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Welcome and hello, before starting tonight's event we want to recognize that the verdict was just announced in the Derek Chauvin trial. I imagine that many of you like me, my focus today has partly been very much on this trial and I know that there are strong emotions around it and the verdict and wanna just to pause for a moment and acknowledge that here with you all.
So I'm really delighted to welcome you all to today's Perspectives in Sustainability event, Investing and Entrepreneurship. My name is Wai-Sinn Chan I'm Senior Associate Director of Social Sector Engagement Programs at the Rustandy Center. And I know that many of you have joined us for previous events, but in case those of you are interacting with the Rustandy Center the first time, we are the social impact hub as it is, for people committed to tackling complex social and environmental problems. The Center helps to promote innovation, advanced research and develop the people on practices that can accelerate social change.
I am also a Booth alum, class of 2002 and with my alum hat on, I just wanna say that I continue to be inspired by the really incredible array of social impact interests that students at Booth have, including in a whole different set of range of questions and interest in sustainability. So this Perspectives and Sustainability events series is really designed to help students and the community as a whole, rapport with the most challenging issues that are facing our planet and to understand how to use your MBAs to address these issues.
So during our first session back in October, the Rustandy Center Sustainability Executive in Residence, Daphne Mazarakis, records discussed the many sustainability career paths available to students, and tonight's event, we'll really continue that conversation by digging in further into career opportunities, specifically at the intersection of food, sustainability and innovation. So Daphne will moderate a conversation with a terrific panelists who carved out careers within the food and sustainability space. And we expect that they will explore topics, including how they develop their unique impact investing thesis. What's hot, and what's not in the food in Ag Impact Innovation and Investing spaces and how to stay true to your original mission as you grow as an organization.
So before I introduce our panelists and to kick things off, I just wanna share a couple of quick logistics for today. Our panelists will begin by discussing a series of questions with Daphne and feel free to, we're gonna be organic feel free to ask questions during the conversation. And we will also leave 10 to 15 minutes at the end of the session for Q&A from you. So please plan to also submit those through the chat function in Zoom, I'll try to get to as many of your questions as that time allows.
So I'm excited to introduce our speakers who bring as I mentioned diverse experiences across food and agricultural investment entrepreneurship, supply chain venture funds, and more. Daphne Mazarakis, as I mentioned, is our Executive in Residence for Sustainability at the Rustandy Center. She's also a Strategic Advisor to Grow Forward, a Venture Studio specializing in indoor food production and she's a board member, investor and Acting Marketing Director to LocalCoho, an early-stage land-based operation growing sustainably raised coho salmon.
I'm also delighted to welcome Patti Doyle, who is the CEO of Rumi Spice. She oversees a mission to bring flavorful, ethically sourced and socially responsible spices from Afghanistan to worldwide customers, while catalyzing sustainable rural economic development in Afghanistan. Previously, Patti held a mix of executive and senior marketing roles for Digital Content Platform and a number of food and beverage brands, including PepsiCo and Kraft.
Also delighted to welcome Shayna Harris here, she's Co-founder and Managing Partner, Supply Change Capital and previously Chief Growth Officer of Farmer's Fridge for which I, and certainly our students thank you for what's available in the Harper Center as far as lunch options. Shayna has also advised brands such as Mars, Stonyfield, Unilever, and Starbucks on how to implement strategic sourcing and sustainability programs within their businesses. And she also serves on the boards of Sourcemap, Sitka Salmon Shares and Doselva.
And then finally, I'd like to introduce Michael Lavin, who is the Founder and Managing Partner of Germin8 Ventures. He oversees investing and operations and actively participates on the boards of invested companies. Michael also mentors and is a member of several accelerators and incubators including the TERRA program at RocketSpace and the Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator, 1871, The Good Food Accelerator, Family Farmed and The Hatchery. In his previous life, he was an investment banker and M&A strategist. With that, please join me in welcoming Daphne, Patti, Shayna, and Michael and I'll turn it over to Daphne.
Thank you Wai-Sinn, thank you very much. And hello everybody, welcome.
Wai-Sinn, thank you for acknowledging today's verdict. I know as a panel moderator, I feel a little bit unfocused so I can imagine that there's a lot of emotions and perhaps the same type of feeling amongst many of our attendees. And I'm glad though, that we are moving forward with this panel in light of everything going on because I know all of our panelists personally and the work that they do in the world is to lead impactful work. So I really do believe this is going to be a real treat for everyone and so thank you.
I graduated from Booth in '99, Wai-Sinn already gave a bit of my bio. And so I'm not gonna spend too much more time talking about myself, I'd rather share with you that I know each of our panelists personally, and as I said, they're doing incredible work in the world.
And so I would like if I could ask each of our panelists, and I'll start with Michael, could you introduce yourself, your background, and then give us one thing that you believe about your food and sustainability investing industry that you think isn't talked about enough.
Well, thank you, Daphne really appreciate the opportunity to be here, also a quick shout out to Fabian, I think we have a meeting next week, I see her face out there. (Michael laughs) It's really an honor to be here, so thank you for having me.
