Stop us if you’ve heard this one. A venture capitalist, an angel investor and an entrepreneur walk into a restaurant and agree the smartest one buys lunch…
Actually it’s not that funny, but if the entrepreneur is 24-year-old-rarity Cole Jones, he would befriend the restaurants food suppliers, secure all three lunches for free and leave with two impressed investors and recurring revenue for take-out.
Cole’s startup, Local Line is reengineering the $36B Ontario food chain and he intends to export his disruptive Canadian agtech startup to the United States. Before food hits your plate, he is quietly helping farmers sell produce easier, distributors deliver food faster and chefs serve fresher meals. You probably had no idea that Local Line is one of the most talked about startups among farmers in Ontario and soon, North America.
“There is a structural shift towards local food that’s happening in our food supply chains. We are building the first infrastructure for local food suppliers to sell and distribute their products. We’re about putting the supplier in the driver’s seat when it comes to their customers and their brand, while enabling them to be more productive,” Cole describes with a fierce passion.
Founder-centric investors will love Cole and his dairy farmer style work ethic. He’s the kind of young buck who would wake up at 5 a.m. every morning to milk the cows. He is the perfect balance of humble hard-working farmer, tech savvy businessman and the most effective salesperson imaginable.
Founded in mid 2014, Local Line has incubated through Laurier LaunchPad and now Communitech, the tech hub of Waterloo Region. In the global food and agriculture industry, good luck finding a seed stage SaaS startup with a better product-market-fit, cash flow or team.
Cole has already paid off pre-seed loans and investments, sales are skyrocketing and they are only entering a seed round of financing because they want to scale faster by launching in new markets.
Local Line has built a strong advisory board, a diligent team of software developers and a young energetic sales team led by Cole’s brother Brock who spends long hours on the phone acquiring multiple new customers every day.
Jim Collins, author of one of the best researched business books ever written, Good to Great, states that leaders build enduring, great companies through a paradoxical blend of personal humility, professional will and strong teams.
There is a structural shift towards local food...
Cole possesses the first two and the team work ethic is so cohesive you may think they never take lunch breaks or stop working. The truth is they have probably the best Ping-Pong team at Communitech. While other startups may take a vape break, the fit and tight-knit team culture has structured 15-minute daily round-robin table tennis competitions where bragging rights reign supreme and usually end with a local snack ranging from pickled asparagus to fresh zucchinis, hot apple fritters and everything in between.
Local Line has the wind at its back as VC funding for agricultural tech startups is overdue for a major increase. Food and agribusiness is a $5T industry worldwide and while investment in the sector is growing, only $700M was invested in the agtech space in 2017. Big agribusiness corporations like John Deere, Dupont, Syngenta and the often feared Monsanto have finally noticed and are starting to back accelerators in search of the next unicorn, which explains why Y Combinator is now the leading agtech investor worldwide (CB Insights). Food and agriculture specific accelerators like Food-X in New York, The Yield Lab in St. Louis and Techstars Farm to Fork in Minneapolis are popping up to help early stage agtech companies get off the ground.
Moving forward, we can expect continuing trends like the consolidation of food distribution channels, direct shipping from farmers to consumers and new entrants like Amazon forcing their way into the market. Did we mention blockchain?
As the global food supply chain evolves, the Local Line commerce network is quickly and secretly winning the hearts of food suppliers, distributors, wholesalers and food hubs. Their customers love the system because it simplifies communication, eliminates one less thing to worry about and helps them sleep better at night. Perhaps more importantly, it’s opened up new channels for suppliers to get their products to market. Through Local Line the farmer doesn’t necessarily need to wake up at 2 a.m. in the morning to load their produce and sell all day at a food terminal.
Cole will be seeking seed round investors starting next month and you can anticipate that venture capitalists and angels will be vying for a position in line. If that’s you then be smart, make a reservation and remember your chequebook.