The story I’ve been putting off for two years. The journey to TKS, lessons learnt, and why I’ve left.
Two years ago at 17, I made a life-altering decision: dropping out of university (a month before it began!) to join TKS as their first employee.
Since then – other than having the best job over – I’ve been on a plane almost every month, hung out with some of the smartest people in the world, gotten poached to work directly with billionaires, developed countless 1-degree-from-Elon-Musk relationships (lol, although it’s true I’m not actually counting), consulted for the executive team at Wealthsimple and Interac, went from living in a 2-bedroom apartment with my family to having my own place smack downtown with the sickest friends… and those were all things that happened on the side! My bestfriend and I dryly joke that we can’t share 90% of the experiences we’ve had over the past two years until we’re older to avoid unintentionally stunting on people. Yes, even moreso than I already seem to have.
This story has been a long time coming. It’s supposed to give you insight to the lessons I’ve learned from the crazy adventure it’s been, but mostly it’ll finally let my high school class know wtf it is that I’ve been up to 😅
Let me paint the picture for you: it’s 2018, I’m 17, and having the best summer of my life. I’ve found a community of people I LOVE. We’re all having a blast going through our first summer internships. Some are paid ones with the biggest corps. in Canada and some are even more interesting jobs at lowkey startups. Every evening, we’re rushing out of office doors at different spots in the city to hangout with each other – eager to develop the most meaningful friendships we’ve come across in our lives.
I’ve never felt like I belonged somewhere more. I’ve always been passionate about building the future, and although I never felt completely alone – it’s changed my life to have a group of people I would call my family. Not because we’ve spent a lot of time together, or that we happen to be in similar crazy-teen-circumstances, but because of our values. We believe and practice growth mindset, being ambitious, supporting each other (how tf is it that a group of teens came together without any sparks of jealousy or competition!?)… and we’re serious about changing the world.
At the same time that summer, I was meeting people I was supposed to spend the next 4 years with through university. It only took a few weeks to know this was not the place I’d find my future co-founders. I’m sure based on luck and prep by the end of the four years there’d be a few people, but it was not an investment I was willing to make. And I already had the sickest friends ever.
This is literally why I was contemplating not going to university.
Also let’s be real, getting educated on computer science by a prof in a classroom was the last thing on my mind. I could learn how to code through the internet. The value in university for me was supposed to be the place, the people, the social experience…”finding myself”. And it was the same value held by founders who’s opinions I valued, and advice I was seeking.
The reason I met all my dope friends was because of a program we went through together called TKS. It’s the shit. Every day that summer we’d all go hangout with the founders (Navid & Nadeem Nathoo) at their office space. We were literally there past midnight playing mafia and just jamming. In between the shenanigans, I would share my doubts about university with the brothers.
Meanwhile during the day I would see them going through interviews with candidates for their first full-time employee position. At some points I even overheard bits of conversations they had about a candidate.
A few days later, Navid asks me to join the team.
They can’t find someone who’s the perfect fit. Someone who get’s TKS, is mission-driven, and understands the community.
I was the fit.
Lesson #1: Mindset trumps knowledge. The best skill I had was that I knew how to learn, fast. I didn’t know how to build a community, or to grow TKS to 5 major cities in 8 months. I had never been handed a +$20,000 budget to put a stage together for Canada’s largest tech festival. I didn’t know how to send invoices. Or email 500 people at once. I think I learned how to send a calendar invite 4 months prior. But I knew how to learn and unlearn, and that was valuable. More valuable than the bachelor-degree and experience holding candidates interviewing for the same role.
Spending the next year with two of the smartest people I knew – hell freaking yeah! In retrospect I straight up learned more important things within the first two months than I think I would’ve in all 4 years of university.
My answer was an instant yes. Navid gave me 2-3 days to think it over, but it was an instant yes.
Then came the tougher conversation..
My mom didn’t give me permission. For the first time in my life I made a pro’s and con’s list with her (which is SO unusual to do as a brown person). She agreed (which took a long time in and of itself) that everything logically made sense, but still said no.
I didn’t even tell my dad!
The third day rolls around. “Hey Ammi, so can I submit this gap-year form?” “No.” “Okay I just did it”. (lol…).
I still hadn’t told my dad.
At TKS I was a swiss-army knife, a juggler of all things. I don’t know how to tell you what my role was. It was project managing, it was working with my best friend (who joined during my second year) as her manager, it was owning relationships with hundreds of schools, generating applications across 5 North American cities, building strategy for our community, literally managing our revenue stream and payments totalling over a million dollars… the list could go on forever.
