Tech Guys Go Bananas

I can’t make angel investments in tech companies anymore because of my Foundry Group fund agreements. So I’ve been making angel investments in food companies. Justin’s Nut Butter, Rick’s Picks, Blue Bottle Coffee, and Quinn Popcorn are some recent examples. I figure if things don’t work out at least I can eat some of the inventory.

I ran into the guys from Barnana at an event in San Diego a few months ago. Matt and Nikk came up to me with a Box of Barnanas and said Brad we’re in the banana business, and we think you’ll like our banana snacks. They literally handed me a box of bananas, filled with these delicious organic banana snacks called Barnana. They have since vanished into my stomach. They are insanely good.

I’ve stayed in touch with Barnana guys as they have continued to grow into new channels and regions. They are now launching the Rocky Mountain region with Wholefoods and Natural Grocers Vitamin Cottage. More Barnanas for me.

Interestingly, a majority of the Barnana team is comprised of tech guys. It seems more and more people are entering the fast growing natural foods space from other high growth industries like tech. I asked Matt why he feels natural foods world is so appealing to techies.

“We are transitioning from a price based economy to a meaning based economy. Not only meaning for your customers, but meaning soup to nuts throughout the entire organization. The notion of meaning is supported across multiple verticals, from the maker revolution to local and organic foods, to the various kickstarter campaigns. It’s simple – people want meaning. And bananas.”

The Barnana guys passion for bananas is beyond belief, and their story is just as good. And – as a runner – I’d rather eat chocolate covered bananas as a snack instead of Hammer gels on a medium run.

  • John Dietrich

    What made you choose to invest in foods since you are unable to invest in tech? Was it a “gut” decision (yes, I went there)? Or did you feel that food products were at a point for a high return. After working in the industry and seeing so many things go under, I’m just wondering what led you to it. Also, you may want to reread that last paragraph for a few minor spelling issues (their, there, bananas IS beyond belief).

    • Gut – and head – I like the dynamics of these businesses.

      Erros fixed – thx!

      • John Dietrich

        As a fellow fan of tech and food, I can see the appeal. Also, I just recently received a copy of your Startup Communities book, just have to finish some Lawrence Krauss and then I’ll be diving into it.

        Glad I could help.

        • Cool – enjoy Startup Communities!

  • I’m there.

    Watching LuLiTonix start to grow, watching her brand start at the street level and spread organically, and watching this great product carve its own path through the mires of distribution is just cool.

    A great product can truly win. Nice to see this affirmed once again.

  • Thanks for sharing Brad… I see they are available at Wegmans in NJ, so I’m gonna check it out. I love bananas and need a power snack for my training, so hopefully a great fit!

  • kermit64113

    Brad – foods that improve mental and physical fitness sell well. You are on to something. One more to check out (although they are no longer a start-up) is St. Louis-based Nawgan. Best place to go is their FB page. I saw them at three separate capital raise shows in the 2009-2010 timeframe and my in-laws are hooked. They are now at $2 million in revenues and just signed a deal with Kirin for global distribution.

    I bought Bill Aulet’s book (Disciplined Entrepreneurship) and am annotating it this week. Sharing with a dozen or so CEOs I am currently or have previously worked with. Concise and complete – just the way I like it!

  • The ‘Barnana’ pitch is amazing. I could spend my whole life working on a pitch and it would NEVER be that good.

  • Dan Deppen

    Everyone knows there is money in the banana stand….

  • Nikki Braziel

    Their packaging is unforgettable. Bold, clean, and definitely conveys an experience.

  • Brad – Love their website but product deprived …

    I am a convert to the Barnana cause in principal. My wife makes “Insanely Good” Banana based Ice cream, no sugar (honey) plus good produce like elderflower and alpine strawberries.

    SO I would love to know when/if they will be shipping to europe – I guess if reading this they might be able to post details. *Hint*

  • I’ve only been exposed to two of them. Blue Bottle of course…it was love at first sight, in NY & SF. And I met Rick in New York last year. The top gourmet food store in Toronto carries his pickles.

  • Avi Brown

    Justin’s and Blue Bottle are amazing products! I’m confident that both companies will continue to succeed, but if they don’t, I’m happy to help you consume some of that left over inventory. 😉

    As for bananas as the perfect runner’s fuel, check out my buddy who’s a raw foodist and an ultramarathoner:

  • RBC

    Yes we love our bananas, we love our bananas today-ay-ay-ay!

  • “We are transitioning from a price based economy to a meaning based economy.”

    I’m stealing this. Thank you. 🙂

  • Barnanas… now that is a first rate name.

  • Joseph A. Tranfo

    Brad, since having that kombucha at Lindzonpalooza this category has been much on my mind. Agree with your thesis.

    • Yum – Kombucha – Yum!


    “I figure if things don’t work out at least I can eat some of the inventory.”

  • Monet Diamante

    I remember you telling us that you love food startups when you were here! Additionally, I have heard of Barnana before, they really are killing it! I need to get my hands on some!

  • I just saw these a few days ago. Will have to give them a try. I love Matt’s point about a meaning based economy, and it’s exciting to see what kind of strategies and hacks techies bring to the food world.

    Thanks for sharing, Brad.