BROWN I met Don and his wife, Liz, in early
2015. I started pitching him on our company
and bragged about how we have great scientists from all over world. His wife stopped me
and said, “Innovation is good for my iPhone,
but I don’t want to put it in my mouth.” That
had a big impact on me, and I’ve repeated it
many times since.
THOMPSON I tried some of Ethan’s products in
various dishes. It was the best meat alternative
I’ve tasted—and I’m a guy who loves meat.
BROWN Guidance in the food service market
is what I was after—understanding how to
really penetrate the big four of McDonald’s,
Wendy’s, Burger King, and Sonic. We went
into our relationship with Don thinking more
about how to pitch those places properly, and
how to set up our operations to serve them.
THOMPSON I invest in entrepreneurs whose
concepts I believe will positively disrupt con-
sumer experience. The product or service,
however, is only one factor driving our invest-
ment decision. I am truly investing even more
in the people behind the concept. It’s essential
that they are passionate about their mission
and willing to accept feedback and coaching.
BROWN We talk frequently about strategy,
products, and growth. We plan to go public and
he’s mentored me on what it’s like to lead a
public company. Mostly, how frickin’ hard it is.
“We initially named our burger Fresh Beef. Don said, ‘Don’t call it that. It’ll set the customer’s expectations too squarely on beef.’ He told us to call it the Beyond Burger instead, and we did.” —Ethan Brown
COMPANY BEYOND MEAT
DonThompson, formerly of McDonald’s, joined the board
of Beyond Meat in 2015, and then hisVC firm, Cleveland
Avenue, led its $55 million investment round in 2017.
Last year, former
invested in and
chairman of the
board of the
Haney: “He’s 73
and has more
anyone else I
know. I can pick
up the phone
five times a day
and ask him,
‘How would you
can we motivate
more?’ He has
50-plus years of
leadership experience and has
really helped me
in what I do as
a young leader.”
(2010-12) and CEO
In 2009, he
Meat, a company
that creates meat
YEARY I was introduced to Andrei and his
co-founder, Joseph Sanberg, by a mutual
professional acquaintance. Andrei flew to
San Francisco and we had breakfast. Half
an hour in, I was intrigued.
CHERNY Frank is a board member at PayPal
and Intel, so it was really a question of
whether he had the time and energy and
passion to devote to our startup. We had
an honest conversation about it, and
he immediately said he did.
YEARY They’ve taught me that there are a
lot of people who want an emotional connection with their bank. Money turns out
to be an emotional thing, and there’s this
latent interest in having a real relationship
with somebody you trust. That part of the
equation I didn’t know.
CHERNY Our conversations run the full
gamut—from how to build a team to how to
think about constructing financial products
that are built to actually help customers.
Frank brought an understanding of the
big banks’ perspective: Here’s why they
construct these accounts this way in the
first place. Once we understood that, it
was easier to build our product the way
In 2013, Andrei Cherny (right) co-founded Aspiration, an online
checking account startup. Two years later, Frank Yeary (far right),
Citigroup’s former global head of mergers and acquisitions, invested
in the company’s Series A round and joined its board.