Impossible Foods: Pat Brown

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Hey It's guy here and before we start the show a wanted to let you know about a short anonymous survey that you can take to let us know what shows and podcasts. You're listening to if you want to help you can go to. Npr DOT org slash. Podcast survey it won't take up too much of your time and this is a great way to support your favorite shows that's NPR dot org slash podcast survey and thanks. We had half the company basically was to some extent going out to soybean farms for the better part of a year and it was in retrospect about idea. But this is the kind of thing you have to do. You have to be not afraid to you know. Try things that may fail. Yeah I can tell you for certain. We are going to have more expensive failures in the future. And if we're afraid but we shouldn't be trying to do this from NPR. It's how I built this show about. Innovators entrepreneurs idealists and the stories behind the movements. They built on the show today. How Pat Brown's mission to slow climate change led him to lodge impossible foods and to invent a plant-based based bird tastes and even bleeds like beef along the one zero one freeway in San Francisco. Our tons of billboards advertise startups. That can deliver cannabis to your home faster their ads for enterprise software to help you manage projects and even a company that has robots to prepare your made to order pizza company by the way raised three hundred and seventy five million dollars before it went bust and recently yet another media company was launched one that raised more than a billion dollars with the goal of bringing. Us Ten minute video clips. Now I have no problem with any of these businesses and I wish them well but every once in a while. When I'm strolling through San Francisco I think about how much brainpower in the tech sector is spent on scaling lifestyle and productivity products and how little is spent trying to solve world scale problems now. There are a few notable exceptions. Of course say what you will about his quirky personality. But you on. Musk is one hundred percent. Committed to ending human dependency on fossil fuels. And he's trying to do it at scale. Another exception is my guest today at Brown when pat set out to start a business. He didn't just want to solve a problem. He had or make a better and more efficient product. He literally wanted to change the world from most of his career. Pat was a biochemist Stanford he was even involved in groundbreaking genetic research but around fifteen years ago. He heard a statistic that floored him. Worldwide Agriculture and Forestry and particularly livestock production is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all emissions from transportation all the emissions from cars planes ships and trucks combined our love of beef and poultry and lamb and pork is one of the biggest drivers of climate change in the world. And I'm as guilty as you are because I eat those things to anyway. All this got pat thinking could there be a way to stop producing meat from animals away to meet that would taste as good as animal meat but require considerably less water and waste and he knew from his biochemistry background that in theory it was possible that you could do it from plants so in. Pat set out to make meat from plants. He wanted to make beef that beef. Lovers would love beef that looked and smelled and even bled like beef. Even though it didn't come from a cow and short he wanted to make plant that was indistinguishable from animal means with the hope that if more animal lovers could come to love plant meet greenhouse gas emissions would go way down and the story of how pat built would came to be known as the impossible. Burger is amazing. Not just for how he and his team figured out the science of it all but also because pat set out to do this. He was almost sixty years old and he walked away from an incredibly successful career to take a huge risk. And now just a few years later. The impossible burger is in fast food restaurants across the country and pads company. Impossible foods has been valued at four billion dollars. Now these days during the lockdown like so many of us pat is not going into the office. I'm sitting in a room that was originally where my three kids shared a bedroom and most recently was my youngest son. Isaac's room which is Usurped as my office. And that's where you're running impossible foods out of March. Yeah later in the episode. We're going to hear a bit more. About how the pandemic has affected pats business but let's start at the beginning when he was growing up. Which kind of happened all over the place? My Dad worked for the CIA. I didn't realize it until I was quite a bit older and His job segment of various overseas posts So we lived in Paris for four years That's where I started school and then came back to the states and then he was sent to Taipei. Was he a spy or was he more of of a desk? He was an intelligence officer. I guess you could say and Was Gathering intelligence on mainland China and ran various operations but he never did any. You know sketchy bad business. So he is a Swedish most altruistic guy. Who's like the opposite of what you if you have this notion of you know the CIA and spies being very unethical characters is dead opposite of that so when when you were a kid. What did you think Your Dad did? Well I it's embarrassing in a way. I mean he would just say you know when I asked him what he did. You say you know I worked for the government and I thought okay that makes sense with the government. I