Interview with Raphael Traticoski, Co-Founder & CEO at GrowinCo

In this interview, Raphael Traticoski, Co-Founder & CEO of GrowinCo, shares valuable insights into the background and operations of his venture within the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. With over a decade of experience in procurement at Mondelez International, Traticoski discusses the challenges that led to the creation of GrowinCo, highlighting its innovative approach to connecting CPG brands with manufacturing capacities and suppliers. He outlines the platform’s strategic expansion plans, recent funding round, and forthcoming features, underscoring its pivotal role in reshaping the future of food manufacturing.

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Raphael Traticoski

tribu (T): Raphael, can you tell us about your background in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry and how you initially connected with your co-founders to start GrowinCo?

Raphael (R): I’ve worked for more than 10 years with procurement within the consumer packaged goods industry. I met one of my co-founders during the time I worked at Mondelez International. With our CTO it was a bit different, we met through the co-founder matchmaking process of YCombinator.

(T): Tell us about GrowinCo and the way your platform connects manufacturing idle capacities, suppliers, and products.

(R): On GrowinCo’s platform, CPG brands can post their projects for product development and co-manufacturers and suppliers showcase their capabilities, lines, plants, products, technologies, ingredients and packaging. These players get matched through the platform and start a long lasting business relationship that is continuously managed by us. We don’t stop at matchmaking, the platform manages confidentiality, until the project kicks off. Beyond contract manufacturers, we also connect ingredients and packaging suppliers.

Companies can post their available capacity and work on specific projects on the platform.

(T): What was the pivotal moment or insight that led you to identify the problem or opportunity that GrowinCo addresses?

(R): The insight came from many unsuccessful contract manufacturing projects I saw from the time I worked for CPG brands. I remember the case of an iconic chocolate product that was worth dozens of million dollars in revenue every year and it was produced in-house. Because of a new project that was coming and the manufacturing sites could not absorb it, the company was looking to outsource that product. Since we could not find a co-manufacturer who could meet the requirements, the multi million dollar product had to be discontinued leaving the share of that specific category to the competitor.

(T): Building traction with industry players and achieving break-even shortly after launch is impressive. Could you walk us through some key strategies or actions you took to achieve this early success?

(R): Our network helped us to reach our first customers. The network effect that is the nature of our business was a good surprise. Suppliers that were contacted to help our clients could also become our clients since they also have their co-manufacturing needs. The organic way we generate our sales leads was one of the big differentiators. Also, having a value proposition for both the supply and demand size of our ecosystem made us achieve breakeven super quick.

(T): Could you share some notable companies or brands that are currently utilizing GrowinCo’s solution?

(R): Among some of our customers we have Mondelez, Conagra, Kellanova, Hershey, Danone, Kraft Heinz, Natura&Co., Ajinomoto, NotCo, Kerry, and more.

(T): In which countries does GrowinCo currently operate, and are there any plans for expansion into new markets?

(R): We have clients in 12 countries (US, Switzerland, Germany, England, Netherlands, Spain, Greece, Israel, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay and Argentina). Over 60% of our revenue comes outside Brazil. The US is our biggest market after Brazil and it was chosen to be our main target for the next 2 years. We recently opened an office in Chicago and also recently, we have a full time employee there.

(T): Congratulations on recently closing a funding round. Could you disclose how much was raised, who the investors were, and what the primary focus will be for utilizing these funds?

(R): We raised 1 M USD from Harvard Angels, Mandi Ventures, GV and Urca Angels. Main use of proceeds will be directed for product improvement and the establishment of more robust collaboration features, increase of our database of contract manufacturers and the expansion to the US.

(T): Transitioning from a corporate background to entrepreneurship can be a significant shift. What has your experience been like, and what are some key lessons you’ve learned along the way?

(R): First of all, the level of ownership you need to have in a startup is not even comparable. In a big organization, you can allow yourself to not have super productive days if you are not feeling well or need to solve any personal issues. At an emerging startup you are, most of the cases, the only person performing that specific task. There is no replacement, the business doesn’’ work if you don’t do your part.

Also, the importance of being a generalist to be in the startup world. From Marketing to HR and from sales to technology, you have to be proficient in all areas otherwise you will make erratic decisions. The role of a leader in a startup company is crucial, the company will have the founders’ DNA with all the good and the bad parts of it, it will be a reflection of who they are. In a big corp, everything is less personal and the influence you have on people is diluted into the many leaders and complexities of their org charts.

GrowinCo’s team

(T): Many founders face challenges when trying to engage with larger corporations. What advice would you offer to entrepreneurs looking to collaborate or sell their solutions to larger companies, particularly in navigating corporate structures and timelines?

(R): Choose well who you want to bring onboard, elaborate an account-based strategy, leverage your connection and the connections of your connections to get close to them. Stop selling and seeing yourself as a startup company. Talk from equal to equal.  When the first big fishes are in-house, the others will follow with less effort. It is never easy, but having big logos in your hall of clients will generate more social proof. Allow yourself for long sales cycles. 

(T): Can you share any upcoming developments or future plans for GrowinCo that you’re particularly excited about?

(R): We have just opened our office in Chicago and we reallocated one of our team members to work there full time.

We also just closed a partnership in Europe that will help us to expand to that market. That European company already works in the co-man space and we will now count on their expertise and network to navigate the EU market.

Also new features! We are so excited for the new features we will be launching this year.

(T): How do you see the food manufacturing landscape evolving in the next few years, and what role do you envision GrowinCo playing in that evolution?

(R): The CPG market opportunity is in the trillions. Today we serve food, beverage, cosmetics, oral care, home care and pet care, those categories alone are worth over 5 trillion dollars globally. At least 5% of this total market is manufactured through contract manufacturers. The co-man market in the US alone is poised to grow over 10% YoY for the next 5 years. The surge in digital brands, consumer needs changes rapidly not allowing supply chain to readapt in the needed velocity. Counting with flexible manufacturing capabilities is paramount. We envision GrowinCo becoming the go-to platform for every new CPG product that needs to be developed; it can be either through contract manufacturing or in-house production, we will be used for all cases.

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Raphael Traticoski


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