Make a Gift
Nominations Across Five Categories


Submit Nomination

For a world that is safer, cleaner, and fairer
    45 min read

    [S2:Ep #13] Cutting-edge next gen food

    Featured Image

    Watch mind blowing initiatives in the next gen proteins space with Tommaso Di Bartolo, founding partner of Awesm Ventures, along with industry fellows Vi Nguyen, ESG, sustainability & investment specialist, Research Director at Asia Research & Engagement, and Ahmed Kahn, a Biologist passionate about food of the future and founder of CellAgri, hosts two passionate game-changers in the next gen proteins space: Shraddah Bhansali, a Sustainability Entrepreneur, Founder of Candy & Green + Candy Club| Forbes 30 under 30, 2018, Co-Founder of Evo Foods; and Brett Thompson, Co-Founder and CEO of Mzansi Meat Co.

    TopFloor: Where handpicked startups present sector-specific innovations to a jury of industry fellows



    In Season 2, recognized world-class Researchers, Scientists, Faculty Members, Senior Executives, Experts, Chefs, Investors and Entrepreneurs from around the globe, engage in strategic exchange of views and share startling intel on viable transformative innovation in Agriculture, Food and Beverage, zooming in the next gen proteins space.

    Topfloor is where inspiring and passionate game changers, visionary entrepreneurs share startlingly impressive intel on food of the future with a panel of experts.

    With Special participation of



    [Industry Fellows] Topfloor: S2:E13 

    Vi Nguyen

    Ahmed Khan-1

    Vi Nguyen
    Ahmed Khan
    Social Media Consultant at Tok the Vote | Digital Marketing | Growth + Branding | Visual Storyteller | Content Creation

    Writer | Passionate about the future of food | Helping biotech companies communicate their products through stories


    [Startup Entrepreneurs] Topfloor: S2:E13 

    Brett Thompson

    Shraddha Bhansali

    Brett Thompson
    Shraddha Bhansali
    Co-Founder Mzansi Meat Co. | Co-Founder Credence Institute Beta Hatch
    Sustainability Entrepreneur | Co-Founder & COO EVO Foods| Founder, Candy & Green + Candy Club| Forbes 30 under 30, 2018



    Serial entrepreneur w/ 2 exits, author, advisor, faculty, investor.
    Tommaso Di Bartolo


    Key points:

    • Crickets: a great horizon of opportunities in a growing market worldwide
    • Standing out in the shelves as “clean protein” is the way to go
    • Innovation and automation are key to promote next gen proteins growth



    Episode's 🔖 Transcription

    Tommaso: Super excited today on October 29 to kick off our season two episode 13. Well, what is a Top Floor? Very simple. We do select during the year handpick startups that present sector specific innovation to a jury of industry fellow. Well, what does it mean and what sector? Specific next gen protein is what we have been focusing on since the end of last year. What are we going to do here today? We have two amazing entrepreneurs that joined us from around the globe, Shraddha and Brett. Shraddha Bhansali, a sustainable entrepreneur, Founder of Candy & Green + Candy Club| Forbes 30 under 30, 2018, Co-Founder of Evo Foods, an innovative startup in next gen protein. I’m very curious to hear more about that. Thank you so much again for joining. 


    And we have Brett. Brett Thompson, Co-Founder and CEO of Mzansi Meat Co. What is Mzansi Meat? They produce cultured meat next gen proteins from cells. They are pioneering biology, engineering and ethical values were major drivers for us to shortlist them to participate in our series. That's the reason why we have with us today on board. What a pleasure to have you here, Brett. 

    On the other side of the table, like we like to say here in the Bay area, we have Vi Nguyen and Ahmed Kahn. Vi Nguyen, ESG sustainability and investment specialist research director at Asia Research and Engagement. What a pleasure, Vi. Thank you for your time. And Ahmed Kahn, a biologist passionate about food in the future and founder of cell agri, a research in insect platform focused on cellular agriculture. Ahmed, thank you so much for joining. 


    Plant based eggs


    Without further ado, I would like to kick off with you Evo Foods, please take it from here. 


    Shraddha: Okay, wonderful. Thank you for this opportunity for me to introduce Evo Foods. You did a great job introducing my background, but I would like to get into a little bit more about me and why I actually started Evo Foods. So my background is actually in entrepreneurship and hospitality. I have a very, very, very close relationship with food, and growing up, I grown up a vegetarian and I'm part of this community in India called Jen's, and we believe in non violence. So growing up, I had a lot of these teachings and the reason I got so fascinated by food was because I felt like it was such a beautiful holy experience. But then just the thought of eating animals just didn't sit right with me, which is why I launched my first restaurant, which was a plant based vegetarian and vegan cafe in Mumbai. 


    Then from that, what I realized is I wanted to increase my impact, be able to sort of not only change the food on 110, 100 plates, but do it worldwide. And that's actually one of the reasons my co founder, Kartik and I came up with Evo, we're both impact focused entrepreneurs. 


