Hear what Ryan, a Partner at Silicon Valley-based Babel Ventures had to say about investments they are making in biotech and deep tech. Learn how he convinced Mark Cuban on Shark Tank to invest over half a million dollars to take on the pet food industry with his 100% plant-based dog food brand Wild Earth. Ryan is one of the most prolific biotech investors and entrepreneurs – funding and building over 70+ biotech companies over the last decade.

Full Transcript

Speaker 1 (00:05):

Hi, Ryan. Good, good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Hi. Hi. I’m good. I’m good. It’s a pleasure to be with you. Yeah. Yeah. You have a growing fan base in this part of the world. Now she actually just snuck in. So yeah, so she she’s, uh, I closed the door, but she knows how to open the door. So she basically, you know, I literally tried to block the door. That’s her little town, so now she’s trying to get out of the door. Cause I think now she’s now she’s crying because she wants to get outside and hopefully soon, soon we’re going to have some good news on wild earth and India, you know, not, not yet. We have a great partner. Um, yes, yes, yes. We have a great partner. So hopefully soon I’ll be able to announce some things not yet, but soon, meaning, you know, months, right. Not, not soon enough, then that is quite soon enough actually to two or three months, we’ll be able to announce something very, very cool and exciting.

Speaker 1 (01:38):

We’re excited. Bring plant-based dog food to India. So we’re really excited about vegetarian dog food. We think we should be really good. Oh, I’m glad. That’s really great news. Congratulations. Right. Thank you. Thank you. So, um, yes, I’m looking forward to him. Go. Yeah. Yeah. So we, uh, so we, uh, we’re gonna, we’re gonna train you on Facebook live as well and doom and multiple other platform to, uh, let you know that. And what will happen is that people will thought of, uh, obviously 10 questions in the topic of the sort of moderate that a little bit. And, and maybe towards the latter part, I think we have a half an hour, right, right.

Speaker 1 (02:25):

A little more time. I can, I can go to meetings. So we’ll keep the questions for the end. I mean, I may pop in a compressor like in the conversation, but we’ll just go ahead and, um, and have the questions coming at the end. So just, uh, you know, welcome to panoramic punditry, uh, putting the parent on a, on a fandom diet theory, uh, great to have your own, a real pleasure for coming on the show. It’s a pleasure. I’m very, very excited, very excited about, you know, everything that’s happening around the pandemic and obviously, hopefully for our entire plan in terms of moving.

Speaker 2 (03:03):

Absolutely. So I mean, how, how, how nerve wracking was it really to, to go on, on, uh, on shark tank? I mean obviously, I mean, look, you are, you are, you are an investor you’ve done, which has on your life, but you must have been a lot less stressful than some of the entrepreneurs that we see going on that show.

Speaker 1 (03:22):

I would think too. I was like, no, I’m not, I’ve done lots of pitches. I’ve I’ve, you know, I’ve, I know how to pitch, I’ve helped entrepreneurs pitch. Um, there is nothing like going on to, I mean, essentially the stage on shark tank, it’s a, it’s a big stage with camera crews and, and, and you, you don’t get an opportunity to meet the sharks before you pitch. So the first time the sharks have ever seen you and the first time you’ve ever seen them is the moment you, the doors open. And it’s, it’s real. It’s very real. Like even though, even though to show the whole experience is real. And what they tell you is that, um, even if you fall on the floor, pick yourself back up and keep talking because that’s it,

Speaker 2 (04:03):

Then I’m going to do a retake. In other words,

Speaker 1 (04:06):

There’s no retakes. If that’s what, and honestly they love those moments when people, when entrepreneurs go on there and they go, uh, they just get stuck, they get lost. They loved those moments because, you know, people love watching that stuff. And so, you know, walking in, I thought I was really ready. And, uh, and, and the way that they do it is, is basically, you know, you get there like six in the morning. Um, you’re, you’re in like a little, at the time it was in Los Angeles. It was a little, um, like a little trailer that was very hot. And you’re just thinking, it’s just you and your thoughts. And you’re in the trailer earlier sleepy. And you’re just thinking, Oh, I hope this goes, well, I hope this goes well, there’s going to be millions of people watching me. There’s going to be millions of B and just goes round and round in your head.

Speaker 1 (04:50):

And so it was pretty intense. I ended up, you know, I was just memorizing, you know, I was just thinking about all the questions they could ask me, memorizing my lines and I can’t mess up my lines. And, um, and it was, it was pretty nerve wracking. Like I walked. So when I, when I walked down the hallway, the long hallway for shark tank, the doors opened and there were all these five sharks, super famous, right. Uh, you know, uh, Mark Cuban, Damon, mr. Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary Laurie. Um, and there was a actually guest shark, Matt Higgins as well. And so it was just like, wow, these are real people in front of me. And I have a moment to pitch them, you know, a moment. I mean, it was, it turned out to be about 40 minutes total pitching, but they condensed it to about 10 minutes pitching.

Speaker 1 (05:40):

Right. Um, and what they don’t tell you is that when you’re pitching, the sharks are talking at you, so you’re, you have your lines and the things you want to say, your pitch and the sharp, they’re trying to make fun of things that you’re saying, making faces. And so it’s really hard to focus. And so I got into almost like a meditative state. It was, it was, it was literally, we walked in, I spoke and I, I don’t, I just kind of woke up at the end of the meditation, like at the end of the speech. And I was like, did I just talk

Speaker 2 (06:18):

Well, you’re shopping when that is actually eating the dog food.