I think my intro was already pretty much given but my name is Michael Lavin, I'm the Founder and Managing Partner of Germin8 Ventures. As mentioned, I used to be an investment banker, I've been recovering ever since.
During that time I represented primarily founder and family-owned companies on their exits to the Fortune 500 and tier one private equity firms. And so the way I think about it is I've pretty much been working for founders my entire life. I also have deep roots in the agriculture system myself and have a family company called OSI Group and we make a lot of protein products for various different customers. And I worked all throughout the value chain and sorry Daphne, am I coming across clear or I hear some feedback.
It's okay, it's not great.
Okay, I'll try to sort that out, it might be my jacket. Pardon me, I'm sure no one has ever seen this before when you're on a call. Anyways, so yeah, I started Germin8 Ventures back in 2017. The sort of the genesis was coming from my family company and seeing that it's even if you have the right last name, sometimes it's very difficult to be the change agent in the large… I'm still getting a lot of feedback, should I jump off and jump back on?
Okay, all right, sorry everyone.
Okay, thank you, well this is organic, so work with us here. And just even in terms of logistics I guess I didn't say this, but I'm happy for this to be a bit interactive too. So I'm gonna be kind of looking out for questions and feel free to submit questions in the chat.
So anyway, along with the organic flow, Shayna I am going to turn it over to you and ask you the same thing, if you could introduce yourself, your background and one thing that you believe about the industry that isn't talked about enough.
Great, hi, nice to see everyone.
I've spent my whole career in the food industry and am really passionate about food and the impact it needs to make on our planet for our future.
I first got into food because my grandfather had immigrated to the U.S. because he couldn't make it on his family farm. And so grew up with the stories and journey of his bootstrapping and starting over in America, it was really a part of my fabric. And when I learned that most of the world's poor are farmers and can't feed their families, it was a sector that I became really intrigued by and dove right into after undergrad. So that's been the last 20 years, I've been in for-profit, nonprofit, Fortune 500 and food tech. So kind of all the different incorporations but really what this mission around sustainability and innovation.
So I'm currently the Managing Director and Co-founder of Supply Change Capital which is a seed stage venture investing firm that focuses on the intersection of culture, food and technology. So really have a diversity lens to investing in the food and tech space which I can talk about more later. Previously I was the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Growth Officer at Farmer's Fridge here in Chicago. So I joined the founder when there was a proof of concept and grew the company out including launching all the fridges at Booth in kind of multiple regions. So I've sat on the founder side of the table, through series C and we're gonna talk about that later as well. And then prior to that, I was at Mars. So have worked in kind of a number of different seats in the food ecosystem, but really happy to be here today and to learn from everybody here.
Yeah and I'll put you on the spot. So what's the one thing you believe that--
Oh, forgot about that. Yeah, so it's for as much talk as there is about plant-based and we're all so obsessed with it, only 6% of Americans are vegan. It still is the majority of what America eats every day and I think we forget that. And we all know that meat and animal agriculture contributes to 18% of greenhouse gas emissions and it's critical but I think we just forget how far we have to go on moving the needle and that's why I deeply believe that culture piece is important because we need to be putting out culturally relevant products that appeal to a wide range of consumers. And I think we really have yet to make an impact there.
Great, good insight. Patti, over to you my former Kraft colleague.
Yeah, Daphne and I started our careers post graduate school together and hopefully everyone forgives me for being a Kellogg grad on this call. But yeah, so I am a born and bred Chicagoan and I started my career really like on the marketing research side of things on IRI. And I've always been interested in food which I think comes from being from a ginormous Italian family. And spent a lot of the sort of early years in what I call big food. And so places like Kraft Heinz, PepsiCo, Quaker and a lot of the really large corporate brands and we'll talk about at some point I think how that impacts how I think about food now. But really from that point, took a bit of a leap off and did mostly smaller and private equity back food companies and love that I can take some of the learnings from that and apply them to what I'm doing today, but also apply a lot of that.I think scrappiness and fire that comes with being in startups and scale-ups.
So I run Rumi Spice, I took over the company about halfway through 2019 and was really just sort of getting things underway when this pandemic hit. So it's been a very interesting run for me in terms of really sort of shepherding and now growing our business. Rumi, as Wai-Sinn mentioned, we are focused on importing and selling ethically grown sustainably sourced spices from Afghanistan, which is certainly a really interesting part of the world to be operating in in general and certainly even more so now if you're seeing some of the headlines come out of there.
So we started literally by bringing sort of satchels of saffron back, starting to sell them to high-end chefs in Chicago, started a small retail presence in the Midwest and now are sold nationally in whole foods. So it's been quite a run over the five and a half years we've been around. And for me I'm excited to really sort of champion our next phase of growth as we think about how do we continue to accelerate what we do because the more demand we drive for our products, the more we can impact the people that we really wanna impact in Afghanistan. And for us, that's all about creating jobs for women there, they are involved in our processing and our harvesting efforts. And then also working really closely with the farmers. I always tell people, there is one person between me and every one of our farmers and I hope to continue that as long as we can, because that direct supply chain model is part of what makes our business have an impact.