    Evo is born from our need to basically help the planet to give the planet a better protein source that is sustainable, ethical and affordable. So the reason we picked egg was we found some really shocking statistics about AIG and how it's bad for you. And these are certain things that you don't see why everyone knows, why egg is good for you. But did you know that one egg has the same amount of cholesterol as three Big Macs? Which is crazy, right? Which is a really high percentage. 


    So the problem with the current tank was because there was a lot of cholesterol. There's a lot of antibiotics that are pumped into the, especially, the Indian poultry industry is very notorious for its use of antibiotics to scale up production. Then of course, another was the emissions that the poultry industry was creating. And all of these were big problems that we wanted to solve. That's why we came up with Evo, which is a plant based liquidator that can use it to make omelets and scrambled it has the same protein content as an egg. It has all the branched chain amino acids, a lot of the micronutrients, it's lower in calories and in fat than a regular egg. And we've also enhanced it with vitamin d3 and b12, which a lot of Indians are deficient in. So we didn't only sort of seek out to make an egg, we wanted to make a better egg. So how do we do this? Michael founded. Kartik and we both have an Indian heritage. One thing that we're very proud of is a crop biodiversity in India.


    India has one of the biggest varieties of legumes and beans available in the world which as  worldwide are used to make plant based protein sources. So, we basically use this indigenous plants, which are very readily available in India. We combine it with cotton, a cutting edge technology to make Evo eggs. Okay, the market is really big, and it's growing as you can see on all the eggs on our screen to just get into it very briefly. In India, the market for eggs is 1.21 point, 3 billion by 2023. 


    The US has seen a net 190, 2% increase in the growth of eggs year on year. And overall our beachhead market just to start off with in India for our plant based proteins are our egg plant based proteins. And it's something that will really work in India. And one of the main reasons that we're really excited about launching an egg in India as opposed to other alternative animal proteins is because egg is kind of a gray area in India. As you know, in India, religious sentiment is very strong. So something like beef is banned. 


    Other things like pork are religious topics. That's when something like egg comes along, which is sort of a gray area, which is considered both vegetarian and non vegetarian. And in a market, which has the largest vegetarian population in the world, which is again very protein deficient, egg is something that's sort of a very easy gateway product to introduce the Indian customer to not turn into plant based protein. How do we make our product? Well, we use three indigeneous in crops. We use the mung bean, we use chickpeas and we use pea protein to create our plant based eco liquid. 


    Our product is high in protein, low in fat, zero in cholesterol. And the best part is it has really strong margins. We can make it for one third of the price because of our production capabilities in India and having all the entire supply channel mapped out in India, we're able to produce this product at one third of the price as global competitors have grown so far.


    We just graduated from the big idea ventures accelerator this month, which has been amazing, we've been able to raise funds from Ryan Bethencourt Vedge Invest, Dr. Sandia, Shri Ram and many others we've been fortunate to be featured in a lot of great articles and we're currently a part of the food bytes by Rabobank. Our team consists of Karthik Dikshit, who is my co founder and also the CEO of our company. There's me and then there's a research scientist deep debate, and we also have a great board of advisors with us, with Stephanie and and Brian Betancourt, this is all about our company Evo, we hope you'll help us revolutionize plant proteins in India. We are currently hiring and we are also raising our pre seed rounds. So if you are interested in any of those, you can definitely get in touch with me or Kartik.


    Global competitors


    Tommaso: Perfect. Thank you so much for that great presentation. Very clear, very appealing, really curious to have a bite of what I saw on your plate, so congratulations and also great in your time. Well, I would like now to pass the ball to maybe starting out with Vi. What do you think? What are your questions? You're on Evo?


    Vi: I'm really actually very impressed that you can make it a third of the price of your global competitors. And I wanted to clarify that because you're doing the protein isolation processes within India as well as the manufacturer of the end product, so then therefore, there's no logistical shipping costs involved there or is it something else that's involved to you?


    Shraddha: That's one of the things. So, one is other raw products come directly from the farmers who were well connected through a lot of our other channels, and some of our investors who have that back end. So that makes us very price competitive. And most of our products actually are sourced from India. So I think around 95% of all the ingredients are actually Indian sauce. So that really brings our costs down.

    Vi: Yeah, that's quite impressive. And so I follow on in question, and I know that India has had some quota restrictions on the imports of pulses, in the hope that you will raise local prices up. So how are you finding that? How are you factoring that potential costs? I mean, there's been a lot of backlash from other countries who are producing pulses and legumes, you know, have you factored in the risk of this continuing? forwards? And how have you factored in the additional cost if there had been any? And what has been the additional cost to you?

    Shraddha: So obviously, right now, we're at violet scalea nd we are figuring out our ad scaling, what our margins will be. But having said that, our entire story, our entire company is actually based on being an Indian product. So we were never looking to buy from African or any other foreign, like imported beans. We wanted this to be a product that was built by Indians and which is why we are using all the farmers right now that we've contracted with are all Indian farmers. Contracted rates are pretty great, like a global standard. But of course, right now we're doing pilot trials, we haven't reached scale yet. So that would be a bit difficult to comment on in the future, how that would affect us. But currently, we feel like we're in a very good space, and we don't feel the pinch from this.