only found out what Israel job was when one of my good buddy's somehow mentioned that his dad worked for the CIA. And I thought well that's kind of weird. Because he he works for my dad anyway and you got a pretty big family. Right six siblings. Yeah Pretty Well. I have to see him. This is the answer is yes. Were you a pretty good student as a as a kid. I was actually not a pretty good soon. As we came back to the states I felt like I just done sent back a grade and I just became very disengage because I thought it was kind of like why am I wasting my time and I was a chronic cutter of classes and I mean when I was in Taiwan we. My classes were in a three story building. That had this kind of Concrete girl work on on the one side of the building. So one thing I would sometimes do would be just randomly. Walk out of class and go climb on this. It was like a climbing wall. I in retrospect I just feel like it's amazing. Kick me out but you must have been a good enough student because you went you go onto the University of Chicago which is pretty hard school to get into Well I mean first of all the a lot of people realize back in the day I think getting into college was much less competitive but I had could sat's so I think that that made up from my grades to some extent but Yeah I mean it was just lucky that I grew up at a time where you could be a less dedicated student. Still get into a good college when you got to University of Chicago. Was it clear to you that science was going to be the thing that you would do in life. Was that already just a given as far as you are concerned. I think I was kind of open to a lot of things when I was in college but I tend to gravitate toward science and math. I mean there was a period of time and I thought I actually might. I loved math. I loved sort of higher level math classes in college but I felt like I wanted to do something that made the world better and I didn't think it would be a satisfying for me in the in the sense of feeling like I was contributing. Something curious about something that that happened when you were in college or like right as you graduated from College. Which was you you. Eight year last progress you became a vegetarian and one thousand. Seventy six Which was kind of a hippie thing to do in nineteen twenty one like was not? That common was not a hippie. I mean so really what. It came down to was an entrepreneur. Fraction of kids at some point in their lives. Try to become vegetarian. Tried to stop eating meat right primarily because of Discomfort with the ethics of it and in my family that was true pretty much most my siblings in myself and there was a time when we all sort of in concert decided to stop eating meat. I felt like if if I don't need me to be completely healthy and while nourished then I'm only eating it for aesthetic reasons. There's no physiological reason why need to purely aesthetics and I felt like that was I just couldn't justify the killing in making animals miserable for my pleasure basically as opposed to from and I think that was kind of the way my siblings and my parents felt about it that that was that was why we all just like Bam like a square wave decided to stop eating meat. Well so but when you made this decision you would. You had no idea that one day you would be involved in food or food production. Your you get your bachelor's degree in Chemistry and then you jump into a PhD program in biochemistry at the University of Chicago presumably. You're thinking all right. I'm going to. I'm going to do a lot. My life is going to be about you know working in a lab and and pursuing scientific research. Yeah I mean the direction I was going was So I was an MVP program. And I wanted to go into research to help people by basically understanding human biology and human diseases and and the part was kind related to that. But it's also just a love the idea of discovering things for first time. Yeah so you you did your MD PhD and you actually did residency in pediatrics. During that time right but from what I understand. You didn't go into pediatrics. You eventually landed at Stanford And you went into into basic research thing in fact I think one of the first things you worked on was eight. Virus is is that right. Yeah exactly it was timely and important and it was the reason one of the main reasons I felt like I had to go into biomedical research. Is that as opposed to sane clincal? Massimo's that if you're a clinician you keep coming up against problems that you don't know how to solve and it's just incredibly upsetting you know when you're taking care of sick kid and you just don't know how to help them. Yeah and so I felt like that's much higher leverage if you can work on really hard important medical problems and find solutions you know. Yeah so so pack. Basically from from what I've read had this incredible trajectory you eventually became a young tenured. Professors Stanford critic lab you worked on some DNA micro array which is so complex and could be. Its own podcast episode. We won't be able to go into it now but I mean we worked on all this groundbreaking research that that helps with things like ovarian cancer detection to Gut microbiome. And all these incredible things. I mean this must have just been a dream life for for scientists like you was the job I would have created for myself if I had been able to completely write the specs for the job. You get the joy of discovering things get new idea. You can immediately start working out. I had great colleagues great students it was. I used to say this all the time. It was my dream job so you and I should