So that's a little bit about Rumi and how I got here. And I think, cause I know Daphne will ask me, my thing, sort of one thing to challenge everybody to think about is I think, and especially have a lens on it, thinking about the farmers and women in the part of the world I operate is really the importance of private sector investment. And so in our case, a Rumi and investment dollars that come with it, in parts of the world that are facing the challenges that we see in Afghanistan because they can make a tremendous difference in the lives there and can impact stability or women's ability to earn living wages. And I think that thinking about the role that type of investment can play in countries like Afghanistan and similar to what are really important these days.
Great, thank you, thank you. Okay, Michael, take two.
Okay, sorry for the sound issues before, I think I was just talking about my personal background a little bit, so I'll jump ahead to more about Germin8. But I really started, I wanted to start Germin8 mainly motivated because I recognized food and agriculture, that system, is being probably the number one most important lever for sustainability and what we now call as ESGs, right? So among the UN Sustainable Development Goals, I think more than half of them are either entirely or very largely influenced by innovation to food and agriculture system. So that was a big impetus for doing what we're doing.
We a sector focused fund, this is 100% of where we focus our time and our capital is in food and agriculture technologies. We're an early stage investor in this space and there's a few things that make us quite unique. One is we bring a lot of domain expertise. So I mentioned my family company and the unique expertise we bring by virtue of that experience and that arms reach into that network know how and system and resources but we've, the team that I've built is 11 of us, including myself, eight of them are advisors. They're also C-suite level executives and lead scientists from major food and agriculture companies and research institutions around the world. And by virtue of their personal investment in the funds and their personal commitment to the fund on leadership, we have that arm's reach into their systems as well. And so we can drive a lot of impact to the founders and give them virtually every unfair advantage we possibly can without any of the corporate incumbencies or red tape that you often hear about that are problematic among some of the CVCs or the Corporate Venture Capital firms, which we also work with.
But that's basically the advisory board, and then on the investment team there's myself plus two others. And one of them is the Chief Scientific Officer and you might wonder why does Germin8, a Food and Ag Focus Fund have a Chief Scientific Officer? Well, it's actually a person who comes from the medical world and as we see these boundaries breaking down between food, agriculture and medicine, human health and so on, we feel it's important to focus our attention on those solutions that are really clinical grade. And it's important to have a person on the team who can understand that, who's a pathologist by background, and is basically the scientist behind the doctors. And this gives us some unique advantages but also it's an important position to be a leading the food system forward in terms of brokering that conversation that needs to happen between food and medicine and people, or consumers, I should say.
So we bring very unique domain expertise, we're a very diverse and eclectic group people, everybody throughout the organization has been a founder before, so that is really core to our DNA. We see ourselves, I mean, we basically see ourselves as extensions of the teams that we back. We spend an extraordinary amount of time with our founders. That's why we're only invested in seven companies right now and why we're not really the typical VC model.
A typical cadence is doing one or two deals a year. I'm perfectly okay doing zero because that just means we've got to focus more time on our founders. We reserve two thirds of our capital for follow on investment and we also have a pattern of raising sidecar special purpose vehicles to invest alongside our funds in certain investments that allows us not only to double down, triple down, but even more so than that. So we're a very high conviction fund, an investor.
We bring this domain expertise for thinking a lot about impact and we're not anecdotal about that impact either. We like to think about just like you've learned in your venture capital courses probably, we try to model and simulate outsize venture returns and invest where we think we can beat shows, but we think the same exact way in terms of impact as well. We wanna know in the success state of these companies that we're investing in, does that actually move the needle on the impact pathways that we're targeting? If not, then we don't have those impact returns and we choose not to invest. So that's a core part of our philosophy.
We are well known and regarded in the areas of this ecosystem, food and AgTech investing in early stages as being a deep tech, deep science focused investor. And that's basically us in a nutshell.
Great, thank you, Michael, I'm also gonna put you on the spot and what is one thing that you believe isn't really talked about enough in this food and sustainability space?
Yeah, there's probably a lot of things I could say, but one of the things that frustrates me a lot is how people talk about sustainability and the impact profile of their different portfolio companies and those companies or those technologies will never make its way into necessarily the hands of the small holder farmer in the emerging economies, like Subsaharan Africa or Latin America or wherever. And those farmers are very important to our society for our food consumption and our supply chains. And we need to do what we can to best enable them and they're really overlooked.
So a lot of the technologies that you're seeing get a lot of press and mentions are really for our own country or the Western society at large. But I think it's important to try to help those other economies that are also many of them very undernourished as well. And they have significant problems that we don't really have today in our own economy.
Well, thank you for that and that is in some ways kind of related to kind of Patti, what you had said in terms of where you think focus needs to be. So I'm gonna kind of take that question and ask a related question. And it's this general question is what does impact and sustainability mean to you and how is it incorporated into your business model?