    Vi: Okay, are you going to be selling into just the Indian market, but I believe you also want to go global and into the US, right? 


    Shraddha: So currently, since India is a backyard, it's the best place to like launch the product and make sure that we perfected it before we start exporting it to other countries. Actually, one of the reasons that we're initially focusing on India is this product is a nice, cold chain. So we want to make and we're actually working with our r&d team for the second version of the product. It will be ambient stable and ambient stable in India is like 40 degrees Celsius. Once we're able to do that, that will really allow us to be able to then look at global shipping and all of that. 


    So currently, the reason that we're focusing on India's to get the product 100% there. And then the second step before we can launch globally, which will be by the end of 2021. When we look at the US market will be once able to get an ambient stable.

    Vi: Right, and what it's a third of the price of your competitors? What is the cost going to be compared to an egg? Okay, so that's my benchmark, right?


    Shraddha: Yes. So, for launching a pilot scale, currently, the facility that we've gotten under sort of costs that we have considered, we are able to match the price of organic eggs in India right now. And what is that premium to a regular battery caged because that is still factory farming, and that is still how the bulk of our eggs are produced. So in India, a regular egg could be anywhere between 10 to 15 rupees and organic egg would be between 25 to 35 minutes.


    Vi: That's not too bad actually. Because I mean, under that, just going from my own work battery to cage free is about 25% to 30% premium in a very developed market, such as North America. So if you are not too beyond that to have this as an alternative it's quite impressive. And if you can get it to scale, I think that would really, really come down.


    Shraddha: In other foreign markets, we can definitely match at a larger scale. Our goal is to be an affordable protein source. So it would sort of match around the price range of an actual egg in those countries.


    Vi: Yeah, I'm really excited about the product especially because of the potential growth within a market such as India. I mean, eggs are like the first cheapest protein source. And you know, it has such potential and it's been growing quite exponentially in the Indian market, and I'd be really interested to see how you react to send that to the rest of Asia and kind of leverage off your presence, so close to the rest of Asia. And I wanted to know, actually, the last question I have is, what is your edge against a big competitor such as just which is quite well known now? And they're expanding globally quite aggressively. 

    Shraddha: Of course. And you know I think that they do very well, they paved the way for their company, and this whole plant alternative, plant based egg idea. But again, one of the things that sets us apart, especially in India, is one understanding  of how India eats, which I feel is very different from how a lot of other countries eat, because there's a lot of religious factors involved. And other than that price point, because Indians are very price sensitive. 


    It's a growing economy, the middle class is growing, but again, they're the most price sensitive consumers, so to be able to pay what  just even reduces their price to be able to pay that amount, that's not possible for them. And also so we're not only competing in terms of price, right? What we're also doing is we do a lot of fortification with our product, with our eggs. So we're not trying to be an egg alternative, we're trying to be a better egg. 



    Tommaso: The more we dig, the more interesting it's getting. Thank you so much.  Ahmed, what are your thoughts?


    Ahmed: Yeah, that was a great overview of Evo foods. That was fascinating. So I want to go back to how India has a rich and vast range of indigenous plants that many other companies and researchers hadn't even had the chance to explore yet.


    Have you considered the idea of looking deep, digging deeper into this wide range of crops and vegetables that could perhaps even enhance the properties even further and perhaps a database that could be leveraged by other companies even down the line?


    Shraddha: Oh, my God, totally. So we don't save this yet. But on the back end, we actually have a database. So the poser Research Scientist actually had that as well. So we have a database of all indigenious, like different types of chickpeas and beans, and all of these things, and on their different functions. So we look at their jelly mission. So basically, we already had that database and in the future we’ll use it so that we can improve our timelines. And then also, at some point, maybe we could also help other companies with it.


    Ahmed:That's gonna be fascinating. And you know that to jump on to what you mentioned the idea, you're right, that it can be a gray zone framework that comes to what is vegetarian, what works for religious sentiment as well. So I do think you are messaging right now becoming a better egg.  How are you communicating to the overall public? That this is what is as nutritious if not better than the normal egg? How can you communicate to those who wouldn't have a normal plant based substitute at the same time? How are you communicating that message?

    Shraddha: So, a couple of things here and so I'll answer this question first from an India standpoint, and then a global standpoint, because I think those are very different. So in India, when I see this is a better egg, there are a lot in India, we're not targeting your vegetarian population, we're targeting people that eat egg. Our first target will be people who eat organic eggs and are looking for a better egg, and have already eaten some form of an egg before and are looking for a better alternative to that. And we're messaging to them that we're better. Because we have the same amount of protein, we have zero cholesterol, there's no animal cruelty. And even in terms of our environmental impact, we're better. And we're at the same price as regular organic egg. So in that way, our value proposition would be propped up against your organic egg initially. And that's how we're going to put the better egg value proposition for the Indian market. Because unfortunately, in a country that's still developing as much things like environmental impact are as important as we are, they don't drive purchase decisions yet. 


