Echo and Grub Club have announced they are launching London’s first business accelerator programme specifically designed for food startups, powered entirely by the “skills and connections of its participants”.

Launching on 1st October, Food++ will work with 18 food startups over a two-month period, taking them through a programme of expert-led workshops, training, mentorship and opportunities to pitch their business in front of judges including Emily Roux, Firezza, and Hello Fresh.

The companies said that Food++ doesn’t cost a penny to take part in, instead of money, businesses pay for their place by trading their time and skills, with the help of skill sharing marketplace, Echo.

Whether they’re an expert pastry chef, skilled photographer or a whizz with spreadsheets, participants earn ‘Echoes’ to pay for their course by sharing their skills and expertise with other businesses in the Echo network.

Launched in East London last year, the Echo++ accelerator (of which Food++ is a new strand) has already worked with 70 businesses, helping them grow their operations, expand their networks and achieve their business goals.

Alumni from the pilot programme include The Athenian (who have opened two new permanent spaces in London since taking part in Echo++ last year) and Fraise Sauvage (who’s just launched a new product range with Harrods).

The programme will culminate with a Demo Day on 19November, where participants will pitch their businesses for a share of prizes including mentorship from 3 Michelin star-trained Emily Roux of the famous Roux dynasty and exclusive access to space to run a pop-up restaurant.

Liv Sibony, Grub Club co-founder said: “We are proud to partner with Echo to give this extra level of training and support to food entrepreneurs. The selection process is tough, with some strong applications, and we look forward to honing those skills to give them the best chance to turbo-charge their business to the next level.”