Speaker 1 (06:23):

Yeah. Yeah. So, no, that was not planned. No, no, no. That was not planned. So, so basically, you know, because I thought, well, maybe they might look at it and I was like, I’m going to eat it to show them that, you know, look, this is vegetarian, this is plant-based, this is clean. This is healthy. Unlike the other dog foods. And, uh, and then by the way I ate it and, um, my mouth was so dry because I was so nervous that I found it hard. Like one of the sharks was like, do you need water? Cause I was like, um, uh, uh, so, so I was so nervous and the mouth was very dry and, uh, and, uh, and then all of a sudden we handed out and they saw me eating and they started eating the dog food. And so I was like this, all the sharks are eating our dog food and our treats.

Speaker 1 (07:12):

And I was like, Oh, this is crazy. You know, to see like, like Kevin O’Leary mr. Wonderful, eat our dog, need her dog food, uh, see Damon either dog food. And so Laurie, um, and so, you know, it was just, it was like this crazy experience. And, you know, I’ve, I’ve helped entrepreneurs pitch. I pitched lots of times I’ve raised money from some incredible investors. Um, and that was definitely the hardest pitch I’ve ever done. Unlike anything I’ve ever done. I can only imagine maybe going on a live stage and doing a musical performance or a play or something, maybe it might not

Speaker 2 (07:50):

[inaudible] uh, I mean the founder of PayPal was one of the early investors, right? I mean, so you, I mean, is this another first time you knew, you know, Don for the big boys? I mean, you know,

Speaker 1 (08:02):

And Peter TEALS is another fascinating character too. Um, you know, when I pitched him, it was, it was, it was, it’s always strange with Peter because he gets things that you wouldn’t imagine that he would get, um, like pet the pet food market. He totally understood it. He understood the link between, uh, diet and health of us and our animals, you know, things that he really deep understandings of what kind of just to wrap up with the shark tank stuff. Um, you know, after the pitch, all the shots and did all the things they tell you not to do on shark tank. We had no sales, we had a prototype, we had, uh, we raised it at a higher valuation. And so I was going in there going, Oh my goodness, I hope I don’t look like a fool. And turns out I was, um, live in front of 3.6 million people were watching that night.

Speaker 1 (08:51):

So people were watching me pitch and talk about the benefits plant based diet, uh, for, for us and for our pets, um, in the U S and, um, and, and I was like, pleased, as long as I don’t come out looking like a total fool, um, you know, cause this is, you know, this is a huge event in the U S and, uh, and in the end, I mean, Kevin, mr. Wonderful was very funny. He started making jokes about how everyone is going plant based and vegan and, Oh my goodness, this is a trend and you can’t get away from it. Um, you, these poor vegan dogs, you know, plant based dogs, um, very funny. And then at the end, uh, Mark Cuban made an offer total surprise. I didn’t expect that total surprise. I knew, I knew he had an interest in alternative, uh, protein, healthier diets.

Speaker 1 (09:42):

I knew that, um, and we accept his offer. So the biggest surprise, honestly, after shark tank, he invested, um, and he has been a huge help with us as a company. So I, I really thought he would invest, he was a celebrity. He would go away and he doesn’t, I talked to him almost every week, um, and he’s super supportive of, of, uh, of wild earth and what we’re doing, our mission. He actually announced recently that he’s gone vegetarian, mostly vegetarian. So yeah. Yeah, that was, that was, that was huge. Like that was, that was months and months after about a year after we went onto the show and I was totally surprised, like Mark done vegetarian. He’s like, yeah, you know, it’s good, it’s healthy. You know,

Speaker 2 (10:24):

Are you, I mean, so you have your doctorate, obviously you’ve done that several times.

Speaker 1 (10:29):

Oh, I am on dog food all the time. That’s the point?

Speaker 2 (10:32):

Well, and any other CEOs of companies like [inaudible] ever [inaudible] and why, and why not?

Speaker 1 (10:40):

Do you ever respond to it when I’m like, look, if you really think your dog food is so great, so healthy, you should eat it. Right. You should eat it. I mean, I’ve eaten days worth of our dog food in one city. Right. Um, and it’s, and honestly it’s because it’s vegetarian, it’s clean, it’s healthy. Um, and so, so I’m, I’m comfortable eating it. I wouldn’t eat, you know, Purina pedigree, blue Buffalo, cause it’s just, I wouldn’t trust what’s in it. Right. It’s just not, it’s, you know, it’s meat, I don’t eat meat anymore. So, you know, I wouldn’t need it. Um, and only that on top of that, it’s not human grade meat. And so it’s, you know, who knows what’s in there

Speaker 2 (11:15):

And that human grade meat thing to me. But I think that, you know, um, you know, I think people don’t realize that, uh, you know, you throw in everything from feathers to, you know, all kinds of parts that humans don’t need for you to vote for. Is that true?

Speaker 1 (11:30):

Yeah. That’s very true. A lot of people don’t even realize what’s in pet food. So, um, so in the U S as an example, and actually India, uh, is huge, I’m sure you’re aware that everyone’s going pet crazy in India. People are getting pets like crazy, especially dogs. Um, and as younger generations, we’re very excited about dogs at home, uh, in India and in the U S and the U S we’ve already gone pet crazy. We have, everyone has a pet. Um, and, uh, and, and what’s happened in the U S is that about 25 to 30% of, of the meat that we use that we consume goes to our pets, right? 25 to 30%. Um, and, and what’s crazy is that, so not only are we, are we running entire factory farms just for our pets when we don’t need to, um, for protein, it’s just protein, which we can get from plants.