    So we have to be very cognizant about what it is that the Indian customer really cares for. And from all our market studies that's the area that they're most interested in about the benefits that they're getting from it. So that's what we're going to focus on. And from a global standpoint, when we say that this egg is better for me, for you, it comes not only in the form of “Oh, this is a better egg not just for me, but also for my impact on the world”. And that's what we're going to focus on more when we look at what more Western countries.


    So  when we're planning to launch in the US, that's going to be a message there. But like I said, that's something that would be very like careful about admission, which is why we see that if you want to enter India, you need to understand the sentiment of Indians, which is very good. Friend, I guess from a lot of other countries,

    Ahmed: Hey, thanks for asking my questions. 

    Tommaso: Awesome. Thank you so much. The more we listen, the more questions I think I have.  A couple of questions from my side. Why US as a next step before China? What are your thoughts there?


    Shraddha: You know, honestly, right now the reason that we're looking at the US market is it already has a customer base that's looking for plant based eggs. So there's a proven market over there already. And then apart from that, actually, a lot of our investors, and a lot of our just contacts are based over there. So it's much easier for us to build out a network that's more sustainable in the US currently, just because of the connections that our company has. So those two would be the biggest points. And also, I feel that the US market just has a bigger market size, we believe, than China right now. Not in terms of population, just in terms of proven sales.


    Tommaso: Okay. And in terms of your go to market in India, do you mind expanding a bit about what your tactics are there? I heard a couple of interesting lines of reasonings, in terms of positioning, which I found very interesting. And I learned right now, the difference between India positioning versus others. And the go to market itself. What are your thoughts there?

    Shraddha: Of course, so my background is actually like I said, in the hospitality industry. And we have something called the National Restaurant Association of India, which I'm on the board for the youth committee. So basically, what we've done  it's kind of like the Beyond Meat strategy, where we've gone to a lot of the best restaurants and chefs in the country and we have done contracts with them. Where they're going to launch it to the public, to the restaurant. So that's the first go to market strategy where we're going to be in a lot of chain restaurants and hotels, which we've already had those all signs and that's good to go as soon as we launch. And then the second approach is direct to consumers through our own website, on b2b through Amazon fresh, through something called Swiggy, which is India's Uber Eats, where they also deliver like fresh food, like things to cook.

    Tommaso: Very interesting. So let me then ask you directly retail, is this not on your books right now? And your strategy right now? No? And if so why not? I'm curious to hear that. Because  here we are picking brains and sharing it with the world so others can learn from that. So why not? Right? It's very interesting.

    Shraddha: So one of the main reasons is, India doesn't have a great cold chain, supply chain, it's not as developed as maybe the US. We've actually been talking to a lot of other players, like in the dairy industry that work with cold chain. And they actually absorb a lot of loss because or, and they can afford it because they're so highly funded. But when we did the mathematics, it just didn't work out for us to put a cold chain product in retail. So that's why initially, we want to go the b2b route and direct to consumers so we can control the supply chain as much as possible. And then by the end of 2021, when we're able to get it ambient stable, which is really important for retail in India, that's when we want to go into retail, only want to focus on something that we know will be a huge cash read for us.

    Tommaso: And in terms of forecast, if you compare the two channels, the b2b route versus the online, you guys are in sales already or sales model...


    Shraddha: We haven't launched the product yet. So we have a lot of agreements with restaurants to launch with them as soon as the product is out, because it's such a new product, they're very excited to be some of the people to get the first rights to use the product. But so we have a lot of all eyes for future sales. But no, we don't have any stands yet. We're launching by the end of this year.

    Tommaso: This is always a good sign  when you hear a presentation and then at the end is “Oh, you guys don't have the product yet on the market”. So you've presented in a very appealing way. Congratulations. So, you have a letter of intent of the table for your b2b strategy and then you plan an online strategy basically direct to the consumer. Have you validated anything there? Or is this just based on assumptions that this might work? What are your thoughts there?


    Tommaso: So honestly, one of the best ways that we did market testing surveys is we did a couple of runs with a restaurant where we put this on the menu to understand how customers would buy them. And we saw some really great traction. So we have like our website up where people can sign up and we've gotten a lot of signups, so in that way we know that there's a lot of demand for the product, and people are very excited about it. But I mean, of course until we launched there's no real concrete way of seeing that. Yes, the product has a demand for it. We believe it does from all the research we've done and on all the market testing we've done.


    Tommaso: Perfect. Now before we switch over to Brett, one last question, because you mentioned that and I think this is very relevant that in the stage of a startup that is about to launch, you are fundraising and expanding your team. Do you mind doubling down just real quick on the fundraising side? For the audience here that is watching? You said an error on the receipt wrote, what was it?


    Shraddha: So we're just raising up receipts currently. So we're raising a million more out of which we have 500 k already committed. We're looking to close it by mid November. And so we're gonna raise o. Yeah, and for any more information, you can just email me and I will definitely get back in touch with you. And the minimum check size we're looking at is 50,000. 


