When I fnished school, my dad
asked me, “What do you want to do
with your life?” I didn’t really know.
So he asked, “Well, what’s the biggest
problem facing the world?”
I said the climate. If we don’t get
climate right, nothing else matters. So
I got into energy, because that was the
traditional way to attack that problem.
I did that for years, and loved it.
My family had a farm, so I was familiar with agriculture. But when I started
to look at the role that livestock played
in climate, I was dumbfounded to fnd
it was bigger than energy’s. At these big
conferences, MBAs and engineers
would go on and on about fuel cells,
and then go out and have a steak.
Cows, chickens, and pigs consume
tremendous amounts of vegetation and
drink a ton of water, and then use their
biological systems to build muscle that
we harvest as meat. Any basic business
course tells you to identify and get rid
of bottlenecks in your production.
In meat, the animal is the bottleneck.
Meat is pretty simple: It’s amino acids,
lipids, trace minerals, a really small
amount of vitamins, and water. Animals take those things and build this
beautiful structure we call meat. You
can’t tell me today that we don’t have
the ability to do that directly.
I haven’t seen any other opportunity
whereby focusing on one thing—build-
ing meat directly from plants—you
could powerfully impact four major
problem areas: climate, natural
resources, human health, and animal
welfare. Here was a chance to change
My family and closest friends
said, “What are you doing?” I wondered myself. But there’s that great
Springsteen lyric: “I can’t tell my
courage from my desperation.”
It wasn’t brilliant foresight. It was
being unable to tolerate not doing it.
I put my own money in frst, which
ran out. Then, I got friends and family
to invest, because they saw my passion.
And I got really lucky in 2011: Kleiner
Perkins saw the size of the opportunity
When Ethan Brown founded the plant-based
protein company Beyond Meat in 2009, he
knew he was on to something big, even if
everyone around him thought he was crazy.
Then Whole Foods and other grocery chains
came calling. The massively successful IPO
that Beyond Meat launched this May gave
more proof that he just might have been
right all along. AS TOLD TO TOM FOSTER
How I spotted—
Ethan Brown j Building the better burger