Speaker 1 (12:19):

We get from phone guy, we can get from other sources other than animals. Um, but, um, on top of that to lower costs, there’s a certain category non-human grade meat. That means meat, that it’s illegal to put into the human food system, right. Things that are unsafe for us to eat right for human Steed. So, um, that gets put into our pets food. I don’t know why anyone would feel comfortable with feeding something that is unsafe to, um, to us, to their pets. I would never do that. I would never feed Liza that. Um, but it all sorts of really gross, like starts with really gross things. So it’s a really dangerous thing. So like feathers beaks, things that you would imagine are, uneditable what they actually do is they use enzymes to melt it into goo and, and, and, and then they turn it into somewhat digestible protein group, um, all the way through to like really dangerous.

Speaker 1 (13:13):

So the FDA has found, uh, uh, meat, contaminated meat of animals that have been euthanized. So I don’t know if you you’re familiar with the nature conservatory. So it appears that there, uh, it appears that horses are being euthanized and, and, and that meat, that contaminated meat, which has a chemical, which actually killed the animal, is getting into dogs foods. And about a year or two ago, there was about a hundred million units that were recalled because they had high levels of called pentobarbital to euthanasia drug. And so the animals are getting very sick and in some cases, some died just by eating their food. So, so, you know, my mission, my focus is like, Hey, not only is it healthier for us to be plant based and we believe for pets, but on top of that, the meat that’s going into feed them. It’s just not, not safe and not healthy. And so, you know, there’ve been a lot of pet parents have reached out that have been, like, I had no idea. I had no idea this was going on. Um, and it’s, it’s, it’s kind of like a little dirty, hidden secret, you know, we all talk about how we’re eating healthier. We don’t talk about our pets. And so that’s, we really want to change that a wild earth.

Speaker 3 (14:25):

Yeah. I actually did have a really good question. Right. So dogs are Carneros, right. So aren’t, we sort of interfering with the Wolf nature by feeding them fond face.

Speaker 1 (14:35):

Yeah. Good question. We get that all the time. So that’s a common misconception, right. So I’m sure, you know, especially in India, uh, you know, when, when you’re cooking for yourself, you know, you’re feeding some Tapatio or something to your dogs, that’s a vegetarian product, right? So like, uh, dogs are actually omnivores like us. And so for those of us that have dogs, we know, you know, my, my dog will eat things like, you know, strawberries and all sorts of other things. Um, dogs are omnivores like us, they’re a little bit more adaptive. They can, they can eat meat for sure. And, you know, anyone that’s seen a dog pick up a bone from the street knows that they also eat meat. Um, but, but the important thing is that dogs need protein, right? And they need a certain mixture of amino acids. You can get that from plants and you can get that from animal meat.

Speaker 1 (15:21):

Uh, you don’t have to have it from animals. So, um, when we say, you know, carnivores, even the term carnivore is, um, kind of an outdated idea. It came from a very different time when we didn’t really understand nutrition and digestion at different animals. So, um, even for, let’s say cats that are, that are considered obligate carnivores, right. You know, from Ty lions and tigers to, um, to kitty cats, um, they basically need just certain nutritional supplements and amino acids. And it doesn’t really matter matter where those amino acids come from, whether it’s plants or mushrooms or fun guy or, or animal proteins. Um, and so what we did at, at while there is we looked at, uh, we looked at the nutritional needs of a dog, which are pretty well understood. And we designed a product that was superior to what, what we believe is out there in the marketplace.

Speaker 1 (16:12):

So what is the basic needs your dog needs? And then let’s, let’s go above that and let’s provide additional things for, for health based on what we know about 21st century nutrition. So things like, uh, prebiotics good for the gut digestion, things that things that are outside of even, you know, is your dog getting enough protein? So we made sure we took care of that because that’s the biggest criticism of plant based diets, plant based protein. So ours is actually higher in protein than many of the commercial brands. So we have 31% protein, it’s a high protein dog food, which is more similar to Wolf ancestral diets in terms of protein, but it’s plant based.

Speaker 3 (16:49):

Yeah, Larry, I just, because the audience really, really wants to know if you’re planning on making a pod based cap,

Speaker 1 (17:00):

We are, we are. And so we are a science based company. And so, uh, we’re working on, we want to make the best cat food. So the dog food was actually not that hard for us. I mean, it took a long time to develop the, the dog food to make sure it was a great dog food. We’re going to do the same process for cat food. We want to bring a hundred percent cruelty-free animal free, high nutrition, pet food across the board. Um, so the cat food is going to take us longer to develop, but we are, you know, we’re thinking about all the cat parents, including all the cat parents, um, that are in at wild earth, they’re waiting for this product. So we just want to make sure that when we develop something, it’s great. So, um, you know, our dog food, we, we think it’s, it’s, we think it’s the best in the world in terms of, um, you know, from a health aspect, from a safety aspect, from a kindness aspect. Um, and so, so we want to do the same for cats, but that’s probably a little out, probably a year out.

Speaker 4 (17:57):

And I don’t think people around people understand. I mean, you know, they think it’s a sort of a, I mean, the pet food industry is huge, isn’t it? I mean, it’s in the billions, isn’t it? I mean, we don’t realize

Speaker 1 (18:08):

It’s, it’s in the U S it’s $30 billion globally. It’s $90 billion. And particularly, yeah. Particularly because of India and China, it’s going to grow to be $120 billion. So, um, pet ownership in the U S is growing about 4% year on year in India. It’s growing 20% year on year.