    Using cells to grow meat


    Tommaso: Awesome. So you heard it guys out there, very interesting value propositions and Evo from India. Let's move into the next most potential opportunity here with Brett Thompson, co-founder at Mzansi. I’m really curious to hear more. 


    Brett: Yes, also sorry that it's a difficult name to pronounce, it's a lot easier down here where I start to say, so that in South Africa Mzansi which sends me co which is the company that I've co-founded with Jay funderbolt, also based in South Africa. Mzansi just means it's a colloquial term. It's colloquial for South Africa. It's a name that we've got 11 official languages in South Africa, English, Afrikaans suited to autostick causes really you can keep going. It's a name that kind of comes, anybody would be able to know and understand and recognize. So that's one of the reasons why we sort of chose it. Because we have quite a diverse country. And we want a name that speaks to that diversity. 


    I also wanted to just sort of highlight so the our tagline is making meat in Africa, we really want to we off as it was in India, we are in Africa, we are in South Africa, we are making sure we're using, we want to be using ingredients and why not in Africa, in South Africa. And our focus is going to be at the South African and then African markets. And making I think it's just something that I want us to be, to people to know that we're making food, it's not a science experiment. This is food that we want people to eat. 


    My background is I wasn't born vegetarian or whatnot, or for any other reasons. But some 10, 15 years ago, I decided to stop eating meat and got really interested in the reasons behind it. I was involved in animal advocacy for a long time. But what I did my day job for the past roughly 10 years working one of South Africa's largest plant based meat companies, that was sort of my day jobs, fry family food CO, and selling plant based meats into South Africa and the rest of the world. And it's just been something that I've been super passionate about finding and trying to get those alternative proteins. And now it's quite nice to not be in an alternative protein, I like to think it's a protein space, we're making meat. And we want people to know that that's what it is. I mean, I want to highlight on this slide, I won't be going into too much detail, but you guys can kind of see from the slide component. But what do we really want to be focusing on is our purpose.


    Firstly, we want to be the first to market in South Africa and Africa, we are pioneering this in a space, there's no one else doing it on the African continent and cultivating needs to our knowledge. And we've been pretty local about being involved in this and no one's sort of put up the hand and said we're also doing and so we're the first ones doing it. So it is exciting. There's opportunities. But there's a lot of challenges that I will bring up a little bit later. Our firstproduct that we are looking to get to market is going to be a beef burger. It's following the market, what the other folks have been doing around the world. There's sort of benefits and whatnot for that. And I know no other discussions that you can have on the type of species that we're looking at. But bovine is where we want to be at the moment just to start.


    I think the first mover advantage has been something that we've enjoyed quite a bit in South Africa, there's been a lot of interest that people have reached out to us, without us having to do much. And not to say that we're being lazy down south, but it's just people are excited that someone is doing it in Africa and we're happy to be that first person. This is just quickly about the team. Myself and Jay who I mentioned are the co-founders. Our research department is headed up by Dr. Angela butters. And in upsee who's also got a nice food service background like Shraddha has. She's making sure that we make stuff that the taste is going to be important. And then Taz is hitting up the making sure I don't spend too much money. So that's the team. 


    I'll be quite open about it, we are still looking for more r&d folks, that is one of the challenges as I think being in South Africa, trying to get more people into this biotech space. But r&d science focuses  is where we really are looking to hire. So if there's anyone listening and wants to have a come spend some time in Cape Town, it's a beautiful place. And please get in touch. I think we were highlighting the problems that we're facing. And I like the fact that South Africans eat tons of meat. Our National Heritage Day has been renamed to Friday, which means barbecue day. So it's not like everybody thinks that they can eat a lot of meat. It's ingrained into our culture. It's part of the culture of South Africa. And it's a challenge and an opportunity that I think it's a big market that we want to address. And it just shows you that people are hungry, and it's going to grow.


    South Africa's population is going to get to 71 million and the rest of Africa is also going to grow. And we want to be playing in that space, and providing accessible protein. Like another slide earlier, to those folks, South Africa is definitely following the trend, like the rest of the world in terms of being a bit more conscious. But I was super interested in hopefully, we'll chat more about the comparisons like in India and South Africa, where we don't most of the people aren't available to say I want to choose where my food comes from. And we want to address the fact that we want to get food that people don't, they don't have to make a choice, it just happens to be healthier, sustainable, etc. So that's where we want to be playing. But it's a big market that we want to address. I've kind of probably touched on a little bit of this. I think something that's pretty key that we want to sort of get involved early is one of the things in South Africa, and I'm assuming the rest of Africa, but we haven't done the research, but is the lack of understanding of what cultivated centered agriculture. 


    Salvation is the conflict often with Beyond Burger etc. So we've got an opportunity to shape the discussion early, which we are already doing, we are already engaging with the media. So what does this take experience, we want them to know that this is just a more innovative way of getting food to the table. And so that's the challenge of not knowing if no one knows the stuff about what we're doing. But also, it's an exciting prospect. And the media is just quite interested to talk to us. 


