based start-ups that are offering the industry a new approach to fair trade coffee; a device to fight food fraud; and a probiotic to boost the meat sector.

MassChallenge is a global network of start-up accelerators; based in Luasanne, Boston, Jerusalem, London and Mexico City, it is non-profit and offers no-equity grants to “high impact start-ups” ​from any industry.

Since its conception in 2010, MassChallenge has accelerated 835 different start-ups, 82.8% of which are still active. This month its new Swiss grant scheme awarded CHF 500,000 (€464,013) total to six new start-ups. Here are some of the winners.

Gold Level Award Winners

Among the ‘Gold’ level awards, taking home CHF 50,000 (€46,408) in non-dilutive grants, were ‘Taste of Kenya’ who simplify the market by linking coffee farmers with traders in Switzerland.

Spokesperson Zipporah Gatiti said: “This is important because without direct trade farmers were getting low margins and delays of up to 6 months in

Taste of Kenya

getting paid. This resulted in 61% of the coffee trees in Kenya being cut down to date… we are ensuring the coffee farmers get 5 times their margins and they get paid on time.”

Swissdecode, also awarded Gold level funding, is a Geneva-based company which has invented a DNAFoil testing kit that provides food producers and consumers with “Food Safety and Compliance in a Box”.

It aims to cut out the time consuming and expensive procedure of laboratory testing.


Brijdeep Sahi said: “We have replaced the same test with an onsite, rapid and portable DNA test that requires no equipment, no scientist and gives results in 30 minutes”.

Variants of the DNAFoil kit will be put onto the market aimed at securing the halal and kosher supply chains and the beef and buffalo supply chains in India.

TwentyGreen, also based in Switzerland, was awarded Gold for its probiotic feed supplement. Based on research it says has “identified a naturally occurring group of micro-organisms that enhance the quality of the gut ‘microbiota” ​in livestock, the supplement will increase growth speed in animals, lower feeding costs, lessen disease burden and reduce levels of waste and pollution.

Future of Mass Challenge  


The winners will receive both financial support and backing from the sponsors. Juliette Maignen of MassChallenge said backing would include a year’s free working space and mentoring from the Inartis foundation, giving access to more than 2000 specialists in various fields. Inartis is an innovation promoter working with MassChallenge in Laussane.

By 2020, MassChallenge aims to be holding similar award programmes in 10 different countries.

New ‘Startupbootcamp’ for Foodtech

London based accelerator Startupbootcamp will be launching a similar award scheme in Rome later this month for food industry focussed groups. 10 Footech start-ups were selected for mentoring, starting November 21, and will pitch to over 200 investors in March 2017.

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