mention you also co-founded the Public Library of science which is now the open source. Scientific journals out there which caused a lot of 'em bite. We actually talk about this moment. Because when you co-founder this you create a lot of friction. Because the academic publishing world is a for profit industry and they don't want everyone having access to their Papers unless they pay for it You basically Created this new model and had a lot of people saying hey what are you pat? What are you doing here academic? And what are you? What are you wasting your time with publishing? Well I mean that's the way that I saw my job or my purpose. I guess it wasn't defined in terms of some particular scientific problem was working on. You know it's if you see something that you can have a positive impact on I was very fortunate position that I could do it. And it was kind of like understood to be part of my job. In that case I realized that to most of the world if You know for parent gets sick and they want to read the best current medical literature on the subject as many people. Do I mean many people who are not physicians when they have a family member? Who has a medical problem? They'll go and and try to read it. Well you can't you have to pay you know thirty to fifty bucks to read a crappy paper right because especially back then like in the early two. Thousands of many medical journals were behind pay walls. Yeah exactly that infuriated me. And the reason that the public library science the the reason that I and and My co-conspirator Mike is and and my former pushed off mentor. Harold Varmus founded. It was basically as much as anything else to throw a wrench into the business model of scientific publishing. Because it was so perverse anti-social and we felt that if we create a vehicle were scientists could publish free to everyone in the world. Scientists would flock to it and it would pull the rug out from under these conventional publishers and to a considerable extent although the job stores in Don. Unfortunately I mean you see you. You create this academic journal By the way you you had to find funding for it I mean this is an entrepreneurial venture you were a tenured of science professor at Stanford. And you weren't doing this to make money. This was going to be a nonprofit right. That was an open science. An Open Open Source. People could have access to it and this is a pet but must have paint. It was a lot of work to get off the ground. Yeah it was. It was a lot of work but I mean I was so like a lot of these things. If you're doing something because you want to do it doesn't feel like work. Yeah I think that was in two thousand and one when you founded founded. The POLKA CO founded the Public Library Science. And how just just by you know sense of scale? How big is it today? 'cause it's just tons of like plus. Pilo one and there's a bunch of like peel medicine right. I mean how big is it? When when that journal was launched within a couple of years it was by far the highest volume scientific journal in History in terms of publication volume. But the thing I learned was I believed it would be super successful and the lesson I learned is which is something I repeat all the time that Impossible foods you have to bet on your own success if you expect an intense something to be super successful even when it's not you have to make that investment that you're betting on your your growth. It's possible foods the analogy is if we believe we're going to be as successful as we intended and do believe we have to make huge investments in production capacity a couple of years in advance that predicated on the idea that our volume will be ten times greater. You know in a year and a half. Yeah which is You know I think. A lot of companies would regard that as kind of a risky bet and since our mission requires us to on average double in volume every year for the next fifteen years. We're going to have to be making that big bet on our success again again again. And that's something that you know like a lot of Businesses say well. Let's go more slowly but will never achieve our mission if we don't go for it and so you know the lesson again is bet on your own success. Okay so here. You are It's the early two thousands. You have this incredibly impressive career that you forged And you could've continued doing that kind of research and teaching and publishing And then around. I guess two thousand eight. You took a sabbatical which turned into a kind of a detour Can you tell me what the what was the thinking behind that? So I had decided that from my sabbatical that I was going to try to identify the most important problem in the world that I could contribute to solving and it could have been anything but but I was pretty confident that it was going to be something about avoiding environmental catastrophes. Basically and And I was looking at a variety of different things early on it was you know what's the state of research in making more efficient solar energy devices and stuff but relatively quickly. I would say within a month or so. I had zeroed in on what is unquestionably the most important and urgent problem. The world is facing right now and that is the catastrophic environmental impact of our use of animals in the food system. And how did you by the way? How did you know about that? I mean I lots of people know about it but not not everyone knows about it. How did you come to that? Understanding that that agriculture particularly raising livestock was so damaging to the environment. I'm kind of embarrassed that I wasn't aware of have ahead of