    So somebody starting a cell based company in another country, developed would have may have had the same experience. I think I've addressed some of these things. But I really want to hone on the talent, talent acquisition it is obviously difficult to get. South Africa's got a very developed bio industry involved in cancer research and sports industry, for example. And we're trying to compete with those people to come get involved with this crazy idea called cellular agriculture. And I think that's something that we're looking for help with. And that's sort of the call to action out there to you folks, is to help us get more talent to bolster our ranks already, and spend some time in our lab.


    I think I did it in 10 minutes. So I think that that's pretty much it. And I also just want one other thing, we in terms of the funding aspect we've got, we are very much at the beginning of our journey. And it's an exciting, but a tough one. But we've also got the likes of Ron Betancourt, who's given us our first check, and just an amazing person that sort of, if you can just hold on to his energy for a bit, you've done well. So yeah, I think that's it.  Get in touch with me. And thank you very much.


    VC space and the company’s approach for the future


    Tommaso: Thank you so much, Brett. Thank you so much for sharing this, the challenges and the highlights and emissions. This time I want to start with Ahmed. Ahmed, what are your thoughts?


    Ahmed: Hey, that was a great overview. Thanks Brett for sharing that. Well, the first thing that came to my mind is the idea of using cells to grow meat, that's a very technical and scientifically intense process. Many of the early companies that entered the field had to look at covering all these major bottlenecks all in house by themselves. The field is a few more years older than that now, is that the same approach you and your team is looking at or looking to harness your attention on one specific aspect of this future food supply chain?



    Brett: Yeah, I think it's an interesting versus like a very interesting question and something that I've had to actually personally updates in my experience because I've been talking about cultured meat, cell meat, clean meat or whatever we call it and we still debate on what we call it since our you know, 2013 or 2012 whenever my posts was, you know he was on a British channel and showing the first one and a minus and was then until very not too recently, but until somewhat recently that it's like you've got to get 20 scientists focusing on this molecule and ensuring that you've got  serum free, and there's a whole range thing that you have to do yourself. Whereas now, some five years later from, I mean, even she's up from 2016 till now. It's like there's this massive change that's happened, there's a lot of out of the box stuff that you can get now this, there are third parties doing specific things that mean frees up us to sort of develop on ensuring that our product is somewhat unique, the unique component to Africa, South African taste buds, so that's where we need to focus opposed to worrying about getting fat content, which maybe piece of meat we can speak to or similar evolution to sort of the bioreactors and stuff. 


    So, to answer your question is that like, it's been quite nice to also update myself and also educate folks within maybe the VC space who still see the older, the five years, it like how much serum media used to cost spread, really five years ago, and that's what they still relate, those things have dropped considerably. So yes, there's still things that we want to focus in and maybe get onto some unique species or something that gives us that IP that jumps us away from the rest of the the pun, but I really want you know it's really refreshing to know that it's not like we're starting literally everything from scratch. Yes, based on South Africa, we still got to kind of get everything going. Because no one else has done it before. We're learning ourselves in starting the business but in terms of the scaffolding from the meat component, but not literally scaffolding. But in general, there is stuff available that we can use, learn from the big guys, the Memphis Meats, etc, who have done it. And also knowing that we don't have to source every individual green from scratch.


    Ahmed: That's really interesting to mention the idea of the beef burger. Do you imagine being the first cultivated meat company in South Africa you're focused on, the beef sliders are species that are more unique to South Africa, and I guess the continent overall?


    Brett: I think Mzansi will always want to focus on the conventional side of things. For now, I think in terms of our go to market strategy, we want to be the first to create something that can be tried in South Africa as soon as possible. And bovine beef is just the way that we've assessed to get to that place in terms of sort of indigenous species. I mean,  we've actually been involved with someone who's actually looking at more indigenous species in South Africa, Springbok, etc, maybe even some of the unique animal cattle that we have. So I think they will, you'll probably see some people coming out of Africa, not us at the moment, looking at those species. 


    I know my team gets a bit annoyed when I want to say let's do it all. But there's chicken. In Africa, in South Africa, we are 13th consumer in the world of chicken per capita or something along those lines. So that's chicken. So we've got to look at that, I'm in South Africa if we want to be successful. But we've got to start seeing that Africa has tests that South Africa and Africans taste profile is different. So what species do we want to look at? And I think something like sheep, lamb, goats, mutton what not might be interesting. I know another sort of person in our circles, Hakeem from veggie victory, he is also backed by Ryan. Ryan Bethancourt is looking at a blog as chunks of meat. And lamb would be something sort of very interesting in the Nigerian case. So I think we would also look to something like that probably first, before maybe looking at the unconventional meats that are out there.


    Ahmed: That's really interesting. Just one last question. You mentioned your background is working in traditional food and the meat industry. How do you imagine not necessarily just for you in South Africa, but how cellular agriculture and getting a protein striped overall can partner and work with traditional food players to accelerate your own progress and your work?


