After two days of presentations at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in downtown Detroit, the winners of the 6th annual Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition have been announced. At stake was more than $1 million in cash prizes plus awards of services, staffing and software.
At an event attended by investors, entrepreneurs, funders and experts in the innovation sector from across the globe, this year’s Accelerate Michigan winners are considered to be among Michigan’s most promising companies to watch.
The $500,000 grand prize went to Banza – a food innovation company changing the way people look at pasta.
Banza, a Detroit-based food innovation company, announced that it has raised $1.3 million from institutional and angel investors in its first seed round.
Banza’s initial product is a pasta made from chickpeas. Co-founders and brothers Brian and Scott Rudolph launched the company on Restaurant Startup in the summer of 2014. Joe Bastianich, a judge on the show and restaurant mogul, invested in the company.
Since launching in August of 2014, Banza is now available in 1700 stores, including major retailers such as HEB, Wegmans, Mariano’s, ShopRite and Whole Foods.
The brothers hope that Banza can change the way people look at pasta, just as Chobani did with greek yogurt. The team envisions a world in which over half of all pasta purchases are chickpea pasta.
Banza’s unique use of chickpeas in pasta is what differentiates the company from other nutritionally deficient pastas in the aisle. High in protein and fiber and with nearly half the net carbs of traditional pasta, Banza is a tasty and simple swap for its classic wheat counterpart.
Investors include celebrity restaurateur Joe Bastianich, as well as Robin Chan and Vayner/RSE. Matt Higgins, partner at Vayner/RSE, said, "Banza has the potential to change the way millions of people eat, and has the team behind it dedicated to making it happen."
Vaynerchuk and Chan’s investment in Banza is telling, as they have historically invested in high growth tech companies such as Uber, Twitter and Square.
Rudolph and the team plan to use the money towards working capital, as they continue launching in new stores and building their inventory. The team will also use the money to invest in new product development in the pasta category and beyond.
The company aims to upgrade a variety of staple foods by using creative yet simple ingredients that deliver on taste and nutrition. “There’s a lot of room for disruption in the grocery aisles, and we're incredibly fortunate to have a chance to help people across the country eat better,” Rudolph said of
his ambitions for the company.
Banza Takes Grand Prize, Promises to Change Pasta Perception
Disruptive food company with mission to innovate pasta aisle lands funding from tech investors, celebrity foodies
November 17, 2015