this. I just I was basically reading about environmental problems. And what are the contributing factors? And so forth. I became aware of the greenhouse gas emissions From the livestock industry which are which are huge their greater than all forms of power transportation combined and because of its huge land footprint. It is responsible for a catastrophic meltdown in global biodiversity and the other thing that relates to land footprint. Is If you could snap your fingers and make that industry go away which I would do in a heartbeat. If I could the recovery of biomass trees and shrubs and grasses and so forth was suppressed by Anwar Culture would immediately start pulling carbon out of the atmosphere because the ultimate carbon capture technology is photosynthesis. That's the opportunity cost of using that land for animal agriculture. So bottom line is there's nothing even comes close in terms of its destructive impact on the environment. So you're thinking all right if I can figure out if I can focus on this thing. Livestock production and I can figure out how to think about solving this problem. Then we can really push the needle right. That could actually potentially make a difference. Is that where your mind was in in two thousand and two thousand nine? Oh absolutely so that was. That was the obvious thing to do. And then the question is how do you do it? And I organized a National Research Council workshop to just look at what how the world might be affected if if we could switch to an entirely plant based Diet figuring that if we got a bunch of very objective people who had no conflict of interest just look objectively at the date of the the answer would be so overwhelming that it's better from for the economy it's better for the environment better for Food Security and so forth. It'll convince people to change their way. Mike Commits people change. But then I realize that actually no nobody nobody. I don't want to sound cynical but none of these kinds of you know all the facts and the world. Don't move the needle on on public policy. And so I realized that. No what you have to do something more subversive and the other thing that I think is kind of a no brainer. But I'll just say it is that you're not gonNA. You're not going to be able to persuade people by education or or nagging to change their diet significantly to significantly reduce meat consumption or consumption of animal products. Look at how wall. People follow nutrition recommendations for their own health as opposed to just the good of the world and they don't and China about three years ago asked it says and to reduce their meat and dairy consumption by half and what happened absolutely nothing right so the bottom line is that doesn't work. Public policy doesn't work. Education doesn't work when you go to an environmental conference where every single person knows how problematic this is. They're all having steak for dinner. So you need more subversive solution and the subversive solution is create products that compete successfully in the marketplace against the products that are pretty spy animal farming and if you can do that effectively eliminate the comic incentives for this ridiculous industry. You can solve the problem quickly so I guess what fairly quickly came to the conclusion that the you basically wanted to make meat but not from animals you wanted to. Basically you accept the fact that many people still wanting neither gonNA eat meet. It's going to be hard to get them to stop eating meat. So why not give me? But don't make it for animals. That was your conclusion I. It was exactly the conclusion. And here's an interesting fact about Meat consumers pretty much around the world and and all across the US. They don't actually like the fact that it's made from the corpses of animals that is not part of the value proposition of meat to pretty much anyone they love it because they love the you know special kind of deliciousness. They get from it. They like the you know high protein and iron and familiarity inconvenienced and so forth like it. In spite of the way it's made and it stands to reason. Why would anyone actually feel like you know what I particularly like about? This product isn't so much that tastes good. It's at it's made from a corpse of cow that had a miserable life. Nobody wants that so that basically means that it just comes down to a simple thing give meat lovers the things they do love about me. Which is the the very particular kind of sensory experience in the sensory pleasures? The nutritional value protein iron primarily are the micronutrients and convenience and affordability. And you win. Let me ask this question given your background in biochemistry. You must have thought in your mind if you ask me right and I'm not a scientist but if I thought I really want to solve this I wouldn't have been able to say you know. I think we can make meet from plants because I wouldn't know that but did you know that it was theoretically possible to do this. Did you already know that in two thousand nine? I can't say I knew it in the sense that there was incontrovertible evidence but but you had a hunch but I would say with very high confidence I I believe. It was doable because really what it comes. Down to is the components that are in meat. You know the amino acids others small molecules Lipids many of the proteins are extremely conserved. They're found in plants as well ZANU and so forth. It seemed to me that if we could understand. What were the salient characteristics of that kind of molecular composition? Salient in the sense of the deliciousness