I’ve been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. In fact, I started my first business at 15, selling juice and snacks at my school in Cape Town, South Africa. We learned early on that consumers needed to understand the nutrition content and ingredients of each product so it could match their dietary needs. Our snack and juice stand was eventually taken over by the school and continues to run today.
When I came to Northeastern a few years later, I knew I wanted to start my own company. What I didn’t know was that Northeastern was the perfect place to help me achieve that goal! Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, Northeastern’s ecosystem has been there to help guide, advise and give me the support I needed to get to the next step.
While at Northeastern, I launched my first venture, a company called Lunchbox that worked on understanding the nutritional components of food. We created a consumer app to help people eat better. Straight off the bat, I connected with the Venture Mentoring Network and was paired with advisors in our industry, who helped us work through initial startup hiccups. I also joined the Health Sciences Entrepreneurs, which gave me access to four mentors, each with a unique experience and skill set that helped us gain a deeper understanding of the sector. With our law and business advisors, we were able to make sure every deal and opportunity we had was well thought out.
Lunchbox eventually merged with a close friend’s venture called, Nutrition Algorithm, and rebranded ourselves as Foodspace – a food + tech company that builds intelligent food experience products using AI, machine learning, and computer vision to help brands and retailers thrive in the digital environment. With a simple product photo or video, Foodspace can process, extract, sort, and format all the relevant data points found on the product packaging. This includes things like brand name, product name, net weight, nutritional information, ingredients, Universal Product Code, packaging type and diet categorization.
As Foodspace was picking up, I was also working as a financial analyst, with clients in several consumer packaged goods companies, including Johnson and Johnson, which gave me insight into how large corporations work. Eventually, I knew I couldn’t keep up with both of my roles. In 2018, I left my 9-5 job to work full-time at Foodspace. At the same time, the partnership with HSE had led us to be invited to several speaking events and aided us in investment opportunities. That year, we began to pivot our consumer operations to a B2B platform in order to provide our technology to retailers, brands and data management companies. This led us to be able to impact more people because now our technology could help power food systems.
Foodspace’s story is only just beginning, but Northeastern’s entrepreneurial ecosystem played a pivotal role in our success, helping us to avoid many pitfalls that may have become barriers to our growth.
Ayo Oshinaike, DMSB’16, completed a combined Bachelor of Science in Economics and Business Administration at Northeastern, and is currently the CEO of Foodspace.
The Venture Mentoring Network (VMN) pairs Northeastern student, staff, faculty, and alumni ventures with experienced serial entrepreneur mentors. These mentors come from varied industries and work with ventures to address business challenges and specific mentoring needs that will help move the venture forward. VMN mentors have the expertise and are willing to share their mentoring insights on everything from research and development to scaling a business, to reviewing pitch decks. To learn more, visit http://www.northeastern.edu/vmn/ or contact the VMN Team at email@example.com.
Health Sciences Entrepreneurs (HSE) promotes health sciences innovation within the Northeastern community by educating and equipping Northeastern student, faculty and alumni health ventures with resources for success. Through hands-on mentoring by industry experts and a healthcare centric methodology, HSE helps entrepreneurs analyze complex healthcare markets leading to a better product market fit. If you have a venture, want to mentor or to learn more, visit https://www.northeastern.edu/hse/about/ or contact Laurie Bishop, Program Manager firstname.lastname@example.org.