It definitely wasn’t your typical teenage experience. It changed my life. I’m damn beyond grateful towards Navid & Nadeem for making this possible for me. Not only because of the meaningful work, the incredible story, the awesome memories, but also because of the endless list of important lessons I’ve internalized:
Lessons for Life
The world isn’t well designed, and it’s not run by smart people
or as many smart people as you’d think. Within my first few months at TKS, Nadeem asked me if I wanted to take on a large project. I’d be working with executives at a medium-sized Toronto startup, with a founder that everyone in the tech community knew. Of course I said yes! A few days later a meeting to get the ball rolling was set between me, Nadeem, and 4 people from their team. I went in with a conception of what the agenda would probably be, and was excited for this would-be-half-hour official meeting… My expectations were shattered. There was a 40 page slide deck in front of us with a few words per slide. The meeting lasted two hours and we discussed almost nothing. I remember leaving that meeting explicitly saying “WTF!?” to Nadeem in our Uber. These were “executives”. People in their 30s, who’ve been working for years. The founder was very well recognized and connected with every major person in our tech community. No doubt handing a lot of money and having influence in their cities/the world. How does this happen!? Unfortunately this was the first of countless experiences where C-Suite level people I met from the largest corps to local startups who did a lot of things that didn’t make sense. I’ve watched millions and millions of dollars being wasted by unproductive decision making.
Age doesn’t matter. Yes, you can do anything.
Steve Jobs also knew that the world wasn’t built by people much smarter than him (and you). Internalizing and experiencing that really helped me understand that I can do everything I perceive, and perhaps even more than I know I’m capable of. I went from being stuck in 2 hour meetings with people all older than me, to being the youngest one leading more efficient ones.
Throughout the past two years I’ve felt fulfilled with how I’m living, been offered to work directly with billionaires, had experiences I couldn’t have even dreamt of as a child, and seen my same-age friends sell their startups. It’s all possible, and it’s up to you to be the activator of your own life.
People build everything. Everything around you is built by other people. The systems, the furniture, the art you consume, our capability to explore the universe, the device you’re using to read this. No matter what you want to do in life – but especially if you’re here to create a meaningful impact on the world, you need to learn how to love, work with, and understand people.
Luck is real. And you can maximize it.
I don’t have wealthy parents. Or a well-connected family. But I was lucky my parents moved to Canada. It was not a decision I made, or could have even been a part of – but without it I wouldn’t have had a higher-success-potential zip code. I got lucky.
Probably 50% of the experiences that have happened over the past two years have been because of luck. The interesting thing about this though is that luck alone did not make things happen. It’s actually the intersection between luck and preparation at which opportunities lay.
Unlike the situation with my parents deciding to move to Canada, there’s a lot of room for you to foster luck by how much you “prepare”. You can create serendipity. How? Be in environments with people who can help make interesting things happen. Write blogs. Create a personal brand, and amplify it through social media.
You can activate and wield your life a lot more than you think. Perhaps not entirely, but definitely a lot more than you think. That’s powerful.
Lessons from Working at a Startup
Also applicable to long-term meaningful projects.
Learn how to be relentlessly resourceful.
Figuring things out is a skill, and it might sound simple but it’s not actually popular. Learn how to do this, and you’ll be super-powered.
Have high standards.
Some teams might not value this, but having high standards is what helps you be legit. Whether that’s high standards for what you’re building, or for how you’re promoting it. And yes, even work that needs to be scrappy can be done at high standards without taking much effort.
GSD Get the right stuff done*
aka GtrSD. ****The right question to ask isn’t “what can we do?” it’s “what should we do?”. In addition, something Navid mentions to the team is also helpful: Correct > Done > Perfect.
and then act on it. That’s how you practice a growth mindset.
Here are two reflections I found that I sent to Navid & Nadeem last year. I’ve done a version of updates that included reflections every day for over a year. It’s what’s helped me grow fast + consistently:
Move fast. And when things break, be able to slow down.
Navid does this really well. In 2018 and 2019, I managed the operations for our program launches. And shit would hit the fan, often. I can’t even express to you how often.. It’s a year later, we’ve built the systems we need – and we still haven’t perfected these methods. That’s a story for another day, but Navid being able to recognize the integral parts of TKS to flesh out as we grew and hiring a Director of Operations (who is SO KICKASS) was a small decision that had a big impact. He makes these iterative decisions often, and when things break he’s able to identify which part of the structure not only needs fixing, but needs to be rebuilt.
Burnout is real.
I’ve seen every single person on the team experience some level of burnout. It’s real, so figure out systems to be productive while still taking care of yourself. Or if you’re willing to sacrifice your health to go “all in” on a project – know how to breathe after a sprint so you can run your next race well.
Productive Hours > Long Hours
There were many times when I was in the office all day, sometimes past midnight. Sometimes the methods I was using to get shit done were the right methods, and sometimes they could’ve been more productive. If you find yourself working long hours or doing the same tasks often, those are good signals to evaluate if you can apply the 80/20 rule to your work.