Speaker 4 (18:28):

Wow. And I know, I know the Chinese also. I mean, there, there there’s a lot of, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1 (18:34):

Huge growth. I mean, the Chinese are going pet crazy. So, so both in India from a smaller base, but in China last time I was in Shanghai, I saw all these little dogs in the dog park, like in the parks, you know? And so I was like, Oh, where did, where did everyone get all these dogs? And it’s, it was because the government has basically allowed people to have dogs now in their apartments. And so now people love dogs. And so they’re getting dogs and in India, very similar thing when people seem like, yeah, yeah, people are moving into places where they have backyards or they have more space and they want to get, don’t want to get dogs and cats. So 120 billion is the number you told me. Right. But it’s going to be 120 billion, I think by 20, 25 or 2030, something like that. So it’s, I mean, it’s going to be a huge market. Um, and in fact, the total number of dogs, pet dogs is actually going to be more in China this year or next year than in the U S so that’s the scale of growth that’s happening already. So, so really the primary markets for pets is really going to be within the next decade. It’s going to be Asia. So Indian, China driving the pet market. Um, and then, and then obviously the U S will still be a very large pet market as well. So

Speaker 4 (19:45):

You took the geographic expansion for you,

Speaker 1 (19:47):

Obviously. I mean, you, you, you sort of broke it that you’re definitely coming to India soon. Definitely. I mean, the India announcement, we’re going to have a proper announcement.

Speaker 4 (19:58):

You wanna put a factory there or are you just gonna ship it across the waters?

Speaker 1 (20:02):

So eventually the aim is really to just do a lot more in India. So that’s, that’s been part of my personal strategy. I am super excited about India. I think that India is already a leading plant-based market. We know that, um, but, but India, in terms of innovation, Indians are renowned for their innovation globally in technology. And I think we’re going to see, you know, a huge amount of innovation in the food space as well. So food is technology. And so that’s been one of the mind shifts that we’ve seen in the U S right. That’s been a lot of the companies that I’ve helped get off the ground and start and fund in the U S have actually been that understanding that food is technology. And so as that’s pointing across to India now, I think it’s going to be even more large even, even future.

Speaker 1 (20:48):

So I’m going to shift gears a little bit, and you just mentioned, you know, because you’ve been in a prolific investor, 70 plus biotechnology companies, I don’t know if that number is even higher. Um, what has this pandemic, um, you know, changed your investment profile at all? I mean, or what are you still sort of gung ho about a particular type of investment? Yeah, I mean, I would say this is, this has, it’s a, it’s a really great point. So I would say this has, the pandemic has accelerated my view that, that the future, the future is plant-based, the future is recombinant. The future is cell based. So I think that, um, you know, and, and honestly, we’re seeing this, right, we’re seeing this in all the slaughter houses, when you see them in the U S the slaughter houses become hotspots for COVID-19, it doesn’t make sense like it.

Speaker 1 (21:37):

Why, why, why, why are these places, the slaughter animals are making people sick? They, I think it’s, I think the last time I checked about four food inspectors, government inspectors have died inspecting these plants. And to me, the link between animal agriculture, factory farms, slaughtering animals, to clear the disease, the link between disease is super clear, right? And I think this is going to accelerate it. And I think people are realizing that the link between, you know, mistreated animals, uh, pollution, uh, factory farms, which puts animals in high density that are not healthy into one place. It’s just a breeding ground for disease, whether it’s, um, you know, whether it’s, whether it’s unfortunately, um, for many of the slaughterhouse workers who are getting very sick, because they’re so close together, most likely, um, all the way through to avian flus, which we know have killed people, um, and spread across the world in the past. So this is, this has increased my commitment to bringing and helping entrepreneurs, uh, bringing new technologies, new foods to disrupt the older, um, animal agriculture industries. I think we’re going to see it. And even, I know in India, even for milk and eggs, we’re going to see a massive disruption. And we’re going to see a shift towards plant based milk and eggs. Yes. I agree with her. I think you’ve got a question.

Speaker 3 (23:03):

Uh, yeah, actually we have a few audience questions for Ryan. Uh, one from facade or company side. Any thoughts of why that is looking to value add by using organic ingredients?

Speaker 1 (23:15):

Good question. Good question. So our primary focus has been really to feed as many, uh, as many, as many pets as possible high quality clean ingredients. We’re already a little bit more on the expensive side. Uh, we have looked at organic we’re open to organic. We have no issues with organic. The problem is just the cost. So we we’ve, we’ve had this, this question multiple times. The cost would, would make it very hard for some of our customers to, to afford our products. And really our mission is not to be the most expensive, high quality product. We want to be an affordable product for as many pets as possible. And then you had some questions for him.

Speaker 3 (23:56):

Yes, actually, this is a question recurring question that the audience are asking Ryan. So as an early stage seed impact investor, what is the first thing you look for in a company that you’re looking to invest in?

Speaker 1 (24:11):

Yeah, so I mean, that almost says it all right. Impact. So for me, and this is one of the reasons why, you know, recently, you know, I’ve actually, I’ve actually surprisingly, when I think back to, I backed so many Indian entrepreneurs who, you know, wherever they are in the world, they’re innovating. So, you know, probably the most famous Indian entrepreneur that I’ve helped him backed, um, was Ooma Valenti from Memphis meets the founder of Memphis meats. And so he’s the CEO and founder of Memphis meats. He’s originally from India. Um, he, although he was, you know, he lives in the U S at the moment, but he still has his very fond. He was born in India, loves India. Um, and, uh, and, and so, you know, really I’m looking for impact, and it’s very clear to me where the impact is going to happen.

Speaker 1 (24:55):

Right. And so that’s where the majority of humanity is the majority of humanities in Asia. Um, I’ve spent some time in Asia. I want to spend more time in Asia. Um, and so first I look for where can we make the most impact? Um, then secondly, I look at the, the team and the technology. And so, you know, I would much rather back a great team and an okay technology, then, then an okay team, but a great technology. And, you know, a great team will always, if the market shifts and it changes and they have to move and they have to pivot to another area, a great team will always be able to do that. Um, but, but you know, uh, an okay team won’t, so it’s always people, I always back people, and sometimes I’ll cut a check really quickly. I’ll just say, you know, you know, I’m, I’m a, um, I’m a, I’m an investor, but I kind of, I would say an accidental investor.