aspect. There's no reason why we couldn't find sources from plants of ingredients that we could assemble into something that from sensory perspective was essentially indistinguishable from the animal. Basically meat made from plants. It's it's just like you know. A camera is a camera whether it's using film or digital imaging so that was all just thinking but I just felt like okay. Of course. This is doable. It's hard that's for sure it's GonNa be really really hard and the hard part is figuring out deliciousness part of it. The rest is wh Pat. I want kind of gut check for say because You are at this point. Your tenured professor. You've a lifetime job right. You're almost sixty I don't believe you were independently wealthy and you decide to between two thousand nine and two thousand eleven actually launched this company but surely there were people. Were saying pen. No are you sure you want to do. Yeah I mean a lot of people thought I was a little wacky but I believed it was doable. You know like to be a scientist. You almost have to be insanely optimistic. Because if you're doing science at matters you're doing experiments that you don't know will work but you have to be inherently insanely optimistic person. So I was sure we'd figure out a way to make it work in Detroit colleagues in the in the Biochemistry Department at Stanford Of even say pat. You're the distinguished academic. You WanNa be a businessman. Really even of them say that to you there is. There is a bit of that I mean I looked at business and I feel like businesses really important. It's not like it's some inferior thing to be doing except that I just felt like going into business for the going to business. I hate it yes. It's it would just be insanely boring. And so I never had the slightest interest. Yeah I didn't think of it all as oh I'm going into the business world. It's that the only way to solve. This problem involves competing in the marketplace and that requires starting for profit business and everybody expected to come back very quickly and in fact you know when I first started. I thought well maybe I'll just kick this year and then I'll just go back to my Sanford job. But what I realized very quickly as no. This is not a hobby. I have to be all in when we come back in just a moment. Pat and a team of scientists spent a year looking for the molecule. That could turn a plan. Burger into an impossible burger and how that eventual discovery turned into an expensive failure that burned through a year of cash. Stay with US and you're listening to how I built. Npr Hey everyone just a quick thanks to two of our sponsors help. Make this podcast possible. I to Dell. The Nation is an uncharted territory and many Americans are looking for ways to support their communities. Dell technologies is working to ensure that small businesses have the right tech solutions. Don't technologies advisers are helping small businesses stay connected and productive while working remotely with Windows. Ten and Microsoft teams entered deploying remote work solutions to minimize upfront costs with Dell Financial Services Dell is standing by its customers. Call eight seven seven ask Dell thanks also to stand for Small and American Express stand for small dot. Com is your one-stop shop resources offers and tools to help your small business. Get back to business. Visit STAND FOR SMALL DOT Com. We're spending more time at home than ever before. So now's a great time to finally adopt a Dog. Great Socialization is GonNa be harder. 'cause socialization and social distancing are definitely at odds so before you decided to adopt a canine companion during quarantine. Listen and subscribe not ours life Kit. Hey welcome back to how I built this from NPR. I'm Guy Roz so it's around two thousand. Eleven and Pat Brown will soon be walking away from tenure job at Stanford to create meat from plants. But before he can even begin to find the ingredients and do the hard science to create an impossible burger. Pat has to raise a ton of money and so he starts just down the road from Stanford with a well known investor named Vinod Khosla. You went to Vinod Khosla and you pitched him what get a Daklak. A PITCH DECK WITH SLIDES IT. And and what did the? Who is your peculiar. Give me your elevator pick. Did you have an elevator pitch? Well it was no. The funny thing was extremely amateurish. Okay on a business perspective because basically was like a mostly lecture about how incredibly destructive the you know and we'll be food industry is and then practically my last slide was. Oh by the way. This is a one point. Five trillion dollar global market you know. In retrospect that could probably have been my first and only slide that I buried lead so you raise the money you raise some money from from Khosla to launch a company that would kind of re imagine a way of producing meat And by the way how did you come up with a name? Impossible foods so when I started the company I we just had a placeholder name. Beat two point zero and then we when we decide we're going to launch a product. We felt like okay. Now we need name that actually works the brand name and we engaged a naming company as an advisor and we were told us by far the most difficult clients they ever had they were they would give us twenty names and say those all suck those are terrible and then in the fourth round one of the names they had was impossible and as soon as I saw that one. I felt like okay. We're done. It's perfect because we wanted something that was memorable. That actually looked good in type. That was an impactful word. A word that gets a little