Joining Forces: How Working With a Venture Studio Like Nupo Ventures Accelerates Sustainable Startups

The venture studio model in startup building is a dynamic approach that offers more than just funding to entrepreneurs. Unlike traditional venture capital firms, venture studios actively participate in the development of new businesses — providing a range of resources, talent and support throughout the startup’s early-stage journey. In modern times, successful startups like TwilioModernaAircall and Bitly were all started and operated under the venture studio model.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “In the last two decades, three types of organizations — incubators, accelerators, and venture studios — have emerged to reduce the risk of early-stage startup failure by helping teams find product/market fit and raise initial capital. Most are founded and run by experienced entrepreneurs that have previously built companies and who understand the difference between theory and practice.” 

At its core, a venture studio functions as an “idea factory” for startups. A place where ideas are conceived, refined, and launched into viable businesses. The studio usually has its own internal team that specializes in finding and validating ideas, ensuring product/market fit and developing a scalable, profitable business model. As Ben Yoskovitz, founding partner of Highline Beta, points out: “Startups do struggle with scaling, because the skillset, approach, and systems needed are very different from the earliest days. Venture studios, as creators and investors into startups, are a great ‘tool in the toolbox’ for going from zero to one.” 

Rather than simply investing capital in existing startups, a venture studio takes a more hands-on approach to startup building — right from generating ideas internally, validating the ideas, conducting market research, assembling the founding teams and the right talent to providing the necessary resources and bringing these ideas to fruition.

From the idea generation to a go-to-market strategy for a successful launch — the venture studio plays a crucial role in every step of the process. 

As Max Pog, founder of Venture Studio Community and serial entrepreneur, puts in his report: “Startup studios, instead of enormous PR, work hands-on with startup founders: product & business development, marketing, legal, fundraising + deep industry expertise. This leads to faster traction compared to non-studio startups — twice as fast to Seed funding, minus 41- 47% time to Series A-C; minus 31-33% to exit.” 

What’s The Difference Between a Venture Studio & VC Firm? 

One of the key differences between venture studios and traditional venture capital firms lies in their level of involvement. While venture capital firms typically provide funding and guidance, venture studios take a more proactive role in the day-to-day operations of their portfolio companies. This often includes offering expertise in areas such as product development, marketing, and business strategy, as well as access to a network of industry contacts. 

For instance, a startup founder working with Nupo Ventures gets direct access and can leverage Olam's wide industry network and reach. This can help the founder find smoother access to potential future customer personas, leverage existing partnership networks, and connect with more agri tech investors.

Overall, this offers entrepreneurs a more collaborative and supportive environment in which to grow their businesses, with the potential for greater success and sustainability in the long term.

About Nupo Ventures’ Genesis & the Corporate Venture Studio Model

Born out of Olam's dedication to sustainability, Nupo Ventures was founded with a mission to conceptualize, build, and scale new startups that create meaningful sustainability impacts across all ESG dimensions in the realm of Big Food & Agritech. 

Our investment philosophy revolves around three core themes:

  1. Sustainable Consumers
  2. Regenerative Food Systems
  3. Future-Ready Supply Chains

Central to our venture-building approach is a rigorous process of problem identification and solution development. We delve deep into market trends and signals to pinpoint promising opportunities, ensuring that each venture we embark upon is rooted in real-world needs and demands. Our journey is just beginning. As we build Nupo Ventures into an independent venture studio, we want to leverage corporate partnerships with Olam Agri and ofi identifying unique problem sets that are often overlooked by our industry peers.  Read more about our journey here.

Jiva’s Journey with Nupo Ventures

Recently we spoke to Ram Mahadevan, the co-founder of JIVA, one of our portfolio companies. Jiva is a holistic farmer services platform that aims to uplift smallholder farmers' livelihood. Ram spoke at length about his founding journey with Nupo Ventures — a journey that’s been defined by resilience, innovation, and strategic partnerships. 

“Joining forces with Nupo Ventures has not only accelerated our growth but also provided invaluable support and resources along the way.”

Speaking about the benefits of working with an Olam-backed venture studio, Ram said: “One of the biggest advantages of being incubated by Nupo Ventures is access to Olam’s network that spans over 20-30 years in commodity supply chains. This allowed Jiva to hit the ground running - starting with how to grade and price commodities like corn.”

This wealth of knowledge, coupled with Olam’s strategic connections, allows Nupo Ventures to spot winnable ideas and problems to solve from thousands of potential concepts, further narrowing down those with the greatest chance of success. 

“For Jiva, this meant faster ideation and validation processes, allowing us to focus our efforts on ideas with the highest potential for impact.”

Benefits of Working With Nupo Ventures 
1. Joining Forces - Benefits Jiva received working with Nupo Ventures by CEO

In his own words, Ram described the benefits of working with a corporate venture studio like Nupo Ventures: 

Stability of Capital & Talent Acquisition:

Stability of capital is crucial for any startup's early days. Partnering with Nupo Ventures provided us with the stability needed to attract top talent and sustain our growth trajectory. 

Access to Resources & Network: 

Nupo Ventures gave us a direct advantage by leveraging Olam's extensive knowledge and resources. Through Olam's network, we gained access to key resources with decades of experience in smallholder farmer management and operations, a critical aspect of our business model. This level of expertise would have been much harder to access independently, particularly in navigating the complexities of rural terrains and sourcing strategies.

Benefits Beyond Numbers: 

While the quantitative benefits of working with Nupo Ventures are evident, the qualitative advantages are equally significant. Supplier and buyer arrangements, for example, were expedited due to Olam's reputation as a trusted commodity trader, facilitating smoother operations and faster market entry for Jiva. In addition, the insights and guidance provided by seasoned practitioners within the Nupo network helped us streamline our margin profiles, business models, and go-to-market strategies, thus significantly reducing our learning curve.

Scaling & Market Expansion: 

Scaling a startup, especially in new markets, can be a daunting task. However, with Olam's market presence and established networks, we were able to navigate new territories with confidence. 

Whether it was understanding market dynamics, identifying potential partners, or fine-tuning our business model for specific regions, the support and guidance from Nupo Ventures were invaluable. 

For instance, having the ability to reach out to experienced professionals within the network for advice on launching in specific states in India, such as Andhra Pradesh versus Karnataka, provided us with localized insights as we plan our strategic direction.

In conclusion, the journey of building Jiva with Nupo Ventures has been nothing short of transformative. From access to talent and capital to strategic guidance and market insights, the benefits of working with a venture studio extend far beyond traditional startup incubators or accelerators. As we continue to grow and innovate, we are proud of the unwavering support and partnership with Nupo Ventures team.