Speaker 1 (25:45):

I care about building great things in the world. And so I want to help great people build things in the world. And sometimes that’s as investor, sometimes advisor, or just a partner, I just give free advice to people sometimes. Um, and so I look for people who have passion and I know we’re going to are going to, you know, run through walls for what they believe in that’s that’s. And sometimes they may not even have a fully fleshed prototype. Right. And sometimes it’s like, did you, did you, did you try that? Did you taste that? Did you check that? Did you all your due diligence? And it’s like, no, I believe in the people. And so I’m willing to do what it takes because I believe in those people. Oh, that’s great. Yeah. Yeah. More questions from our audience.

Speaker 3 (26:28):

Yeah, indeed. I do. Uh, so, um, um, one from Jeevan welcome, Steven, what is the most interesting company that you’ve invested in?

Speaker 1 (26:37):

Had you been so, um, so, so obviously Memphis meats, I would say is definitely one of the more interesting growing lab, grown meat. So slaughter free meat, the end of slaughter. That’s very exciting. So people, people who love meat can still have meat, but don’t have to actually kill animals for it. Um, but you know, that one’s probably very well known. My favorite that is not well known, uh, is a company called catalog technologies. So yeah, catalog technologies, they store digital data in DNA. It’s kind of mindblowing. So what they basically do is they turn ones and zeros to DNA, right. And so they basically save digital well information like your heart disk, but in DNA. So in the same, in the same storage medium that are so used to store, you know, the genetic information that makes everything about us, every living thing, it takes the ones and zeros and puts into a biological format, not the other, not the other stuff the other way.

Speaker 1 (27:35):

So yeah, exactly. That’s, that’s why it’s so mind blowing. It’s like, you kind of have to sit with that for a moment and go, wait, what, so, so, so DNA, DNA, um, the, the, um, the storage material, like the, uh, I guess the, the, the data storage of all life, right. What makes us, um, is the most data dense material in the known universe? So it’s about a million times more data dense than a hard disc than our phones, you know, then the storage medium there. So we, we tend to think that, you know, technology is like this incredible achievement and humanity has done great things, but body biology has figured out a solution that is a million times better than what we figured out so far with our minds. Right. And so, so with catalog, honestly, that made me look at biology an entirely different way, you know, we’re entering a new era.

Speaker 1 (28:28):

So, um, Mark Andreessen, for those of you that are technology fans. Yeah. So he was, he was, you know, he basically invented the internet browser and he’s done a whole bunch of other really exciting things. He, you know, he said that software will eat the world. Um, and he was right, right. Software has eaten the world, right. In terms of like the success of software in India has been huge. Uh, and, and globally, um, biology will build our world. Right. And so, so that’s the new era that we’re going into biology is involved in everything like everything around us, you know, from the cotton t-shirt that I wear to us, um, to the, the foods that we eat, um, to the materials that we use, the wood that we use to build those it’s all made with biology. And so, as we understand how to program biology, we understand how to program the nature of reality itself.

Speaker 1 (29:20):

And so that’s really honestly what I’m super excited about. So a lot of people, you know, I talk about the future of food with a lot of people, but I think that, you know, I think that what I’m truly excited is yes, we’re going to make a more sustainable, equitable, healthier, safer world for everyone with biology and better food. Um, but then, then can we make better manufacturing processes? Can’t we make cleaner process? Can we make cleaner fuels? Can we make, we can with biology? And so biology can really Harold in the new green economy.

Speaker 4 (29:50):

Wow, fabulous. Right. I want to ask you one question and then we’ll take all the audience questions. Kathleen. We have plenty, I’m happy to go over. I’m happy. You know, we have a limited number of people that usually watch this on zoom, because most audiences on, on the social media platforms, and usually there are hundreds on there. So all the questions gets funneled in. So just sort of semi personal question, I guess, what impact has expanded mic head on you? Personally,

Speaker 1 (30:22):

Many, many impacts on me personally. Um, so, so, so, you know, it has been, so from a personal perspective, it accelerated, you know, I got married, it accelerated my, my wedding.

Speaker 4 (30:40):

I can see that there’s a whole lot of people on [inaudible], but, um, yeah, so, you know, that that’s one aspect of it. Um, you know, at a very personal note.

Speaker 1 (30:59):

Um, but you know, but I think that honestly, this has forced, I think, many of us to, to really reflect on how connected we all are, right. From a global perspective as a global family, how connected we all are and how, you know, how something that happened in Mohan, China, right? Whether it was someone eating a bat or, or, or, or an endangered animal, like one of the penguins, um, as a, as a, as a classical medicine, you know, um, how that literally has affected our entire world. Right. And I think this is the first time, you know, we, any of us have experienced this type of like, realization that we are all connected, our environment, the people in it. Um, you know, I know we’re in, uh, at times we can be in a very divided world, right. Them and us, right. Whoever them is.

Speaker 1 (31:50):

Um, uh, and I think this is a Mo this has definitely been a moment for me to, to reflect again on how connected we are. I mean, I’ve, I’ve always felt that there really is no difference. You know, I, I, um, I really resonate with a lot of like Buddhist or Hindu principles. Um, uh, but you know, we, and I do believe that we’re all one, we’re all connected, but, but this is even more of a sign of that. Right. So if someone does something that is bad for, for the animals, for people, somewhere else in the world, um, it’s, it’s, um, it affects us all and it’s, it’s up to all, all of us to help those people too. Right. Um, and then from a, from a business perspective, you know, I’m an entrepreneur first and foremost, I believe in doing good things for the world, but I, I believe in building businesses, I believe in making money, I don’t think that’s wrong.

