Coveted pitch spotlight for local startup

Cholesterol lowering food products to get a look at Google Demo Day

When the founders of Step One Foods take the stage at Google Demo Day in California on June 8, they are certain to have one advantage over the other 12 North American startups that will be presenting.

The Minnesota-based venture is the only non tech company selected to pitch to a group of top investors, VCs and judges, and Step One Foods will be the only one passing out tasty edible samples.

“Everyone else has code; we’ll have treats,” quipped Dr. Elizabeth Klodas, the founder and Chief Medical Officer of Step One Foods.

A cardiologist trained at Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic and now practicing in Edina, Dr Klodas created Step One Foods in 2013 to help people lower their cholesterol with food rather than prescription medication.

"We bring a simple solution to a complex problem. We offer a therapeutic intervention that happens to be food, and it’s scientifically proven to lower cholesterol,” she explains.

An estimated 70 million Americans with high cholesterol are candidates for statin dugs, but 20% can’t tolerate them or don’t like the side effects, which include muscle aches and ‘brain fog.’

“Our products deliver essential elements missing from most people’s diets, cardio protective nutrients that most people don't get,” says Dr. Klodas, “Every ingredient has a nutritional purpose to reach a health goal.”

The seven Step One Foods products include three flavors of bars, oatmeal, a smoothie mix and a “sprinkle” topping. Manufactured in St Louis Park, each of the precisely formulated product contains heart healthy ingredients like flaxseed, oat bran, wheat germ, walnuts, and chia seeds and are loaded with phytosterols, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.

“We knew we had to make it easy. People don’t have to cook, there’s no measuring or counting points,” Dr Klodas explained. “When they change two daily food occasions to Step One products, they see pharmaceutical level effects. I’m a scientist, driven by data. We can’t promise a 39 point reduction in LDL cholesterol in 30 days to everyone, that’s not credible. But that’s the average we see.”

The claims have been backed by clinical research by the University of Manitoba and the Mayo Clinic.

Those results have gotten the attention of many physicians and dietitians who refer patients to the purchase the product online.

Step One Foods has been working at COCO, a local provider of coworking and collaborative workspaces for entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses. COCO is one of nine Google for Entrepreneurs tech hubs in North America and nominated Step One Foods for Google Demo Day.

“We worked with COCO’s accelerator program last year and that helped us refine our business model,” says Bill Alldredge, CFO for Step One Foods. “They’ve given us a lot of feedback on our pitch for Demo Day. We get four minutes, so it has to be succinct.”

The Demo Day event will be live streamed to an international audience via the Google for Entreprenuers’ YouTube page from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (Central time) on June 8.

The other startups presenting will demonstrate products that feature innovative software, online platforms, AI technology, apps, wearable devices, interactive holograms and robotics.

Google reports that startups that have pitched at previous Demo Days have gone on to raise $121 million, with eight of them being acquired by top companies.

Last year, Knowledge Hook, a Canadian startup that creates online software for math teachers, raised $1.25 million within 100 days of Demo Day and earned a personal investment of $100,000 from Steve Case, co-founder of AOL and a Demo Day judge.

In 2015, Mati Energy Drinks, based in North Carolina, won the Judge’s Favorite prize and raised $1 million from investors watching the Demo Day live stream; the company, started in a dorm room at Duke University, has gone on to raise $3.3 million.

If Step One Foods is able to land new capital, expect much of it to be spent on raising the profile of the products.

“We hope to build awareness of our company and mission through partnerships and investment. We’ve spent hardly any money on marketing; we’ve grown mostly organically through word-of-mouth,” says Alldredge. “It’s time to have our coming out party.”