Lessons from Working with Others
Learn how to get aligned quickly. It’s easy to do with people who share the same communicating and working methods as you, but it’s more important to do this for those who don’t. You’ll always work better together if you can understand how the other person flows and sprints.
Motivations lead people.
Some people are mission-driven, others by money, fear, status, and career-success. These motivations drive how people make decisions, and what their values are. Sometimes it’s clear what motivates someone, and other times it’s not. Sometime’s people bullshit their motivations – it happens. Life is a game of mafia, and understanding what drives people will help you determine who you do or don’t want to work with.
This was something Navid & Nadeem actively taught me in the first few months of TKS. They were excited for me to go grow with them, but I also needed to earn their trust so that they felt comfortable with me completely owning important projects. How did I do this? Developing ownership, learning how to be on the ball, and over-communicating. If I wasn’t able to show them they could trust me, I know they wouldn’t have kept me on the team.
Make the world work for you.
I learned this one from Nadeem. Send emails early in the morning. Do them before major important tasks, because while you’re heads-down is when people can read and reply to them. Text people ideas and asks as soon as you know you want them to support on something. Have bias towards action when it comes to getting things from other people. Doing this makes the work more effortless on your end, and gets things moving fast.
People develop culture.
And when you’re with a small group of people, every new person will shape the culture. Our team felt different when it went from 3, to 10, to 15, to 20 people. It was noticable, and it was significantly positive every time we’ve hired the right person.
I’ve done over a thousand meetings over the past two years. Every time you’re late, it shows you don’t care about the other person. Even if it’s a casual meeting. Even if it’s a coffee date.
Remember, people make everything happen.
So… head scratch. After such a daaaaaaaazling and life-shaping 2 years why the heck am I leaving!? And during COVID? (Yes I do feel insanely privileged to be able to leave at such a time).
I wouldn’t go if I didn’t have such a compelling desire to do what I need to do next: I think one of the next major evolution points for humans will be through our understanding and tapability into human consciousness. I have a can’t-ignore desire to deeply understand this.
What does that actually mean for the next few months? My main goal is to map out what reality(/ies) could be, and our experience of reality. That entails understanding the universe (big bang, dark energy and matter, time, space, theoretical phsyics, quantum mechanics) and understanding the human experience (neurobiology, psychedelics, consciousness as a science and as theories/philosophies, energies, the science behind emotions).
Is there an end goal in mind? Only to have understanding of what truth could be. I know my purpose in life is to impact billions. And I think this area could be the place I’ll do that through.
I’ve had so many other topics and opportunities I’ve dived into over the past year, but the magnitude of how compelling this one is needs my full attention.
I’m nervous, in a good way. Kind of scared, but excited.
Throughout this journey I’ll be sending personal updates via email on progress I’m making. This’ll include progress on the project, but also what’s up in my life. I’m not selling anything. I don’t have anything to promote. Just keeping you caught up on the crazy adventures! You can sign up here to receive them (and you can email me back so we can become friends if you want!).
I’m always going to be a part of the TKS community. I’m so dang pumped to have both my feet in as an alumni now! Obviously a huge massive gigantic astronomical thank-you to NN for being so personally invested in my growth, trusting in me and for letting me have ownership. Love you guys and the whole team.
Originally written and published for my monthly newsletter.
The conversations I remember from all of elementary and high school on empathy was the difference between “empathy” and “sympathy”. There was nothing to do with how to be empathetic, the importance of understanding other people, collaborating with them, living with them, leading through life building meaningful relationships…. all things I think that are far more important than the semantics between two words.
When we do talk about developing empathy, or it’s importance – it’s usually in a situational context. Can you understand how someone feels or thinks through x situation?
But unlocking how someone experiences the world and wants to experience it is where true understanding lays.
When you can deeply understand the way in which people experience life, and want to experience life, there is rarely need for situational empathy – you get that person. And it forever changes your relationship and ability to truly connect with them.
How do you start to deeply understand people?
Try to really map out the way they view and understand the world, how the inputs of the world turn into outputs of thoughts in their mind, and how they want to live through experiences.
Choose listening over hearing.
Establish a truth-seeking environment. Don’t doubt the validity of people’s truth if they’ve promised to be honest with you.
Stop interpreting what other people say in terms of your own models. You’re trying to figure it out through *their* models of the world.
Cross check your understanding of their explanations. Where are the nuances? Those are important. Dive into those.
Originally written and published for my monthly newsletter.
Creativity isn’t great art. Creativity isn’t even bound to great art.
Creativity is an action that flows from consciousness. This action presents itself as new or innovative, relative to you.
If you are a janitor, tapped into consciousness, and you figure out a new way to mop the floors – you are using creativity.