Speaker 1 (32:37):

I think that’s a great thing, do great in the world and make money. Um, and, um, this was probably the hardest period of time in terms of leadership. Um, because you know, this pandemic is affecting everyone, right? People are losing jobs. Um, you know, uh, even though we’ve been lucky enough at wild earth, um, that, that we’ve actually, you know, continued to, to kind of do well. Um, people who work at wild earth, um, have been very fearful. There’s been a lot of fear, um, a lot of, a lot of upset at what’s happening in the world. Um, and this has become a moment where you realize that, you know, when, when you are the CEO of a company, a leader of a company, you know, you’re there to serve the people that you lead, right. It’s not the other way around, like I’m there to serve the people.

Speaker 1 (33:23):

I care about the people that work with me a lot. I care about the people who support us in our mission, our customers, I care about them a lot. You know, they have a lot of pain, uh, as well. And so, you know, we have tens of thousands of customers in the U S and so, so we he’ll hear all sorts of stories from them. Um, sometimes they’ll reach out to me, they’ll send me an email. I purposely make my email available. It’s [email protected] I might get like a thousand emails after this, but like, that’s the point I want to be accessible. Like one lesson that I’ve always learned is, you know, you want to be accessible to as many people as possible, even if you become overloaded. And I can’t guarantee everyone that I’ll respond to them. Um, but I think that it’s important.

Speaker 1 (34:00):

And so for me, the leadership was, you know, how really to lead with kindness and empathy and how hard it is, you know, cause we still have, you know, we still have to meet certain sales targets. We still have to, you know, we still have to, I mean, if you’re not feeling well, you know, if you’re down and upset, how do you lead people through you can’t guarantee everyone that they’re going to be all right. Some people, some people’s relatives might die. You know, some, some, some people that work at your company may get COVID-19 and they might get sick and they might die. And so you can’t say everything’s going to be fine. You know, keep going. You can only say, this is the reality that we find ourselves in. Um, I’m here to help as much as I can. I wish I could protect you. I cannot. Um, and so we just have to work deal with the reality that we find ourselves in and, and lead in a very humble way. Um, so I think this is as a leader for, for many of us who are, who are building and running companies for many of us that are running nonprofits or, or providing community leadership. Um, I think this has become a, uh, a very humbling experience, um, the limitations of, of, you know, what we can do and what we can do. Yeah.

Speaker 4 (35:10):

Truly, truly has been. And I, I, that’s very great insights, Ryan. I am fabulous, uh, uh, Catholic, uh, you wanna, you want to just ask some, a couple of questions I,

Speaker 3 (35:19):

Yeah. With cognizant of time. So I’ll just ask one question.

Speaker 1 (35:23):

We can keep it going. We can keep it going. I haven’t, until I haven’t told just a little bit before I have another like 20 minutes roughly.

Speaker 3 (35:29):

Okay. Um, so one question from Sona, thanks so much for joining us. Uh, if, if a typically vegan startup raises its seed wrong, what would, uh, you know, what would you advise them, uh, you know, on the few things to go for because they have to conserve cash. So what is it that they must focus on? Is it marketing? Is it improved packaging, new recruitment? What is it that they should focus on?

Speaker 1 (35:53):

That’s a very hard question to answer. So, so I’ll start with that. That is a very hard question. Everyone is going to have a different response to that. Um, the thing that I’ve found most important and most impactful is first, you have to remember as a company that you’re there to serve your customers, right? And so everything else is secondary. And so you’re there to serve. And so the first question I would ask is what’s your customers want, right? Do they want, do they want better packaging? Does that make a difference to them? Um, do they, do they want a better tasting product? You know, that that’s, that’s also possible. And so, so, so you should really focus on serving your customer’s needs first and have faith that serving your customer’s needs means that you’re going to be able to actually continue to develop better and better products.

Speaker 1 (36:37):

Um, you know, that looking at the customer is, is always a good way of going forward. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. So, you know, there’s, there’s many different frameworks for thinking. So the customer centric approach is really what allowed, um, Amazon and Alibaba to really grow, um, as companies. But if you look at it from the perspective of innovation, if you look at Apple, Steve jobs felt that you couldn’t just go out and ask your customers, um, what to build, right? You, you had to think through and predict what they would love even before they knew what they would love. And so this is the hard part about being an entrepreneur. This is a hard part about being a founder. It’s like, you have to take multiple leaps of faith into the darkness and don’t know if you’re right. Yeah. I mean, and if you’re not, you gotta pivot quickly enough.

Speaker 1 (37:27):

Right. I’m going to give you quickly, you’ve got to pit it quickly. And so the people that lead it, then, then, you know, when you invest, right. So that have like mindset. Yeah. And the hard part is everyone has opinions and you don’t know who’s right. So you ask 10 different people, 10 different opinions, and you and your team have to make a decision, which direction to go. You have to give yourself permission to take a choice. Right. It’s not going to, the permission will come from nowhere else other than from inside. And that’s not from inside. That’s the hard part, right? A hundred percent. We have a couple more questions.

Speaker 3 (38:05):

Yeah. Sorry. I’m just writing down a few of these things that arrive in the same,

Speaker 1 (38:12):

The wisdom. Good idea.

Speaker 3 (38:13):

Exactly. So key takeaways. We have a question from [inaudible] thanks for joining us today. How long did it take for you to create your first prototype?