But each of you have touched on this already, so I'm not asking you to repeat what you've said. So perhaps if you can really share with us how do you measure, if you've already talked about sustainability or how you wanna impact what are some of the KPIs you looked at? Or what are some of the metrics that you use?
I mean, tell us something new. We don't need to necessarily repeat kind of the business model if you've already said that, so I'm gonna switch it up Patti, I'll kind of start with you. And I think we understand your business model, and so I'm kind of curious how do you measure your impact?
Yeah, so I mean, our metrics are that we use as KPIs what are relatively simple, but they serve us well and my hope too is that will evolve over time a little bit but we look at some really simple things when we think about the impact that aligns with what we wanna do. And it's as simple as charting the number or sort of tracking the number of women that are involved in our processing and harvesting every year, right? Like it's not just about growing it but truly being able to sort of meaningfully expand how many women can be a part of what we do and create employment for them. So that's the first thing.
We measure the wages we pay to the women. So we do have someone in country, so we have someone on the ground in Afghanistan and we do look at what we're able to pay them versus there are not even a lot of jobs these women aren't able to hold and so we will look at what they could make elsewhere and make sure that we are paying. We try to aim for 15 to 20% more than that. So more than what you would even call fair market there. So that's another benchmark for us.
And a third is the number of farmers in our network. We do a fair amount of testing, obviously of our product and not only to meet FDA regulations but a lot of other things to make sure we're bringing in the highest quality product. And so farmers that join our network know this and so once they're in, obviously they are happy to be a part of that as we're a pretty consistent supplier and we continue to grow in place more orders. But we look at it the other way in terms of saying how many more farmers can we bring in and use that as a benchmark.
So they're relatively simple KPIs but they're ones that are measuring the impact directly of what we want to do.
Right, great, and Shayna, I'm gonna ask you, we haven't heard kind of too much about how you're thinking about kind of your fund that you're building. So I'll leave it up to you, can you share with us what does impact and sustainability mean to you as you're embarking on your latest venture or your latest fund and feel free to touch on measurement KPIs.
Yeah, that's great. So we launched our firm late last year in 2020 and we're fundraising right now. So you're getting the ground's eye view into what we're building. We actually have a fellows program and Fabian Gosselin who's on the call right now is one of our inaugural fellows. So we're building all of this out actually now. So I can give you a little bit of a glimpse into what that looks like. I mean, my whole career has really been focused at that intersection of sustainability and innovation. Increasingly over the years, diversity and inclusion has become so critical, as a female in the boardroom, as a female raising money working with farmers around the world. So in terms of what Patti's sharing it's very rare to find a company where farmers are really at the table and center to it, there's a lot of talk out there.
But what I've learned in building out our fund strategy, so we're focused on seed stage investments across 25 companies over the four year lifetime of our portfolio. So we will invest at a more accelerated pace and it is really different to measure impact and sustainability at a fund level than it is at a company level. So I've spent many years doing this at the company level. From ours, I built out all the impact metrics and KPIs for the cocoa program which is now used across all their procurement. But when you're looking at a rolled up portfolio that becomes a little bit different.
So the first thing we've started with or what are the dimensions we're measuring, I think three of them will not be a surprise. You're always going to look at the social, the environmental and the financial, it's just commonly understood language but we're adding diversity and inclusion in it as the fourth lens around impact and sustainability. Because a big focus of our fund is investing in diverse founders in the food space, the food and food tech space that is because most investors and most of the money do not go to diverse founders and are not allocated by diverse investors. So there's a big opportunity here, in venture it's very overlooked. So it's a core part of our fund thesis.
So as we're looking at diversity and inclusion, we're basically looking at who's at the table in terms of who has founded the company and that it all levels. So that will be a pretty straightforward metric for us to measure. Currently since we're pre-investment, we're looking at our pipeline. So 75% of our deal flow are coming from diverse founders and that's without an explicit mandate or going out to the market specifically looking for this, it is just a part of who is in our network.
As we're looking at social metrics, a really important rolled up metric and measurement for us, we'll be looking at income and financial health and distribution. So a really important part of why we're investing in diverse founders for impact is to create intergenerational wealth. And that is going to really dictate not only who we're investing in, but what types of partners we're looking for at the later stage as a company grows and exits. And there's some very interesting conversations, we're at the forefront of there. Because typically what happens is it's acquisition or IPO but there's actually a lot of other vehicles and options coming into the fore, really with this intention of how do we maintain wealth and really focus on wealth distribution as a key impact metric for inclusion and equity in this country and within the supply chains we're operating in.