If you are a janitor, not tapped into consciousness, and you figure out a new way to mop the floors – you are only innovating.
So then, what’s the deal with creativity? Why does it matter? What’s the difference?
1. Inner harmony.
2. The ability to utilize it to find fulfillment in your life.
3. With practice, to use it to elevate the consciousness of others. This is tied to great art*.
*Great art = elevating the consciousness of those viewing, or experiencing it. You don’t need to be creative to produce great art. But increased creativity increases the likelihood of your ability to produce great art. If your’e tapped to your consciousness, consistently, how can you not reach others?
Originally written and published in my monthly newsletter as a reflection
The human experience is mostly emotional. I understand the concept, but I’ve struggled with truly feeling in tune with my understanding of emotions. I know they just are what they are, but also… there’s something to be said about their utility.
The concept that most negative emotions are “bad” and most positive emotions are “good” has been one I’ve leaned into over the past few years. And it has some truth to it, but for the most part there’s been a gap in my understanding of that concept that’s nagged at me like a fly in a sleeping room.
Could it be so black and white? No.
Sadness can’t always be bad. Pain can’t always be bad. Joy shouldn’t always be good. How can we label the emotions like that when in some circumstances, feeling pain is good? When pain and sadness can facilitate growth?
And also, how can sadness be bad when it is truly to the core what we feel when we lose the things we love in life? Isn’t that where the beauty of emotions lay? It feels inauthentic to repress emotions that are so true to our experience.
How do I feel!?!? Can we create situational rules for emotions? Again, no. The human experience is too subjective, even if the situation is shared.
And that’s when I realized: to experience the feeling of emotions can’t be based on the emotion itself. It’s not based on the experience. It’s not based on the situation, the subjectiveness, your capacity to feel, your values in life.. it’s based on awareness.
If you bring awareness and consciousness without a pre-determined decision on the emotional experience, emotions that are valid will stay, and ones that aren’t will dissipate. There is no repression, and no false control involved in this. The ones that dissipate, dissipate on their own. Sometimes you will even be surprised at the ones which go. And the ones that stay, they will stay on their own.
Then there is no second guessing, no rabbit-hole of questioning your experience, or a “choice” to feel bad about. There just is. Emotions just are. And to feel is to feel, to not feel is to not feel, all on the basis of what you truly need vs. what you want.
This month I had to live with other teenagers (my best friends) in a foreign environment for a week and half. There were mixed genders, and other kids our age that we hung out with every day.
In general, I spend most of my time with people older than me, so although normal for most 19 year olds, hanging out with other teenagers for a continuous period of time made me realize a lot of things I might not have otherwise noticed if this was my standard environment.
One of the most impactful realizations was that:
Feeling judgemental is on the opposite spectrum of having sympathy
Having a high degree of judgement can be detrimental to developing an “accurate” understanding of other people, and the world
Increasing my ability to sympathize with others (not overly, but just enough to not be judgemental) is important.
When people feel lots of judgement towards others, it can be in either the presence or absence of empathy: you can understand exactly where the person is coming from and their situation or you can have no clue.
What we lack in this scenario is the ability to sympathize with that person: we can’t feel sorry for them, and therefore instead feel judgemental towards behaviour we disagree with.
Here’s the thing: most of the time when we think someone else’s behaviour is “negative”, it’s because that person has not built enough resilience to their biological instincts, limiting them from behaving in any other way (i.e. changing our demeanour when we’re around people we’re attracted to, or acting out on anger).
Note: this doesn’t excuse them or mean that they can’t have control over their actions. Instead, what it means is that they don’t have enough practice over having full ownership and control. This is still something they have to work on.
The problem here is that as an outsider, if you’re typically a judgemental person, you won’t be understanding of this and overfit your negative reaction and rationale on that person and scenerio. You’ll think it’s more “negative” than it really is, because of your subjective experience rather than the objective truth that that person’s behavior/scenerio is actually normal, to be expected, or currently outside of their control.
The danger in overfitting your reaction is that it imbalances you’re ability to both sympathize & empathize with that person in the future. It skews your understanding of them, or the world – and that compounding means your perception of the world outside of you continues to become more and more incorrect.
What’s interesting is that this tends not to happen towards people younger than us. An example is middle school students – it is so clear to the outside world when kids change their behaviour for their crushes, or to fit in with the cool crowd. More often, our reaction as a collective seems to be “awh, poor kids” or “awh, that’s so cute – they’re growing up and learning, experiencing life!”. We seem to never be able to judge them – not only because we can empathize with what they’re going through (they’re just being kids, exporing their biological responses to attraction, feeling confused and undergoing emotional rollercoasters) but the sympathy we feel for them allows us to not get clouded by judging their behaviour and in turn actually affecting our overall ability to empathize.