    Brett: Yeah. I've been lucky enough that they're massive. They're the big players in South Africa. And they have a lot of great conversations and relationships built up with the retailers that have developed over 30 years. So it's given me an opportunity to say to sort of be involved in that traditional retail or food industry that you're mentioning. And I think initially, those conversations were difficult when I remember, even 10 years ago, I can only imagine what they were like 30 years ago, but it's obviously changed drastically from the way that people in the food industry now view, whether they're restaurants or whatever view. 


    Things are like alternative proteins, in terms of so I think it's the game has changed somewhat. But I think we're starting somewhat again at the beginning in cellular agriculture, saying that, I think we should look at a way we, as an industry, we should not approach the way that certain other sustainable industries have gone. Not to name and shame. I mean, there are bigger ones, but sustainable in terms of energy, I think have kind of gone at it as a competitive approach. And I've seen to say we're going to read we've got to get rid of coal, and that's it. And then there's a whole cobalt of people that have jobs and are heavily literally invested in this. So we've got to look at it from  a broader perspective, and the terminologies used just transition, etc. And I think that is super important. And I think it starts when you start talking to farmers, I've seen who was up in our PR department, she had ads before, so we got to have conversations with these people as well, in the beginning, so that it's across the line, I think, in terms of the food industry, it's just really about putting the relationship. 


    South Africa is a developed market in many ways, but also very, very old school in terms of its relationships. It's like handshakes, it's when you want to speak to retailers, you've just spent an hour with a couple of the buyers and you have a coffee or maybe a beer or whatever it is changing. Yes, it's going to the more modern side of things. But I think building those relationships not coming across as being I'd like to say this to somebody had mentioned once before,  it's moving from traditional to additional. And  I think it's a nice term for bottles or quotes. And I think that's how the mindset and then you open up a lot more doors, we do want to disrupt but we want to be working with these people and building those relationships in South Africa, particularly is about relationships in the retail space, food services is slightly different than farming, is a just a completely different discussion. 


    When it also comes to the meat industry, I want us to be seen as a meat producer, and be involved and at the table. Because if you're not at the table, I think you're being eaten. So that's where that's really where we want to be.


    Tommaso: That's very interesting, Brett. Thank you so much. Vi, what are your thoughts? What are your questions? 

    Vi: I'm not to be devil's advocate. But like, I guess it's a fascinating and really immensely interesting space to be in. And there's certainly been a lot of developments over the last 8 to 10 years. But I mean, I think the million dollar question is, at what point do you think you will be able to have a product come to market and at scale? And so basically, where are you at your development? I know that you said that you're not starting from scratch, but exactly where are you at? 


    Brett: Well, I mean, first as a company, we're very new in the market. 2020 is when we decided to start a company just before the global pandemic, which I think we all can say it's a fantastic idea. And so in terms that we start, you have a way to go compared to maybe folks in Asia where they might be ready in the next 12 months, and I know us has almost probably ready to turn on the switch, but they've got regulation components that they have to deal with, which is probably pushing the whole exercise off. In terms of Mzansi meats, officially abroad programs keep officially before Jay gets grumpy with me. We were looking for a working prototype, six to 12 months, having something at high end, restaurants similar to shot as sort of a b2b approach by 2024. 


    So that's kind of getting our product out into the market 2024. 

    Vi: I think apart from costs and the cost of the great medium, obviously, to get our application going, which is quite well known. The other one is the major challenge for the sector is that no country has actually given any regulation to authorize the consumption of this. So I wanted to understand from you is what your market is going to be, well, South Africa, and then Africa. Where's that in terms of regulation? And where do you see that heading in and by when? 


    Brett: Yeah, and I think it kind of also goes to Ahmed's question a little bit in terms of how do you I mean, I think that's again, that's the other million dollar question is actually, the one is getting the price parity, as you said, the regulator's you just don't know what you're going to get my understanding, again, through discussions with the folks and I'm probably also knows quite well, there's Americans  having some tough troubles. With this, it might be easier elsewhere, who knows, like the European Union is an example where they decide upon some industry that they think is, you know, we don't like it, and then they just make a whole bunch of rules and stuff with it. 


    We are starting this conversation early with regulators in South Africa. We want to be speaking to the relevant stakeholders, the regulation is basically not there. It doesn't exist in South Africa, on to a large extent there's meat, obviously, meat regulation in terms of it. But in terms of what we're talking about, there's nothing there. So I think it's somewhat of an exciting prospect as well, I think we would be able to see that South Africa's government is particularly focused on getting involved in being seen as in the tech innovating space. So if we position ourselves there, I think there would be friendly to something like this. And also, if we go early and want to take the hand and say we want to do this with you, I think that's something that would probably play an effect in our favor. It is still somewhat of a gamble. 


    But my gut feel is that like South Africa, Africa, regulation and whatnot, if you do it correctly, you're probably going to be more in favor and it's under the emerging markets and maybe Shraddha can speak from her experience. I think the government's there have some level of allowance in certain places, and others they don't they make these crazy regulations about import duties on chickpeas, and then that's the end of the game, but in my experience, or my gut feels to say that we might be in a better position probably.


