YC & Conversations about Food

The last few weeks have been incredibly busy. I definitely need to work on finding time to squeak blog posts in on a more frequent basis, since I now feel overwhelmed about trying to cover the dozens of steps on this journey that I’ve covered in the last few weeks.

YC Female Founders Conference

I rushed to have a shirt made to wear to the YC Female Founders Conference (“ask me about nibble snacks”), prepped a couple dozen carrots + hummus, and was on my way with soft cooler messenger bag over my shoulder. I was so excited to attend the Conference! It was utter chaos when I arrived – women milling around everyone, making small talk, finding name badges. I noticed right away that there was a coldness in the culture of the event. It was really difficult to just walk right up to someone and introduce yourself, because most of the ladies were in small groups or not making eye contact. I rarely got a friendly smile and a warmness in demeanor that you’d hope to get before going through the awkward first three seconds of meeting someone. It was kinda strange for me, since I think I’m pretty good at talking to complete strangers! Needless to say, I figured out right away that I wouldn’t be handing out any snacks.

The talks themselves were a decent combination of inspiring, scary, and exciting. So many women have done amazing things in the startup space, which left me humbled and feeling totally out of place! I kept wondering if I really had the skills to pull this off, but the next moment reassured myself that I absolutely know what I’m doing! Judging from their stories, I’m pretty sure this schizophrenic feeling is totally normal. It does make you wonder what guys think though. Are they as schizophrenic in their feelings about running a company? Or do they just handle the ups and downs in a way that always errs on aligning with the ups, so their confidence does not waver?

Despite some great stories from current founders and clear direction about running a startup from Jessica Livingston, the Conference left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. At the end, where most of the networking was intended to take place amongst the ~800 attendees, the speakers, and partners of YC, a large happy hour was intended to take place. Unfortunately, the capacity of the space for the event was 500. I was part of the group of ~300 that was told it was unlikely we’d be able to enjoy the happy hour. I handed out a few Nibble snacks before I left.

The True Cost of American Food Conference

I totally hit the jackpot with the timing of this Food Conference relative to starting Nibble. It’d be really hard to provide all the details about the two full days I spent at the Conference, so I’m going to summarize my observations and thoughts. I was:

  • Surrounded by 1,500 amazing researchers, company owners, non-profit leaders – all so passionate about contributing towards making a sustainable food system
  • Humbled by the wealth of knowledge and the intense drive of the people around me
  • Struck by the many many tentacles of this sticky problem that extend beyond my tiny tiny hope of helping people to make healthier choices at snack time: wage laws, migrant worker policies, environmental impact, animal welfare, clean water, insane waste (both produce and animal)… so yeah, it’s a grotesque problem with no silver bullet solution
  • Worried that we didn’t make a ton of progress. The inpatient side of me left with real concern that we didn’t get very far in two days. We were pushing to come up with concrete things to do next as a collective group, but I worry we didn’t get very far.
  • Eager to do more! I want to contribute in any way I can towards this cause, and I am determined to find a place in the Bay Area that can utilize my time and energy.
  • Full of delicious food. The Bon Appétit Management Company did an amazing job keeping us satisfied with local, sustainable, healthy fare. A food conference certainly does not disappoint with food!

Veritable Vegetable Tour

As part of the True Cost of American Food Conference, there were a few different field trips we could select after the Conference. I opted to visit Veritable Vegetable, a local organic food distributor that I have been considering as one of my sources for produce. I am so glad I did! A small group of us got to tour their main facility and learn about how the oldest organic food distributor in the country stays nimble, strong, regional, and customer-focused. The are 135 staff connecting 300 different growers to 400 customers. Over 60% of their farms are less than 50 acres, so their commitment to small is REAL. We had a chance to pepper one of the co-founders with questions, and I just loved the depth of expertise not only around the food business, but also about the food itself. I definitely think I need to schedule more time with these folks to really dig into what produce can be at what temperature/humidity for what time – the VV team’s real world experience in this space is solid!

Other Conversations

Beyond these major life experiences from the past couple weeks, detailed professional work and personal endeavors continue to fill my days:

  • Weekly trips to San Jose to deliver snacks to a customer; sample drops in different locations several times a week (I can bring you snacks!!)
  • Connections with friends, friends of friends, fellow founders in the food space to share ideas and get feedback
  • A kind letter from YC that shared with me that I did not get an interview for this batch, which means I did not get in. This was such a blip in the last couple weeks – probably means I’m focused on the right things! I knew my application relayed a very new company, so I continue to push and develop my business; perhaps I will apply again for the next batch if the timing is right.
  • A joyous wedding weekend in Wilmington, NC that coincided with my husband’s birthday. It was wonderful to be back in NC in early Spring. Birthday events with friends included the Wilmington River Tour and the Houdini Escape the Room, both of which were terrific!

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