Speaker 1 (38:23):

Uh, too long, honestly, to create? So our first, our first true prototype, I mean, that, that took a couple of months to make it the first early prototype, but to make the true, true prototype. So for our dog food, um, it actually took us about two years. Um, and, and I know this sounds really crazy to develop a dog, but it took us about two years. Um, for our treats, it was much faster. We were able to create our treats in about six months. Um, the reason is that we really focus on understanding all the products, testing the products we do cruelty free testing as well with, with dogs. So, um, a lot of people also don’t know this, that, um, uh, many of the conventional dog food companies actually test on dogs and labs. So for those of us that love, you know, that love dogs, I can’t imagine why anyone would be okay with testing a new flavor of dog food on a, on a poor dog.

Speaker 1 (39:15):

That’s in a lab lives its entire life in the lab and his tests and eventually put down euthanized. Um, and so from the beginning of starting wild earth, we always have this, you know, animals first, uh, philosophy. We always put the animals first. And so we will never do cruelty, cruelty based testing lab testing on animals. Um, and so it took us a really long time to figure out how to actually do cruelty-free testing. We actually, um, we, we, we had the consultant from a very large dog food company who actually, uh, he was the head of R D previously. He left us as our consultant because we refuse to test on dogs in labs. Um, and so we had to reach out, we reached out to PETA, you know, the, the animal organization reached out to them for help because we were like, look, we don’t know what to do. We, we know this is a regulatory thing. We know we have to do this. We don’t know how to do it, cruelty free. And they actually helped us a lot with contacting like different universities to figure out how to do volunteer testing. And so, you know, it took us a really long time to do it the right way. Um, I wish I could have speeded it up, but I think sometimes the journey is the point. Right. And so

Speaker 4 (40:22):

Does this cruelty-free animal testing. So is it a, is that part of your IP? Is it like a patent across this now?

Speaker 1 (40:27):

No, no. It’s not part of our IP. In fact, we would give it away. I’m actually trying to find a way I want to inspire the pet food industry to change. Um, and so, so what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to educate people on how to do volunteer testing versus testing on dogs and labs. I think one of the main reasons why it’s still done is because it’s just, it’s how it’s always been done and there’s no easy alternative. We want to inspire the entire industry to change. So, you know, for a while, there were much more than just a company where we’re mission, we’re mission to change, you know, how, how animals on this planet are treated. Um, and then we start with, you know, how pets are treated, you know, we really want to improve the quality of their food, their health, um, and then also, you know, reduce the suffering and the cruelty that’s done to other animals as well. Yeah. You know, mission first. And so, so basically what that means is, you know, if a bunch of huge, you know, if Mars and Nestle and general mills, if they copy us, I’m okay with that. Right. Right. Like come and compete, come and copy us. Let’s let’s make the world better for everyone to get it. Beautiful. Yeah. Thank you. Got to go.

Speaker 3 (41:36):

We do have a few more larvae, but I’m also a little bit cognizant of the time, so have them

Speaker 1 (41:43):

Yeah. Yeah. Five minutes. Perfect. Yeah. We still got five minutes. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (41:46):

Okay. Um, yeah. Okay. And, um, so, uh, we have one question from Robin, Robin, thanks for joining us today with the line of investments in biotech, what legislative and FDA approvals cost you to scrap a good product. And if you wouldn’t mind sharing that story.

Speaker 1 (42:05):

Yeah. Yeah. So, um, so actually, I mean, I can share it, you know, I can share multiple stories. Um, one story that I’m, I’m actually pretty disappointed in which, which I wish we could have moved faster is that we’re looking at developing a puppy food food specifically for puppies, the ingredients for dog food actually have another layer of layer of approval in the U S and, um, the, basically the oils that we that are approved for adult dogs, it’s the same oils. There’s no biological difference or not yet approved for puppies. So these are like algae oils that we really wanted to use for puppies. Um, and so we basically had to stop the development of a product until we get approval from AFCO, which is kind of discovering board that’s below the FDA to get approval, to actually use these animal free ingredients. And so to me, that was the biggest disappointment because I really wanted to bring something, you know, first-in-class, we really focused on bringing new things to the market it’s coming by the way, but it was just, it’s just very slow. Um, you know, that’s from a pet and while there’s perspective, from a regulatory perspective, clean meat, um, I’ve eaten clean meat. I’ve actually eaten clean meat, both in the U S and actually in Singapore. So San Sandia again, another.

Speaker 1 (43:24):

Okay, great. So Sandy, so she cooked meats for those who don’t know set Sandy is amazing actually originally Indian of Indian, the Sandberg from India, but moved to Singapore, incredible innovator, uh, with her cofounder ke as well. Um, uh, they started to choke meats, which is a cell based shrimp and seafood company. Um, and so, so, so, you know, I was delighted to be able to invest in back there, their mission they’re incredible, uh, innovators, um, but you know, cell based meats is another frustration of mine. I think this should be approved yesterday. Um, and so, you know, because it’s literally, it is slaughter free, clean, sustainable meat, just, just no longer, you know, having to use the, the, the animals, just growing the cells. Um, and so that’s a frustration of mine. I don’t know why it’s not approved and in the U S it, honestly, it’s more of a political thing because we have very large, very large meat lobby. They did not want to approve this alternative because it’s a new technology, right? It’s a new technology that will disrupt them. Whereas other nations like Singapore, we’ve seen very promising things. I mean, the Singaporean government is ready, ready to improve. It’s like, literally, you know, they’ve been telling Sandy and ke like, when are we ready? Let’s go, let’s go. Cause they, they have no, no existing lobby to lobby against them.

