301 Inc. launches new investment fund

by Eric Schroeder
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John Haugen, 301 Inc.
“We are very pleased to join CircleUp as an active, hands-on investor,” said John Haugen, vice-president and general manager of 301 Inc.

MINNEAPOLIS — 301 Inc., the new business development and venturing unit of General Mills, Inc., has launched a new multi-million dollar capital fund through the CircleUp marketplace to support emerging consumer food brands.

San Francisco-based CircleUp connects consumer and retail brand entrepreneurs to accredited investors through an on-line platform. The company then identifies promising brands early in their lifecycles and posts profiles on their site for investors to discover, research and potentially make an investment.

General Mills said it is the first Fortune 500 company to launch an investment fund through the CircleUp marketplace.

“We are very pleased to join CircleUp as an active, hands-on investor,” said John Haugen, vice-president and general manager of 301 Inc. “As we look to partner with and foster emerging food brands, the CircleUp marketplace will enable us to quickly connect with mission-driven brands actively seeking early-stage funding.”

Since 2012, CircleUp has helped more than 120 companies raise more than $135 million. In addition to providing capital, CircleUp helps brands accelerate growth by tapping into its retailer and distributor partnerships. Companies that have raised money on the CircleUp platform average 86% year-over-year revenue increase following their raise, the company said.

“General Mills has been a valued partner since CircleUp’s inception, and we’re excited to deepen our relationship through this investment fund, which marks the first time a major consumer packaged goods company has used an on-line marketplace to find consumer brands,” said  Ryan Caldbeck, co-founder and chief executive officer of CircleUp. “From the beginning, we’ve been committed to helping our brands access capital and resources to help them scale, and now they will benefit from more access to General Mills.”

301 Inc., which takes its name from the address of the original Pillsbury mill, is seeking businesses that have demonstrated early success, have a strong product offering and an expandable brand, according to the company. The initiative first was launched in 2012 as a new business development team within General Mills. That group identified ideas that were later used to introduce such new products as Progresso and Nature Valley Bistro Cups, Pillsbury Pancake Batter, and nibblr, a subscription-based snack service.
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