So those are some very specific things we're looking at that we think can be rolled up metrics we can focus on. On the environmental side, I'm here to learn. We're actually a part of a fellowship called VC Include, which is for female and BIPOC fund managers that are emerging and we have an ESG session tomorrow to think this through. We're also learning from Impact Engine, which is an awesome fund here and from here in Chicago, I've known the founder for a very long time. And part of Impact Engine's mission as an investment firm is to work with other firms to figure out the right way to roll these metrics up because it is different when you do it at a fund level. So very big focus on diversity and inclusion for us and it is the lens by which we're gonna measure our impact, but we're really learning about what are gonna be the best ways and tools to do that. And what KPIs will inspire kind of the most impactful action in our portfolio companies
Sounds like an very exciting inflection point. So Michael, I know that you definitely shared a decent amount about kind of how you think about your investment thesis. So perhaps when it comes to kind of sustainability and impact, what measurements or KPIs do you use?
Yeah, glad that you asked, 'cause there's a lot more I could elaborate on.
So in general, unless you're doing the same thing day in and day out, every single time the same way, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to investing in impact building companies of consequence or measuring that impact. And every company, every investment you make there's a different, especially if it's transformational, there's a sequence to think about. So there's impact at different stages and levels different stakeholders throughout that value chain and throughout that experience. And so we factor into every single investment that we screen and we invest in, it continues to evolve as we have been invested in these companies and continue to build them with the founders.
And so it's a constant living process and it's different every time and it requires a lot of calculus and it's something that we've become pretty good at I think. But like Shayna said, it's something you're always learning yet and something you're always kind of dreaming about because I think it requires, in a lot of ways, knowledge and such but also it requires a lot of creativity. And so it's really, I think that's probably one of the more interesting parts about our job actually but the way we think about impact and sustainability as it relates to the companies that we invest in, we really look for the trifecta.
So these companies that we invest in have to be creating impact in terms of regenerating the earth system, being sustainable in that regard as well as creating economic opportunity for the stakeholders that they're targeting and peripheral stakeholders. So maybe it's the farmers in a lot of cases in terms of upstream agriculture technology. Or it's a life sciences tool set or platform that has a very significant breakthrough that the next gen of life sciences companies can exist on top of, that's also impact that's the commercial impact effectively. And the third leg of that stool, third leg of the stool I'd say is also the people in the communities, driving impact to those people in the communities and such.
But in terms of the fund and our impact and KPIs there, we're very focused on it. It's interesting because we've never had a mandate around it, but we've been quite successful in terms of diversity and inclusion. So about 35% of our founders are female founders, some of them are minority immigrant women founders, so kind of all of the above. Half of our founders are minorities or immigrants and the funny thing is this was accomplished without even really a mandate or trying or any sort of management. It was just seeking out the best and most exceptional founders to partner with and giving them the tools that they needed.
And out of the seven portfolio companies that we've invested in, they've created more than 500 jobs in the last three years. And so there's real economic opportunity that's happening. And that's something that we're really proud of and that we intend to continue investing behind and doing better and better on.
Yeah, so I am going to shift a little bit and I'm gonna ask a question really kind of from the operational perspective. So jumping out of order, we have kind of a contrast with our panelists. So Patti, I believe is in the middle of a raise with Rumi Spice. And when Shayna introduced herself, Shayna talked about taking Farmer's Fridge from the very initial stages through to series D I believe, through series C. So I'd love if Patti and Shayna could contrast, Patti tell us, what is it like to be working in the environment where you're looking for money?
And then Shayna talked to us about what it's like to work within an organization that is just flushed with cash. So Patti, I'll start with you.
Yeah, so, you know, looking for money is always a challenge, I think, at all stages. And certainly I think for me it's been very interesting to do a lot of this virtually. I mean, I know everybody has adapted very quickly during the pandemic, but in terms of certainly just even networking and outreach, that's sort of put its own interesting sort of filter on all of this as well.
But I think in one regard what I love about it is, we are still a relatively young organization and being in the middle of this raise to me is exciting because it always sort of like, while we're selling it reaffirms everything you're doing when you are part of an impact business. So sometimes people will look at me and say like, oh, like, don't you get tired of doing that? And doesn't it sort of wear you out. And I almost feel the opposite because it's so exciting to share that impact you're making or how you're doing it with people.
And frankly, like a lot of the tough questions I get are great because it causes me to think about what we're doing, making sure like either I have a defensible position because of what the decisions are we've made, or maybe think differently about things for that exact same reason. And we are mostly dealing with sort of smaller size investments at this point. So what I also like about that is a lot of just the like, really like interactive conversations and one-on-ones with people that are investing at this level. We're lucky we do have a fair amount of investors that have started off as seed investors and have come back to us this round. So for me, that's also great in terms of affirming what our thesis is and the progress we've made. We have a good amount of work to do, obviously to just continue to deliver on that and our commitments. But those are maybe some of the like higher level points about--
If I read between the lines what I'm hearing is that in many ways, being out there for money just causes you to focus and be really clear on what your message is and what your goal is and focus, focus, focus. And, you know, Shayna, I'm wondering if there is a bit of a contrast. I mean, when you're flushed with money, what's it like? Is it potentially like you all of a sudden feel like you can pursue anything and everything and you risk, you run the risk of lack of focus? I mean, contrast for us.