bit of an emotional response and that captured some of the challenger spirit of the company and a lot of our investors was a bad name. Is it possible that such a negative so I sort of launched this thing you've got it's two thousand eleven? How roughly? How much money did you have to remember? We had nine million dollars. Okay so you had nine million dollars and who do you. Who Do you recruited to help you? You want you have this hunch. Pretty strong hunch that you can basically replicate animal meat from plants and we're not talking about like a Tofu Burger. You're literally talking about a completely new kind of neat that it's only works hard hardcore meat. Lovers love right preferred preferred to what comes from cal. Otherwise we're not going to out compete the incumbent industry. So how do you recruit a team? I mean you've got some money and a runway. Now you've got probably runway of who knows maybe a year at least before you raise more money and just to be clear. This is not a knock on you. I think this is actually a great compliment. Because you're a science you're scientists but obviously you showed some entrepreneurial spark throughout your career at Stanford but you did not have a business background so you have to start to build a business. Who how did you find the people to help you out? Yeah for I mean I literally was you know I I would say the large majority of people in in the in the US. Probably have more business savvy than I had when I started this company seriously seriously in fact my wife. Madge is all our finances. Thank God she does so. We needed someone who actually knew what they were doing. Because there's obviously a lot of a lot of expert management required to to run a business even when that's that's not making money so The very first person I hired was a guy who had just about to graduate from Stanford Business School Very Sharp Guy He had grown up on a dairy farm had actually worked as an engineer at General Mills. So I knew something about the food business. He understood the problem we were trying to solve and the NBA and he had an MBA and it and it was and he was a very smart guy so yeah so that was taken care of and then the rest was pretty much all scientists and we were hiring people who had a hardcore basic science background sort of molecular biology biochemistry biophysics and they went to work. Basically studying meet in molecular terms the same way they would study. You know a disease or something like that. See you in all these scientists were were going after this idea that you could make meat without animals right. So what did you do like wool? Where did you start to look well before I founded the company? I had an idea that particular molecule in meat by globe which is a protein And it's what makes me read. Global is what's called Margot it's okay it's very closely to hemoglobin. It's him protein and hime is. What carries oxygen in your blood. It's what makes your blood bread. And he the molecule is found in all animals now we all animals but in pretty much all plants and bacteria and fungi and every form of life. It's a building block of life. It is pretty much a basic building block of life so he hemas very obvious aspect of neat because it's what makes meat red or pink. Okay Okay Yeah. But there's another aspect of him which is one of the most potent catalysts in nature. And when you think about meat when you cook meat something really dramatic happens. That doesn't happen when you Cook Broccoli. And that is it transforms Broccoli or Veggie Burger at soft. It gets warmer bushier. Nothing magical happens when you cook meat you get in the cooking process this real absolute explosion of Rama. That's you know this meet that in the raw form has of minimal odor maybe a slight bloody odor taste suddenly becomes potently flavorful and generates this explosion of Rome and I knew that there is a molecule in in legumes. The Root Rot Najah contained a lot of molecule called leg hemoglobin. That's him protein. It's actually very similar to mine. And so you're saying that legumes like peas or Or or Soybeans have these these route NACHOS and inside. Then there's something called what's called again for soybeans. It's called soil hemoglobin and I suspected so. There's one obvious thing that that he does. Which is it gives the meat. It's red color but what I suspected was. It had a role in the flavor because he was such a good catalyst so anyway. I did some calculations and concluded that there's as much human the root nodules of the US soybean crop as there is an all the meat consumed in the US. And if you could isolated if you can get it then you've got the the holy grail here. That was the harvest a part of the soybean plant that nobody really cares about Therefore we felt like we could get practically for free and get this molecule. That was going to be important for for me anyway so when I raise the money one of the first projects we started was out. How to isolate like hemoglobin from route nachos and contentious as a stupid question. So forgive me you literally pulling out the the root nodules right physically as if it's something that you hold or touch and then you've got extract the extractors Logan. That's the from from these tiny little nachos on the roots of a it was a cockamamie idea. Why is that? How come this was so complicated? It's let's let's put it this way. It's totally doable. But the problem was that it was just a very difficult scaling problem. First of all these root nodules are these little tiny balls. They're mixed in with the soil. You have to separate them out. You have to get