NEW ORLEANS — The founding partners of a new venture capital fund are dedicated to supporting scalable solutions to the food system’s most formidable challenges.
Stephanie Dorsey and Corey Jones recently launched New Orleans-based E²JDJ to invest in founders creating novel technology platforms and products addressing such issues as climate change, public health and food security. Investments primarily will focus on disruptive cell-based, plant-based and fermentation-based food, ingredients and technologies.
“We invest in innovators that are truly shaking up every component of the food value chain from seed to site,” Ms. Dorsey said. “There is an urgent need to massively improve the sustainability of our food system. With the growing awareness of the harm industrial animal agriculture does to the environment, animals and human health, we were compelled to invest in the future of food.”
Problems of the food production system include excessive loss, waste and inefficiencies, Mr. Jones added, noting the “opportunity landscape is ripe” for breakthrough innovation and collaboration.
“We are excited to see how the food industry is transforming as scientists, entrepreneurs, key stakeholders and investors from various industries are collaborating to deliver to consumers nutritious, functional, quality, affordable and resource-efficient food,” Mr. Jones said.
Prior to launching E²JDJ, Ms. Dorsey was an attorney at a corporate law firm. Mr. Jones was an early-stage equity investor at a growth equity investment firm and earlier an investment banker gaining exposure to technology, deep science and health care investing experience. Both graduated from Harvard Law School and serve on a variety of boards of organizations, accelerators and incubators that are driving innovation in the food and broader entrepreneurial space.
“From my perspective, building a healthier and sustainable food system is not just the right thing to do; it’s also smart business,” Ms. Dorsey said. “Corey and I thought best about how to really leverage our unique skill sets and how we wanted to transform the food industry and decided to build our fund to make investments in the future of better food to be able to ultimately change the landscape on a large scale.”
Alongside major advancements in food technology are rapidly evolving consumer preferences for products that are healthy, functional and sustainable with few and simple ingredients, without sacrificing taste, price or convenience.
“This trend has led us to look deeply at emerging meat alternatives that are delivering tasty, healthy, convenient products that have a pathway to reach cost parity to conventional meat at scale,” Ms. Dorsey said. “We avoid the products that are very processed and contain saturated and modified fats, filling agents and stabilizers. We see the most opportunity in the next generation of alternative foods that are clean label and nutritious.”
She described the “nutrition paradox,” the coinciding trends of obesity, undernutrition, hunger and environmental degradation, as “one of the most urgent issues of our time and a defining challenge of humanity.”
“I firmly believe that the food system has truly reached its breaking point, and science and technology are the only way forward,” she said.
In addition to providing capital, Ms. Dorsey and Mr. Jones intend to support founders by facilitating connections to like-minded, value-add investors as well as partners in retail and foodservice to drive sales and distribution.
“At the outset of building the fund, we were focused on value creation centered around addressing all of the pain points expressed to us by founders,” Mr. Jones said. “From what we’ve heard and seen from entrepreneurs, the greatest challenges were around establishing sales and distribution channels and finding aligned investors.”
New Orleans, he added, is a booming biotechnology hub, and “we are able to help founders gain deeper exposure to the biotech ecosystem.”
Long term, the founding partners of E²JDJ plan to pursue differentiated investment strategies and new market opportunities to catalyze early-stage companies presenting compelling solutions to sustainably feed the growing global population, Ms. Dorsey said.
“We are committed to changing the world of food and building something truly meaningful and purpose-driven in the process,” she said.