How a Seafood Business Competition Attracted Major Sponsors

Sometimes the best way to inspire innovation is to encourage a little competition. This was the idea behind Fish 2.0, a business competition aimed at connecting fishing and aquaculture businesses to investors eager to support the seafood industry. The competition just announced its winners, thus wrapping up the 2013 season. Awarding over $75,000 in prizes and lasting nearly a year, the competition obviously took some funding. Fortunately, it was backed by a variety of foundations including heavy hitters like Packard, Rockefeller, the Walton Family, and Gordon and Betty Moore. Fish 2.0 was perhaps an obvious choice as it brings together some of these foundations favorite topics – combining economics and conservation, reaching out to various stakeholders, and presenting it all in an exciting new format.

None of the foundations gave truly big to Fish 2.0, but a hundred grand here and there certainly adds up. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (see IP’s profile) gave $111,000 back in 2012 and has since been playing up the competition’s story on its website.  The Moore Foundation believes “economic incentives aligned with conservation goals can provide lasting benefits for ocean ecosystems” – a sentiment that is echoed in various phrasing by many of Fish 2.0’s other funders.

The competition was certainly an innovative idea. Aimed at bringing new capital to sustainable fisheries, Fish 2.0 asked competitors to bring new concepts to the table. Their proposed projects were judged on their business quality, presentations made, and their investment potential. Over the course of 2013 and through a variety of phases, the competitors were provided with advisors, feedback, and networking opportunities. Ideas that were finally presented to the judges included salmon-egg cryogenics, aquaponic gardens, and large-scale aquaculture farms. The final winner was Blue Sea Labs, a San Francisco based company planning to combine community-supported agriculture with e-commerce in order to increase direct sales of wild fish.

Grantees might want to consider pitching their innovative ideas to several foundations. Bonus points if the proposal combines economics and sustainability. Bringing together new partnerships is also an oft repeated theme. Fish 2.0 was a winner as it hit several of the foundations favorite themes and was able to execute its proposal with flair.