The blend of the two things create the ultimate ability to truly listen and understand other people.
My current environment promotes having high judgement. It’s viewed as a good thing: being critical might make you better at looking at/understanding inefficiencies (whether that directly be in other people, or the world). But I think having a critical lens on the world does not need to equal feeling judgemental. And that’s what I’m really getting at here: the feeling of judgement and negativity towards other people’s behaviour is more hindering that the lens of seeking objective truth and understanding, even if that be through a more critical lens than most people.
Knowing this, I’m personally going through a lot of internal shifts to remove emotional judgement, and truly be someone who can really listen to other people, feel what they’re feeling, increase my ability to empathize and sympathize with them, so that I can really understand and tap into their world.
Descriptions, investors, valuation, and what makes them unique.
Our current agricultural methods (specifically towards cultivating meat) to feed the world are insanely inefficient: they require massive amounts of energy and are unsustainable.
By 2030, there will be around 10 billion people on this Earth. By 2028, global consumption of beef is to reach 72.5 million tons. Pork: 130.8 millin tons, and chicken: 116.1 million tons.
Lots of people = Lots of food need = a lot of water, energy, and carbon dioxide emission to create meat (preferred food of choice). This isn’t sustainable for our planet.
Unfortunately, it’s unrealistic to ask the world to go vegan. Cultures, countries, religions, and our tastebuds love meat too much. So instead of trying to change human behaviour, over the past 10 years scientists have developed a way to adjust to it through cellular agriculture: a method to grow meat in a lab.
Crazily enough, Winston Churchill actually predicted this in 1931:
We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.
– Winston Churchill
He predicted that we’d be eating lab grown meat before the 21st century began. He was wrong, but not entirely — we’ll be eating it soon enough. There are many companies who have already created edible (and tasty!) lab grown meats. And they’re aiming to take it to market over the next 3 years.
Here are some that will soon deliver food to your plate:
In 2016, Memphis Meats created the world’s first cell-based meatball (for $1200!). In 2017, they created the first cell-based poultry. They’ve been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc, Bloomberg and NBC.
They’ve raised $17 million in their Series A funding round, and have been invested in by Bill Gates, Richard Branson, DFJ, Cargill Inc and Tyson Foods. As of July 2018, they have a team of 38 employees.
Apparently they have also validated a cultivating method that does not use any *serum at all.
*Serums such as fetal-bovine serum are one of the largest costs to scaling lab-grown meat. If a company figures out how to mass-produce edible and tasty meat without this large cost, I would bet they’d be the first to hit the consumer market.
JUST 🇺🇸 San Francisco, California (mayo, eggs, and wagyu)
JUST is one of the most commonly known companies in the cellular agriculture space. Specifically for their plant-based mayo, and egg products that’re already being sold in North America. Including scrambled egg liquids, and $50 chicken nuggets (not being sold yet).
They’ve also partnered with Toriyama (a Wagyu producer) to develop & sell Wagyu products — although, not much information has been released on this since the partnership struck in 2016.
According to Crunchbase, their last funding round was a Series D and they’ve raised $220 million in funding so far.
Integriculture made the first lab-grown foie gras in 2017, where each cell was cultured at a price less than ~$95 USD per 100g. That year they won Singularity University’s “Global Impact Challenge” as a result. Since then, they have driven the price down even further by using a medium different than FBS (fetal bovine serum) in their “CulNet System”. They’re unique for this system, which has been claimed to easily allow for scale through parallelization and upsizing.
They have developed a food-grade basal medium that replaces all ingredients with food and registered food additives. In October 2019, they developed a slaughter-free extraction method of fetal avian cells. Another of their other interesting projects is SpaceSalt, a powdered version of cell media which will allow people to grow their own meat at home.
They financed JPY 300 million (~2.8m USD) in their seed round, which was led by Real Tech Fund. Other investors include Beyond Next Ventures, A-FIVE, Cargill Inc (also investing in Memphis Meats) and Dr. Hiroaki Kitano.
They plan to launch lab-grown foie gras in restaurants in 2021 and retail stores in 2023.
Cubiq foods is one of the only companies working on developing lab-grown fat. Fat is an essential component of conventional meat that gives it it’s taste. The lack of fat in lab-grown meat is what many point to as the distinction between animal vs lab grown foods.
Growing fat cells as a stand-alone is also easier than creating muscle cells, because fat cells require less processes’: no scaffolding, mechanical stimulation, or even oxygen needed.
They have closed an investment round having raised $13.6 million. This was led by Javier Loziaga. They plan on using the investment to expand their pilot plant and scale production, the other half will go towards their operations.
One of the unique things they do is use embryonic stem cells that divide indefinitely (unlike mesenchymal stem cells which are more commonly used).