No, I didn't wanna burst your bubble when I saw the question but it is the exact same thing Patti described, because you have a bigger, more complex organization, more payroll, more money, more problems, you know. So no, it's actually the same thing.
Your focus at each stage is shifting. So you're going from proof of concept, showing product market fit, being able to scale, striving to show profitability. So at each round, those types of metrics are evolving, but from the minute you take venture capital money you're on the clock and you have to achieve a certain set of milestones, or you should want to because that's why you took venture capital money. If that's not the trajectory you wanna be on, then don't take venture capital money and there's lots of other sources of capital, right? You could be slow growth, regional business, and then there are different types of VC, there's impact VC there's,
et cetera, et cetera.
But like in general, I mean, even though I'm sure Patti's got more impact aligned VC, she's still on timeline, you know? So it's the same thing at your later stages to be honest, I mean, at some point, and I wasn't at Farmer's Fridge at this point, you're at your later, later round and you're thinking, okay, well, I'm out 12 months from exit, I'm planning that. And so it's a different set of activities, but you're still always busy, basically thinking about how you're strapped for cash, because you're planning against your runway that you have left.
And I would say actually the biggest challenge over time and the biggest advantage that you can have is how you plan your people and how your people evolve with your business. Because when you start you're going to have more generalists within the organization and as you grow and you're getting to these later rounds, you're needing folks to specialize. And so the magic spot is when you can have early team member members evolve into specialists. So we talked a lot about this over the years, generalists becoming specialists and evolving as the business grows. And I would say that if this is not exactly the question you're asking, but I would say it is a difference as you get into farther rounds, is that everybody, including your CEO is going to have to become more specialized in something. So the CEO in the past may have had to, the founder was like wearing lots of different hats, but wasn't specializing on management and vision and that's basically what they're gonna have to be specialized is like, how do I manage and execute my vision with the team because I'm on the execution timeline? It's different later stage than earlier stage.
So I would say there's definitely differences to the focus of the team and how the team's executing, but the team is still executing against a set of metrics, against a ticking clock. So not a huge difference.
That makes a lot of sense. It's kind of like focus, focus, focus, but with each chapter, the focus might be different but the bottom line is focus and deliver.
Yeah, makes perfect sense. So I'm being a little mindful of the time, I know we wanna keep some extra time for questions. So, well, what I would like to do is we did kind of assemble a set of what we called kind of rapid fire questions that we thought we'd get into kind of some of the trends going on in the industry. So, Ali, I don't know if you wanted to kind of put up the poll. The first question was, it's 2030, and plant-based protein or cell-based protein, which one do you think is making more of a difference?
We'll give folks a few more seconds to cast a vote.
Just fill it out like a scan-tron.
(laughs) yeah, exactly.
Forgot hybrid, but.
All right, still got votes trickling in.
Oh, wait Ali, you're on mute.
Sorry, all right, I'm gonna to share the results.
Great, plant-based, okay. Well, I want each of these are rapid fire questions. So give your POV and in really short tidbits.
So Michael, let's start with you.
I mentioned there's another one called hybrid where it's kind of combination of both. I think that has a lot of promise because cultivated protein hasn't necessarily reached a point where you could economically reach the whole muscle and create the whole product one for one as a substitute, but is component pieces. There's promise there and people do value including more plants into their diet but generally speaking, we're not bullish on cell-based. It is very capital intensive, there's a very lengthy scale of process, no one's really figured it out yet. You're talking about growing these cells in pharma grade bio-reactors that are very expensive and doing it at maybe one gram per liter at the benchtop scale for a 20 liter bioreactor then you've gotta do that at a 100 grams per liter and scale that up to 10,000 liters. And no one's solved that problem, in biology, is not a linear recipe change, it's a dynamic system. So I'm not (mumbles).
Okay, great answer. I'm gonna keep us going here in the interest of time. So Patti, I'm gonna ask you the next question. True or false, block chain technology will transform supply chain transparency?
Yeah, I say true, especially when I think about traceability from my part of the industry and the idea of what we're looking to do from an individual farmer and a flower that produces literally three threads of saffron to bringing it somebody in whole foods. And so I do fundamentally believe it will transform how we think about that.
Very cool, thank you. Okay, Shayna, for you. Ad Tech Center of Excellence, okay, so it's a mouthful.
I had an opinion on that one--
I know, that's why I'm asking you, I saw it. Israel versus Silicon Valley, versus the Netherlands versus the Heartland, versus Ireland, versus New Zealand versus Australia or something that's not listed.
So I say Global South, very bullish on the opportunities. Michael alluded to it earlier, and as well Pattie is doing a lot of work. Fabian actually just wrote a report for us on AgTech Innovation in Latin America, huge opportunities, it's where most of the world is eating. And I think that we need to look at neglected crops and do a lot more innovation in those spaces.
Great, thank you. Okay, next question, Michael, GMO versus non-GMO?
