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Did you know that over 30% of all the food we produce in the UK gets wasted before it has even left the farm?! ‘Misshapen’ food is ruthlessly rejected by retailers simply because of perceived imperfections and there is a constant over-production to ensure year round availability. It’s a shocking reality to grasp: tens of millions of kilograms of food being rejected every year. Square this with the industrial resources needed to produce food, intensive farming’s environmental cost, and the hard facts of food poverty.
Retailers now demand ‘perfect’ fruit and veg to be available all of the time… because we do. But farmers can’t control the weather, or the shape or size of produce. Ultimately, this terrible waste is our fault as consumers. Things need to change.
Enter Oddbox and their delightfully friendly food delivery service. It has until now been uneconomical for farmers to sell this ‘imperfect’ food. While there is no silver bullet to eliminating all of this waste, Oddbox are supplying healthy fresh food direct to you – with local subscription services. The boxes are priced very competitively. The company specialises in ‘wonky’ and surplus fruit and veg boxes. Households across London can now get this farm produce, without the hassle, and help eliminate food waste one box at a time. A single veg box saves 13 kgs of CO2 and an amazing 1,599 litres of water. To date, Oddbox customers have saved over 1 million tonnes of food from going to waste, and they are just getting started. UK charities have also distributed 50,000 tons of Oddbox food to those in need, and this is an important addition to the business model; to do the right thing.
Co-founder Emilie Vanpoperinghe says, “We need to get much smarter about food wastage if we care about preserving the planet for future generations. We’ve attracted amazing suppliers, many inspiring customers, and of course, great investors to support us in making this a successful business.”
The Oddbox Founders are husband and wife team Emilie and Deepak, first time founders, and this being their first experience in fresh food. This is helping them to think differently; to challenge the status quo. Emilie was previously a Director of Finance & Operations at a charity and worked in Finance and M&A with 3M, while Deepak was a City of London investment banker and IT specialist.
Getting this kind of innovative ecommerce venture off the ground is no easy task. It requires huge amounts of energy and skill from the founders, who (almost always) have to raise money from Angels to make it work. The founders spent 2 years bootstrapping at the start: sourcing, packing, selling and delivering. “We did all this ourselves initially, while still working full time. Most evenings and weekends were spent on Oddbox and we did the packing and deliveries on Friday overnight”, Emilie recalls.
“Angel seed funding, and then crowd-funding have since allowed us to scale a lot faster – we now cover 70% of London, have ten thousand active customers, and 300 businesses buying from us.”
Oddbox has been a repeat user of SeedLegals from the start, using the platform to pass EIS compliance checks, for contracts with advisors, interns and employees. Oddbox are now exploring setting up their EMI scheme on the platform too. “All of the start-up legal work has been managed through SeedLegals, who we came across via The Natwest Accelerator. It was actually recommended by another entrepreneur”. The company are preparing now for a £3million raise, having already done seed funding and crowdfunding very successfully with Seedrs.
Attracting people to invest is hard – the process, and the moving parts are often complicated for Founders. How do you get hundreds of crowd investors to agree sensible terms, administer the paperwork with prospective investors, and with Companies House, and make sure it is all happening fast enough?
Emilie says that, “because the agreements are digital, very standardised, and friendly for the founders to understand, there’s not much legal negotiation needed. At the later stages of a start-up you will need to get help from a lawyer, but not at the early stages if you use SeedLegals.” It is designed to get deals done on standard terms at lower cost. She already has a professional understanding of legal terms herself – having managed the legal and governance team at Girl Effect.
“We have learned a lot. SeedLegals is democratising the process and making it easily understandable. All of the documents are in one place, including the cap table. Integration with Seedrs was especially useful, as they both understood one another already.”
“Our Crowdfunding campaign actually started a bit later than planned, so we used a SeedFAST agreement in the interim, to get some money in earlier. Otherwise we might have had to take a loan or defer making payments – which would not have been ideal! The SeedLegals team were extremely responsive in making this happen – really amazing”. A SeedFAST agreement is the new way to do an ASA, an advanced subscription agreement, to get cash in ahead of a future funding round while being tax efficient for investors.
“There’s an opportunity to reach a specialist advisor via chat, phone and email too to check in on any of this. “If I had any questions at all, they were always on hand to help.” The platform is set up to automatically explain why certain things are included as standard, what terms and arrangements are typical, and help Founders to understand what it all means. Custom terms can always be included on request. All of this reduces friction, reduces cost, and reduces stress, at a fixed cost.
North Star – The Oddbox Vision
Emilie is excited to grow the company at an accelerating pace as they raise £3million of institutional capital, extending their coverage nationwide after London, then hopefully moving onwards to serve mainland Europe later on. As they scale up, they also see it as an opportunity to educate people about the issue of food waste, reconnect them with seasonality and how produce are grown as well as support their community to reduce waste in their homes.
She never loses sight of the reason for starting the business – eliminating waste. Oddbox have created an extremely efficient, eco-friendly business to challenge supermarket dominance, by working directly with farmers and digitising the experience to make it easy. We should all be glad to see more of this kind of innovation, and to discover new ways to shop more sustainably.