FMT is one of the only companies that directly states their meat is grown using bioreactors: a scalable way of producing lab grown meat that most labs may not have yet adopted. Their bioreactors allow them to reduce the volume of feed media used by 20-folds.
Their cells double in mass every 24 hours, and their production process lasts only 2 weeks.
They’ve raised $14 million in their Series A fund, which was co-led by S2G Ventures and Emerald Technology Ventures. Other investors include MOnde Nissin, Tyson Ventures (who also invest in Memphis Meat), Bits x Bites, and Manta Ray Ventures.
They’re currently running a pilot plant where they’re creating a plant based-protein and cell-cultured fat product that is cost competitive. FMT expects to launch it in 2021, and in 2022 is aiming to launch a line of 100% cell-based meat products that cost less than $10 per pound.
Perfect Day 🇺🇸 Berkeley, California (dairy only, not meat)
PD is focused on creating lab grown daily — they’ve already launched a product in a pilot launch, which is animal-free dairy icecream for $20 per pint.
They’ve raised $34.75 million in their Series B funding, led by Temasek Holdings, and includes Horizon Ventures + ADM Capital.
They’ve raised $140 million in their Series C Funding round.
AlephFarms made history in December 2018 by producing the first cell-grown beef steak. They also grew the first piece of cell-based meat in outer space (whaaat 🤯) on the ISS, 249 miles above Earth 🚀.
They raised $12 million in their Series A funding which was led by VisVires New Protein (VC based in Singapore). Other investors included Cargill, M-Industry of migros, Strauss Group, New Corp Captial, and the Technion Investment Opportunity Fund.
Mosa Meats is known for unveiling the world’s first cell-ag hamburger in 2013.
Publicly, they’ve raised around $8.3 million USD for their Series A, and $9m last year. One of their investors includes Google’s Sergey Brin. The main use for their funding was to reduce the cost of their production. The original hamburger patty cost $325k to produce, which now costs only $10 and aims to have a cost as low as $3.
Progress since 2013 includes adding fat tissue into their meat, replacing FBS with another growth serum, improving the meat’s protein content via increased production of myoglobin, and using bioreactors for scalability.
They are aiming to have their product hit market by 2021, which at the moment only includes ground meat.
They’ve also partnered with M Ventures (VC arm of Merck, the pharmaceutical company), and Bell Food Group (leading meat processor and convenience specialist in Europe).
Meatable: 🇳🇱 Leiden, Netherlands
One of the interesting things Meatable is doing is using pluripotent stem cells (which don’t require a growth serum) from an animal’s umbilical cord, instead of regular myosatellite cells (with FBS) to grow their meat. Most cell-ag companies don’t use this method because pluripotent cells are harder to control in a lab, yet Meatable has figured out a way to get around this.
The advantage to this isn’t just A) not needing to use a growth serum such as FBS, and in turn B) killing a cow, but also that they can direct the growth of the stem cells into any cells: including fat!
They’ve raised $3.5 million in their first round of funding led by BlueYard Capital, and other investors including Atlantic Food Labs, BackedVC, Future Positive Cpaital, and other angel investors. An additional $10 million has also been raised (including a $3 million grant from the European Commission).
Their small bioreactor they’re creating should be ready by end of 2020, on timeline to manufacturing large-scale amounts of meat by 2025. They will start off by producing beef products, than moving on to other chicken and pork products.
Biftek is directly working on a replacement serum for FBS. They’ve found a plant-based version made up of 44 proteins for myosatellite cells. They’ve mentioned in a pitch at the Sweden FoodTech conference that the cost of this new serum will only contribute to 0.2% of total costs.
They are projecting that with the production of $6–8 million tonnes of meat, their annual revenue will be $340 million.
Higher Steaks is under the radar — there isn’t much online about what they do and how they do it (other than being focused on cellular agriculture, and using pluripotent cells instead of myosatellite cells + fbs). However, they’ve received mentions in many media outlets (including Forbes, Tech Crunch etc) that makes me think we might be hearing more from them in the next few years.
Some articles state they’re focusing on lab grown beef, while others mention their focus is on lab grown pork sausages.
There are not many companies working on just lab-grown meat. A few of the ones mentioned in the other sections will produce another meat andthen chicken as a lower priority product.
One of the main reasons for this is the environmental damage of producing chicken is not as detrimental as the one for producing beef, which is also more consumed.
China has signed a deal with Israel to import lab-grown meat from three different companies, including SuperMeat.
They’ve raised $3 million in their seed round, led by New Crop Capital (also investing in BlueNalu) and Stray Dog Capital, and a strategic partnership with PHW (one of Europe’s largest poultry producers). They’re also being supported by Good Food Institute.
They’ve crowdfunded funds through Indiegogo as well, with a few updates on their progress. Although, the progress hasn’t been very descriptive and they seem to be in super-stealth mode, which suggest they’re in a very R&D phase.