Very pro-GMO, GMO is one of the best levers for sustainability and also for human health. In fact, one of the crop scientists and geneticists at our team was one of the lead scientists in the 1990s who developed golden rice, where they basically modified rice in the emerging markets to deliver more vitamin A into malnutrition, sorry, malnourished communities where kids were going blind early. Not that they should ever go blind, but they were going blind at a young age and it was the leading cause of death. And this was a solution all enabled by GMO.
Great, okay, Patti, recycle versus up-cycle?
This one was a struggle for me, but I think I go up-cycle because for me, what I wanna think about and it's even a question we get is how can we think about some of what we discard even in our own manufacturing process and do more with that. So I don't have the answer to that, but I have a lot of passion around it.
Great, okay and then last rapid fire question, which is, conventional versus regenerative or something else, Shayna.
So obviously regenerative, but that means a lot of things. And so I think that there are a lot of qualifiers, but more than anything, it means farming in harmony with nature. And I think there's a ton of great innovation in this space but there's a lot of conventional wisdom that we should be listening to, that we witnessed over the last century stopped paying attention to. And I'm really pleased to see many of the leading CPG companies starting to get into landscape approaches and rotational farming. And so absolutely regenerative and really excited about all of the forms that are emerging there.
Yes, great, okay, we've got 11 more minutes and I know Wai-Sinn wants to do some closing comments. So we haven't had any questions come up unless I missed them, but I've been really trying to look.
I just wanna make statement if you don't mind. So on the regenerative piece, in particular, just like on the GMO and some others, it's important to recognize that some of these things that you wanna see take hold in the market, you have to support conventional farmers to transition to those practices. So, it's not an either/or paradigm, it's you need to create the economic opportunity and the incentive system to drive that transformation. And right now, I mean, as it always, actually farmers are buying their inputs at retail, selling at wholesale, they're price takers on the commodity spot market. And so they're in, and by the way they're underbanked, they're under-insured, labor has risen over the years, prices basically remained the same for many commodities since the 1970s. So they're not in a good position to deliver on all the things that consumers want today. And so if you want them to transition into that stuff and you want sustainability, you wanna check every single box, the consumers are going to have to help drive that shift and appreciate that.
I think it depends where you're looking and I 100% agree, I've worked in farming systems for a very long time and my grandpa couldn't make it on a conventional farm. So I totally hear what you're saying. I think you have to do it depends where you're looking at what type of crops, supply chains as well. So if you're looking at Global North commodity supply chains, absolutely and we're paying rock bottom for corn and all of the byproducts there like sugar, is wreaking havoc on our health so for sure. If you're looking at small holder systems, many times you're finding regenerative or regenerative-ish systems already existing, unfortunately because you can't afford to buy fertilizers, pesticides, et cetera. So I think, yeah, you're right to call out, there's a ton of gray area there, and it really also depends on what type of crop system you're looking into and what geography and I'm sure Patti has some very good firsthand experience on that.
Patti, do you wanna make any kind of final comments? I do wanna open it up to see if anybody wants to raise their hand or ask any questions, otherwise we can keep going, but I did wanna at least pause just to give the students--
Yeah, there's no problem.
Are there any questions from the audience? Okay, it looks like Fabian. Please take yourself off mute and thank you for asking.
I'll ask one question, so first thanks everyone for this conversation, it was very insightful.
My question goes related to what something that Michael said at the beginning in terms of some of the emerging markets small growers not having access to the breakthrough technologies that we're seeing today.
So my question towards that, I mean you can answer that Michael or whoever in the panel as well, but how do we bridge that gap so that we kind of help those small growers or those emerging markets get those technologies, what needs to be done?
Yeah, I think there's a lot that needs to be done from a lot of different constituencies. I mean, investors, different stakeholders, there's a lot of different types of technologies that can intervene in those systems and kind of provide some of the crop inputs that Shayna was mentioning, so that they have access to that. A lot of it is just solving the access problems also access to the export markets.
And I mean, maybe a good example, maybe an interesting example would just be a company that we invested in, which is called Enko Chem, which is a small molecule discovery platform that's discovering safe, reliable chemistry that can be used at magnitudes, less application rates. So far below the amounts we use, even in our Western society for actually a lot of unsafe chemistry and it's reliable. And they're finding these small molecules that are reliable and economic price point that can be accessible to the small holder farmers and in these regions. And that's why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested in it alongside us, and why they're also subsidizing the commercial entry into some of those markets when that time comes.
And so I think in that key study, it's about finding these technologies that do support the trends that we wanna see in terms of sustainability and regenerative agriculture but also solve the access problem, create an economic opportunity for those stakeholders being small holders, and find the right partners to do this with who can help make this frictionless and help support this and get the right momentum behind it as well. And so I hope that was a good example of it.
But I actually think an interesting area that we want to explore in Subsaharan Africa and India, and some parts of Southeast Asia and Latin America are these marketplaces where you change the financial paradigm for some of the farmers or their access to these different inputs even directly, or access to knowledge and in terms of agronomy and what choices to make when you're working throughout the season.