Speaker 4 (44:44):

The two governments matter in these things, don’t they, I mean, governments and geographic Europe geographies matter, you know, existing sort of, you know, businesses, legacy businesses, matter of your, see, there’s all kinds of protectionist policies around that. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (44:56):

Yeah. But again, and actually in India, I know, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of great work happening in India, too. I know Varun from the good food Institute is doing a lot of great work in India to really get India ready and a framework. I know India is very complex politically. Um, so, so, you know, but creating the framework for approval of these products, so that, I mean, it’d be incredible, right? If India could be the first to approve these products, it would be incredible. But what we’ll see there, there will be a country that will be first. Is it Singapore?

Speaker 4 (45:28):

I mean, I, my, my, my, my spouse, my wife is involved in, uh, in the, in the farm based business. And we’ve been sort of lobbying the government to say, you know, the, the word,

Speaker 1 (45:37):

Some meat, it could be the Indian

Speaker 4 (45:39):

Brand, right. Hindsight is a word that was coined in this part of the world. It seems like the Chinese are four years ahead of us here. And that is a concern. I mean, why would the Chinese be the country or behind the meat? It should be

Speaker 1 (45:55):

By the way that that would be very embarrassing. China leads with it’s like everything happened with this pandemic. I mean, it’s like smell the coffee, but I think this is the way I think sometimes you have to remind the politicians. You have to be like, come on, this is ridiculous. This is ridiculous. Let’s move. It. Let’s move it. Let’s come on. Let’s, you know, let’s go

Speaker 4 (46:26):

A lot of great entrepreneurs in India. We’re doing some fabulous work in the, I mean, I know, you know, you’ve, you’ve worked with some of them, so yeah, I think, I think it’s, the change is coming. It’ll it’ll come from the ground up.

Speaker 1 (46:37):

Yeah. Well, I have no doubt. I mean, we’ve seen the amount of innovation that’s come from India on the technology side, from Indian entrepreneurs on technology. We’re going to see that in the future of food. Right. We were like, for sure, going to see that, um, I know, you know, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve talked to a bunch of friends of mine in India who were like Indian entrepreneurs are ready, waiting, ready to go. I’ve talked to several investors as well in India who were like, who are the Indian entrepreneurs that you would back right now? It’s like, well, mostly the ones that I’ve talked to, but I know that there’s some other great ones too. Um, and so, so it’s just, it’s just the whole, like, you can almost see we’re probably about a year or two way before we just go, Oh, well of course India was going to be one of the leaders in the plant based meat industry. Right. Or the plant based, because it’s not just plant based meat, it’s plant based alternatives. So eggs, dairy, cheeses.

Speaker 4 (47:24):

And I have to put a shout out to some of the, my country abroad, Sri Lanka. And, you know, they’re quite excited about it as well. So you might get a few calls, consequently, this thing from, yeah.

Speaker 1 (47:34):

Hit me up. I’d love to know. I mean, I’ve heard Sherlock has a beautiful country. I have a good friend of mine from Sri Lanka. So, um, uh, yeah, Jan’s neat. I’ve, I’ve abbreviated his name cause his first name is very long. Um, I want to make sure it’s not to do it justice. Um, but he, you know, he, he’s a huge fan of what’s happening in the future, uh, food movement as well. And I know that he’s very interested in helping entrepreneurs as well, so, so I’m happy to connect anyone who wants to connection from Sri Lanka, a good friend of mine. He he’s actively involved in the future food too.

Speaker 4 (48:05):

Oh, great. Wonderful. So Africa anymore. Uh,

Speaker 1 (48:09):

I think you should ask that final question that the audience is dying to know. Let’s see,

Speaker 4 (48:15):

We’ve got a couple of regrets. I mean, you know, we have via associated with, uh, with the incubator and accelerator intranet as well, part of the show. And so we have a lot of startups and entrepreneurs who are listening in today. And so they’re wondering whether you will be open to sort of doing a separate session where you would sort of coach them on pitching and, uh, you know, the sort of experience from a shark tank, you know, maybe a separate session to sort of, you know, the 10, five, 10, 15 things that you would sort of incorporate in a pitch because, uh, uh, you know, they’re very, there’s a very sort of growing startup moment in Sri Lanka now as well.

Speaker 1 (48:55):

Happily happily. Yes. My, my mission, my personal mission, right? This is outside of any company or outside of anything else. My personal mission is to help as many entrepreneurs as I can, um, really think about how to effectively raise money and how to make a positive impact on the planet. And so the more, the more experience that can help the better, obviously I have limited amount of time. So a format like this will be a completely different, but yes, yes. Yeah, yeah. But you know where I can do Q and a for a lot of entrepreneurs. I’m happy to do that. So, so yes. So the answer is yes. Well, let’s figure it out.

Speaker 4 (49:29):

Oh, wonderful. Okay. And so, uh, Ryan on behalf of, of hatch read me who is also a streaming this through multiple channels, uh, as well. Thank you so much for, for being a wonderful host, a guest, uh, so many insights, so many stories. I mean, it’s been a completely fascinating, uh, 45 minutes, I must say. So thrilled to have you, uh, look forward to having you back again as well at some point, but, uh, congratulations on your marriage. And, and I think your dog’s name is Lizzie, right?

Speaker 1 (50:00):

Hey, Eliza,

Speaker 4 (50:04):

Our regards and I hugged her as well for grades.

Speaker 1 (50:06):

I’ll give her a hug when she comes back. She’s gonna, she’s gonna wonder where I am. So she’ll come back and say,

Speaker 4 (50:12):

So, uh, yeah, w w big fans of little doggies as well. So thank you so much again, Ryan, and, uh, have a, have a great weekend and we’ll be in touch.

Pandemic Punditry

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