Clara Foods 🇺🇸 San Francisco, California (not lab-grown chicken meat)
Clara Foods is producing a range of animal products including: animal-free egg white proteins, baking products, food & beverage ingredients, and nutritional supplements. They are less of a lab-grow meat company as their process includes fermentation of yeast and sugar.
They’ve raised $15 million in 2016 for their Series A financing, and have also raised a Series B led by Ingredion (global ingredients distribute for over 120 countries). Other investors include B37 (the strategic partner for Grupo Bimbo), Hemisphere Ventures, and SOSVS.
BlueNalu has made cell-based yellowfish which cooks, steams, and deep-fries as expected. They are working with cell-lines for tuna, red snapper, and amberjack as well, with a likelihood of launching to market with mahi mahi. By the end of 2020 they’re expecting to be 500–1000 liter bioreactor size to support their small-size initial test market of restaurants. They have also unveiled plans to build a 150k sq. ft. facility to produce 18 million lbs of seafood every year, starting in 2025.
They’re the founding member of a cell-based industry group called the “Alliance for Meat, Poultry & Seafood Innovation”, working on cell-ag regulation policies.
They’ve raised $24.5 million led by Stray Dog Capital, CPT Capital, New Crop Capital, and Clear Current Capital. Other investors include Griffith Foods, Nutreco, Pulmuone, Rich Product Ventures, and Sumitomo Corporation of Americas.
Fun fact: they were only founded 2 years ago, so since then they’ve really been busy and have made a lot of notable progress.
Finless Food has been the first company to create lab-grown fish (history made in 2017!).
They’re currently focusing on growing blue-fin tuna, which has a very difficult sourcing process. Blue-fin tuna travel at a speed of 40 miles(64 km)/hour, die on ships fast (and their cells decompose easily).
Once they’ve had their sample, the team has figured out how to make their blue-fin tuna cell lines immortal, which means you do not need further fish samples to keep the cells growing.
Another unique discovery is they’ve figured out how to grow 3 different tissues from bluefin stem cells: muscle, fat, and connective tissue. My guess is that this is done via pluripotent stem cells.
FF has also separated their teams to identify which bioreactor process’ are best for scale, and so far have found that the most efficient way to grow meat is via single systems, where proliferation happens in one bioreactor and the growth media is replaced by differentiation media.
They’ve raised $3.5m in their seed round from investors including Harrison Blue Ventures, Hemisphere Ventures, StarLight Media, and Olive Tree Capital. They are now gearing up to raise a Series A.
The Finless folks have figured out how to grow threekinds of tissues from bluefin stem cells: muscle, fat and connective tissue. They even claim they can manipulate the amount of fat to mimic the lush flavor of otoro tuna.
Avant Meats is focused on creating lab-grown high-end luxury food items. In 2019 they showcased the first ever cell-based fish maw product (dried swim bladder). They’ve already had a public tasting of maw.
Their funding is private: including contributions from the co-founders, and a small pre-seed round from 2 VCs, and one family.
In addition to personal contributions from the co-founders, we have raised a small pre-seed round with support from two VCs and one family office. We will be able to share more details later.
They’re aiming to reach pilot production by late 2022 or early 2023.
Shiok Meats created the first lab-grown shrimp dumpling. They’re the first cell-based meat company in Southeast Asia, and also part of the Y Combinator winter class of 2019.
They’ve raised $4.6m in their seed round. This round was led by Monde Nissin, which is a food consumer-goods company in the Philippines. Other investors include Big Idea Ventures, Aera VC, Beyond Impact, and Boom Campital.
Bond Pets is aiming to launch their first product in 2020: a yeast dog-treat bar (yum?). Their process is known as acellular agriculture, which is the process of growing and processing the products cell cultures make, instead of growing the cultures themselves.
They’ve raised $1.2 million in their seed round, which was led by Lever VC. Other investors include Agronomics, KBW Ventures, Plug and Play Ventures, and Andante Asset Management.
Wild Earth isn’t really a lab-grown meat company, but I’m throwing them in here anyways.
They’ve developed a fungi-based (koji) protein based dog foods and treats. They’ve raised $11 million in Series A funding, including $550,00 from Mark Cuban via Shark Tank. The funding round was led by VegInvest, and other investors include Radical Investments, Felicis Ventures, Founders Fund, Mars Petcare, and BitsxBites.
Their total funding include seed round is $16 million.
Because Animals 🇺🇸 Delaware
Because Animals was the first company to create lab-grown-meat pet food (field mouse meat) without the animal, including a growth serum/growing process that does not include FBS.
BA uses unfermented cultured products such as nutritional yeast in their pet food. They currently sell superfood and probiotic supplements made from algae, for dogs, and are releasing lab-grown meat pet food in 2021.