Panelists, does anybody have anything to add? Or students, are there any other questions? Okay, well then I would like, since we're getting close to the top of the hour, I would like if each of our panelist could kind of leave us with either an action or a provocative thought that either we as an audience, as students can take away and go do, or you can kind of take it from an you're giving this to a entrepreneur or to a fellow investor.
So I'll leave it up to you, who you kind of want the audience to be, but leave us kind of with a provocative thought for all of us to kind of think about, so we can close this panel in a bow and just really appreciate all of your insights. Shayna, I'll start with you.
All right, so I'm used to working very collaboratively even in like competitive environments and venture traditionally is a pretty competitive space. So we keep getting this question of who's your competition and how are you gonna win the deal, yada, yada yada. And I don't enjoy that type of leadership. And so for Nora, me and my co-founder, and I, it's really not about competition it's about collaboration and we very much rooted core values in that for our firm. And that is actually winning us allocation and deals because founders are appreciating it as well. And we're coming to the table with some really exciting co-investors. So I think for me, I don't know if it's, maybe it's provocative in some circles because there's a certain type of leadership in this space but it really is about collaboration. And I think that's, at the end of the day what's gonna kind of help us all get there.
I like it, thank you. Patti?
So mine's going to be an action and certainly related to the part of the space I'm in and why I do what I do, but I would challenge each of you, to think about how you spend your dollars and thinking more on sort of a consumer level maybe than an investment level right now. But make purposeful decisions when you go to the store whether it's, don't care, food, clothing, anything like that, make a conscious choice about where you put your dollars and try to use those dollars to make an impact. And even if it is as simple as what I'm doing, a jar of spice or something like that, enough of those actions will make an impact and can change a lot of trajectories. So I just encourage you to think about each of those purchase decisions when you can.
Great, we will definitely use our dollars spice-fully.
So far, I haven't heard anything provocative actually that I would actually disagree with but maybe there's others that wouldn't. But I suppose something that might be provocative sometimes you hear VCs and investors in general trying to capture as much of the equity as they can per dollar, that they invest in these companies. It's common, right, that's the incentive buy low, sell high, whatever, but it is very important to protect the founder stake. They are the DNA of these companies, they are who evolve and change with the business throughout every lifecycle stage. If they're a really amazing founder especially, and their teams, and they need equity themselves in order to have any stop, to also share and track talent. And so these are very important tools and basically what I'm getting down to is we do not invest in companies where the founder does not have enough ownership stake. That is simply because we do not want them burnt out of the cap table by the next round or the rounds after, AIB often top them up. And when it comes down to bottom line is we back founders, we don't back other VCs, period.
Yeah, I love it. And we are now kind of one minute before so I wanna say thank you. Each of you have brought kind of your unique lens and I mean, Michael, I'll disagree with you, I think everything was extremely provocative and I am so glad that each of you shared with us kind of your unique beliefs from your experiences. So I just wanna thank you so much for bringing all of your perspectives to this panel. And so thank you from me, and Wai-Sinn, I will turn it over to you to close us out.
Thanks so much Daphne and to Patti, Shayna and Michael, for, I was gonna say an engaging discussion, but I now feel also, I need to say an engaging and provocative conversation tonight. And thanks to everyone for tuning in.
Before leaving today, I just wanted to share some information on upcoming Rustandy Center events and offerings and registration can be found for these events on our Events page, right? So Daphne, if you haven't gotten enough tonight, Daphne has some office hours throughout this month and next month and we encourage you to sign up for one-on-one time with her. And then moving into the realm of nonprofit board service, our virtual On Board conference is ongoing through this month and next month as well. And this Thursday is our next session where the focus is on building inclusive approaches to leadership and nonprofit board service. And then we also have an upcoming innovating for social equity panel with the intersection of religion and business, or another example of a diverse array of programming that we have this spring. And then finally, if your schedule your final exam schedules on file, please join us for the 2021 John Edwardson Social New Venture Challenge Finals which are happening during Finals Week. So with that, I'd like to thank you all and we look forward to seeing you again sometime soon.
Great, thank you again, everyone.
On Tuesday, April 20, the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation hosted the third session in the Perspectives in Sustainability event series, "Investing and Entrepreneurship." Panelists discussed the intersection of food, sustainability, and innovation, investing in food and agriculture technology and across supply chains, and sourcing sustainable investments.
- Daphne Mazarakis, '99, (Moderator), Sustainable Food and Entrepreneurship Executive in Residence, Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation; Food and Sustainability Entrepreneur and Advisor
- Patti Doyle, CEO, Rumi Spice
- Shayna Harris, Cofounder and Managing Partner, Supply Change Capital
- Michael Lanvin, Founder and Managing Partner, Germin8 Ventures
This conversation explored climate change mitigation and sustainability efforts at Waste Management, including its waste reduction initiatives, among other topics.Perspectives in Sustainability: Fireside Chat with Jim Fish, '98, CEO of Waste Management
Finalists will compete for at least $100,000 in cash prizes at the SNVC virtual finals event on Tuesday, June 2.16 Teams Advance in the 2020 Social New Venture Challenge