    Vi: Really exciting, because I mean, as Shraddha, I really love hearing the fact that you are thinking about, down the road, tailoring something that is really catered much more to your market. It's a question about, “are you going into different types of feed other than bovine that are more like, really specific to the market within which you operate?” And I think that would be really interesting to see you differentiate yourself in that way. And then seeing like, there's a global picture, but then there's your local one, which is equally important, I think. 

    Brett: I think Africa is I mean, not I think Africa is going to be our focus, South Africa is our first launching pads, where aren't we literally are, and I think you've got to understand that the choices are different. And the discussions are very different. So beef, cattle, etc. all in large parts of the rest of Africa. There's no such thing as a factory farm in many other countries. So the discussion that we have, particularly in developed regions, and the experience that we're is how we communicate to customers to say, “this is a free range organic, so of course, I have chickens in the backyard”. I mean, I got this, I can see Tuesday's meal in front of me running around still. So we've definitely like that. It's a very different discussion. And I think playing into what is relevant in the test prep profile here is going to be something that we want to do, and also inspiring a lot of people within the African context to always kind of keep looking, which may be shorter again, I'm just assuming you have the same experience that we always want to look at, to what's happening in UK, EU and the US, but I think there's going to be a time where the Africa, a young population, they're going to want to try something that's kind of come from them, as opposed to like importing something else from your benefits.


    Tommaso: Ladies and gentlemen, we could talk for hours. It's an amazing topic. We went from India to South Africa, the great intrapreneurs. Before we wrap up things, I would like to understand Brett. We talked about the roadmap and the product. We talked about teams, you mentioned funding strategy as an intrapreneur, you have so many things that are not in a sequence, but all in parallel, right? What is the biggest thing that you are focusing on right now as we speak as a big milestone? What is it? 


    Brett: Yeah, that's a very good summary of what intrapreneur life is like. It's just everything is urgent, important, needs to be done now and should have been done yesterday. Our biggest focus is raising the small seed amount that we need pre seed amount that we're looking at, in terms of getting our and getting our r&d to a place that it's going to be more exciting to be able to cut the bigger check. So where we're at the check before the check, maybe before the check the tread is at and I keep on using her as experience because she.. I'll just go add, if you're not on LinkedIn already, I know that I'll just keep looking at what you're doing and saying, well, that's us in a couple of months.


    So our biggest focus right now is getting that we've got, two angel investors that have come on board, Ryan Betancourt and another one and it's about getting just a little bit more. I know there's always a bit more that you can have and in sitting down and just ensuring that we've got something available to someone who's going to be able to cut that bigger check.

    Making connections


    Tommaso: Brett at enzymes in Mzansi right at the check before the check. So you guys have plenty of space to chip in. Great story, beautiful mission that you guys have. And with that I would like to wrap up our 13th every episode of our second season. With that I would like to bottom line here things starting with Vi. What are your thoughts? Are you going to meet or stay in contact with Brett? Say yes or no thumbs up? Thumbs down?


    Vi: Absolutely. Really, really interested to see where you guys head. Yeah. 


    Tommaso: So we'll make introductions here, Vi and Brett. How about Shraddha? Are you going to stay in contact with Shraddha? You want to have an intro?


    Vi: Absolutely. 


    Tommaso: Okay so we have two thumbs up, for Brett and Shraddha. Ahmed, what are your thoughts? Would like to keep in touch with Brett?


    Ahmed: Absolutely. It's really exciting to see new startups emerging in all parts of the world.


    Tommaso: Awesome. I love it and what about Shraddha? Do you want to have a link to this webinar continuous evolution?


    Ahmed: Absolutely. 


    Tommaso: Awesome. So we have two industry fellows here. The introductions from our end and Awesm Ventures is more than happy to have a one on one with you guys, to understand the nuances away you guys stand, so you have two startups, three meetings and having been on the startup side for so much, so many years. I think this is the most valuable thing that one can create meaning vetted valuable networks and follow up conversation that create opportunities and with that, then we are a bit over time but I really enjoyed. I love being the dumbest in the room, always learning from different countries, different regulations, different scenarios, different circumstances. And I always end up our podecast with a quote. Actually, it's a quote that I learned to craft over my last 20 years as an entrepreneur, becoming an investor which goes like this:


    Tommaso: “Never forget where you come from, it keeps you humble. But where you come from, cannot limit you where you want to go.”


    Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this Podcast as well as in its transcript are those of the participant guest speakers and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of proteinX or its partners and sponsors. In the same way, the participant speakers do not endorse any products, services, brands, practices, professionals or views other than what they specifically and directly expressed by verbalizing at the time the episode was recorded. In addition, transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio file (podcast) before ever quoting in print.



    And this series is brought you by:

    Awesm Ventures: A VC that unlike others, invests exclusively with and on behalf of corporations in fragmented industries. The Innovation institute focused on helping future-proof corporations in traditional industries. .


    This is a proteinX Series.   


    ProteinX and the pX Logo are trademarks of ProteinX Foundation. If you haven’t received permissions, do not use the ProteinX marks as your own or in any manner that implies sponsorship or endorsement by proteinX.