When I was a kid we often played the “which superpower could you have if you could have a superpower?” icebreaker game in class.
And every single time, without fail, someone would wish they could make objects appear out of thin air: food, their hairbrush, a toy — anything and everything.
A super-power that was once imaginary is now science: SolarFoods is a revolutionary company turning electricity and air into food. They’re creating protein (without the animal) to meet demands of plant-based options (such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods), or provide the right amino acids to future lab-grown meat products.
Solein: The Magic Powder of Science
Solein is a single-cell protein that is produced by SolarFoods via a bioprocess of electricity, CO2, water, and a proprietary organism (which is a bacteria that eats CO2, and hydrogen bubbles produced by water electrolysis). It’s fermentation process is similar to yeast’s. Through this process, the researchers remove the liquid from the modified reactors, which dries and produces what they refer to as “the purest and most sustainable protein in the world.”
In this dried powdered form, Solein contains 50% protein (with all essential amino acids), 5–10% fat, 20–25% carbohydrates, and Vitamin B. The even more magical part of this process is not just that it exists, it’s its efficiency: traditionally 15,000L of water is used to produce 1kg of beef, and 2,500L of water is used to produce 1kg of soy. But for Solein, only 10L of water is needed to produce 1kg of protein. Currently, they can create 1kg of protein per day.
Are they Carbon-Negative?
No, not yet — it takes electricity to run the reactors that make this whole process happen. Currently, they do use renewable energy as their source of electricity, but their net impact is not yet carbon negative.
Like all technologies, their production process’ will get cheaper, more efficient, and less energy intensive in a few years. They are definitely on a trajectory of being carbon negative.
Technically, how does this really happen?
CO2 & water are captured from the air
CO2 is separated from the air using solid materials
Using heat and a vacuum, liquid water and pure carbon dioxide are produced
Hydrogen from the liquid water is produced via electrolysis
5. The CO2 and Hydrogen (acting as nutrients) are transferred to a bioreactor, along with essential minerals (ammonia, magnesium, calcium, sulfates and phosphates) 6. There are microbes in this bioreactor that use hydrogen as energy, and the carbon dioxide as carbon source. 7. The liquid in the bioreactor is heated at 140ºC in a drum, turning the liquid into protein powder.
What’s their pathway to changing the world?
✅ Getting regulatory approval for human consumption.
📈 Scaling their production of Solein so that it can be used in market as an alternative protein.
🚀 Working with the European Space Agency to develop off-planet foods. In one of his interview, their CEO mentioned making food for Mars.
Originally written and published in my monthly newsletter, December 06 2019
In October I started meditating with Sam Harris’ daily Waking Up app and it was hard. I thought I was going to go strong until Day 15 – when it increasingly got harder. I stopped after 30 days.
Cut scene two weeks later, I happened to start taking yoga classes. Initially, it was only a way to stretch out my body – I’m training for a half marathon, and my muscles were begging to stop being pulled. I didn’t intend to make it a habit: but somehow instead of taking only one class a week, I was going to one almost every day. Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Flow, Hatha, doing it all.
A month later, I’m catching myself taking a break from my laptop to practice my crow pose for a few minutes. And it was oddly therapeutic. For someone who’s mind is always on (literally. always. all the time) it was genuinely crazy to have found something that consistently shuts out external inputs and allows me to just be still.
From this experience, then reading more about what meditation means to different people and philosophers, I have a hypothesis that meditation can be practiced indiretly in various forms. If direct meditation through sitting in silence is difficult for certain people, it might be a good idea to practice indirect ways where you quiet your mind (journaling as writing meditation, painting as creative meditation) to get your mind used to that state, and then advancing to silent meditation.
Originally written and published on my monthly newsletter, November 04 2019
Controversial Opinion: I don’t think the “balance” in life often understood as spending half of your time working, and the other relaxing/resetting is what we should be striving for.
I think our view and understanding of balance is flawed. From a first-principles perspective, the objective of achieving “balance” is for people to experience a sustained amount of joy, and to prevent burnout.
I think that for most people, investing in the things that can help create this (taking care of hormones and your body via diet & exercise, meditating, working on something meaningful, investing in genuine relationships) every. day. is probably more stressful than it is joyful. Especially considering the difficulty of maintaining several habits at once.
I actually think “balance” can be subjective. The objective doesn’t always have to be trying to spend 50% of your time on work, and 50% relaxing. It can be healthy for people who love what they do to work 80-90% of the time, and then spend 10% of their time with friends and family, working out, meditating etc. The key here isn’t the amount of time you spend on both, but instead how present you can be while you’re doing both. My hypothesis is that if you know when to take breaks, take them, and can be present and reset during those breaks – you can avoid burn out and achieve this so-called “balance” life.