Presenting Mentors: Paul Matteucci

In the series presenting our mentors, please meet Paul Matteucci, who will provide insights into how you finance your company. It is easy to see why we are very happy about having Paul join us:

Paul Matteucci is a venture capitalist, entrepreneur, corporate executive, fly fisherman and home cook. He is passionate about building companies, creating jobs with opportunity and recreating the global food system.

His daytime job is Operating Partner at U.S. Venture Partners (www.usvp.com), one of the true pioneers of venture capital, which has helped make Silicon Valley a leader in IT technology and health care innovation. He is also an Angel Investor in several food system ventures. At the same time, he is the Founder of Feeding 10 Billion, a non-profit initiative focused on building a robust eco-system of information and people to help entrepreneurs create their food-system businesses. At Feeding 10 Billion, Paul advises start-ups and works with public and private institutions to develop programs for entrepreneurs.

On the natural landscape: Paul is member of the National Council of the American Prairie Reserve (APR), which is “Building an American Serengeti”, an ambitious undertaking to reclaim three million acres of the nation’s northern prairies as wild habitat.

Paul earned an M.B.A. from Stanford University, an M.A. in International Studies from Johns Hopkins and a B.A. from the University of the Pacific, which are also some of the universities where he regularly lectures, alongside frequent speaking engagements at conferences on venture investing and food system reform.

A grandson of Italian immigrants, he followed his heritage from San Francisco to Florence, Italy, where he attended cooking school. He once blended his passions for cooking and the environment into a series of fundraising dinners for APR: “Lewis and Clark: Cooking of the Jeffersonian Era”. One of his favorite books is The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, which describes how industrial food is destroying our health and the planet.

We asked Paul a few questions:

Why did you become an investor?  

I had been an entrepreneur most of my career and had intended to continue on that track. The chance to become an investor was opportunistic, rather than planned.  When I left my second start up in 2000, a few VC firms wanted to tap my operational and managerial experience by having me work with their portfolio companies.  I decided to do this “for awhile” and “awhile” became sixteen years and counting.

What is US Venture Partners?  

USVP is a leading Silicon Valley VC firm founded 35-years ago.  Over this time we have invested in technology companies related to information technology, health care, retail and food.

What are you doing as an investor in the food space?  

In the food and agtech space, I am focusing my efforts less on investing directly and more on assisting a broad range of new ventures by advising them and connecting them to others who can help.  I occasionally make direct personal investments into companies, but not as part of USVP.  This way, by separating my for-profit work at USVP, which is focused in Information Technology, from the work on my non-profit, Feeding 10 Billion, I can have the freedom to work with whomever I want and take on projects that tweak my interest.

Could you describe Feeding 10 Billion in a few short words?  

Feeding 10 Billion is a non-profit focused on helping entrepreneurs build businesses that will change the global food system.  To work with us, a new venture must be building a product or service that does one or more of the following:

– Contributes to our ability to feed between 9B and 10B people by 2050

– Mitigates the negative impact of food production on the planet’s environment

– Improves the quality of our diet from the perspective of health

Why did you start Feeding10Billion?  

When I began taking a hard look at our food system challenges in 2009, I realized quickly that the entrepreneur as a change agent was under-represented compared to both other sectors and to the massive presence of governments, NGOs and Food and Agriculture Corporations. I also noted that those entrepreneurs that were making their way did not have the same ecosystem advantages as innovators in other segments have, such as Information Technology and Health Care, where I was accustomed to making investments.  So I realized that I could help build some of that ecosystem virtually using modern tech.

What is the most interesting development you see right now in the food-tech sector?  

I think the application of data analytics to Food and Agriculture will make an enormous impact over the next several years.  I also think that robotics and drones will lay an important role.  Also, we are finally getting some eyes on the problem of waste in the food distribution infrastructure and at its endpoints.  This wasn’t really the case 5 years ago.

Best investment so far?  

As I said, I make a few personal investments in the space, but mostly advise others.  The most fun ones so far are Fra’ Mani, an artisan cured meat and specialty food maker, and Wines for the World, which helps developing world wine entrepreneurs enter new markets with their products by paring them with established vintners.  The other ones are kind of geeky and more oriented to the supply chain, or improving things on farms and ranches.

What do you hope to get out of the USA Pavilion innovation program?  

I hope to meet quality entrepreneurs with innovative ideas that can make a huge impact on our Food System and therefore our future.

Portrait of Paul Matteucci

Portrait of Paul Matteucci