rid of all the other stuff to get joined up like hemoglobin. That's food safe and all this stuff it just all those all those scale that exactly. It's it's totally doable. It's just not scalable any practical where it's like trying to pick leaves off of time. Have you ever done that? Little time leaves a lot of work. That's a very good analogy the seeming simplicity and the actual challenge of of doing it at scale so it was in retrospect about idea which. I'm one hundred percent responsible for that idea because you have to burn through a lot of cash to figure that we had half the company basically was to some extent involved in this going out soybean farms for the better part of a year. But this is the kind of thing you have to do. When you're working on south problem will you? Don't know the brute the solution is you have to be not afraid to try things that may fail and Accept that as part of the job. This is not the last expensive failure. We're going to have in our history by long shot. You know as of today we're going. I can tell you for certain we are going to have more expensive failures in the future. As we try to figure out you know how to achieve but the point is we don't have a map to to where we're going it means we have to explore. We have to try that. We don't know for sure will work and some of them won't work and if we're afraid to do that then you know while we shouldn't be scientists and we shouldn't be trying to do there and I'm proud of it because that's the way we have to be so okay so you spent a year basically on this idea that didn't work exam which I'm sure was was hard but But then I guess I mean you discovered a away to essentially grow the the leg hemoglobin by read by putting it in yeast and putting it into the cell and then by doing that you can make it at scale you can basically have lots of it. Yeah they're and basically just grow giant from enter tanks full of the yeast and break. Open the cells and extract. The leukemia go bananas. It's very scalable economics work. Well see you you basically from from what I understand like this around twenty twelve two thousand thirteen that you really kind of start to produce this stuff at scale but that's not the impossible you can't just go into these vats of yeast and grab a handful out and form a patty and grill it. That's that is not. You're still far far away from the actual like impossible at at this point right well. That certainly wasn't sufficient. This was not a sequence of things. So we were. We were working on scaling up to him protein at the same time. We're working on figuring out the texture and the rest of the flavor chemistry and so forth. Okay so bad even before you lodged even before you had a product. People were clearly paying attention because Google reportedly heard what you're doing an offer to buy your company they reportedly offered like two or three hundred dollars just an astounding amount of money. Which which you turn down. So we've never confirmed that I I I got you but you're not going to confirm or deny the let me let me just ask you this question. Why would you have turned that down? Well you know I think Google is a great company and the people. There are lots of super smart people there. This company impossible foods has a very simple highly specific mission that we are completely a hundred percent focused on achieving. Nobody else has that level of focus and commitment no matter how smart they are and the mission is to get people to stop eating animal meet. The mission is to eliminate the need for animals as a food technology and by doing so to save the planet from an environmental catastrophe. Nobody cares as much about as I do. And My colleagues do and I don't want to put the mission at risk by by putting it in the hands of someone who's not as committed to it as we are. That's really what it comes down to so you forge ahead and you continue to kind of interest and work on this product until you got something pretty workable not just workable good enough to actually put out. Put out into the world twenty. Sixteen the Burger. The impossible Burger was launched And you guys sort formed a partnership with David Chang the famous chef in New York of Fu. Tell me why you guys decide to do that. Instead of like you know shipped all the stores you decide. We're going to start with this one place. How did how did that was the thinking behind that. I think it was something that was pretty obvious. Under the circumstances so we had been in contact with a number of chefs that we would give samples of our product to just to get feedback because again the thing is we were not interested in launching veggie Burger. If it didn't satisfy a very hardcore meat lover wasn't going to move the needle on our mission so we were setting high bar for ourselves so we were giving samples to chefs to get their feedback and had been doing that for quite some time. And I see at the time currency flow to David Lee Belong to some Green American organization. The Jiang also belong to and he was going to that event in New York and he brought a sample and Casey could see Dave Chang to have them tested checks kitchen restaurant and he cooked it on his stove. And then just like immediately started Tweeting like my mind is blown. We are the point. Is that Dave? Chang is exactly the kind of person we want to launch with because the main value we would get from launching our product at the time when we had very limited production capacity. You know the amount of money we could bring in from sales was yeah was irrelevant. Okay the only. The value of a sale to us is awareness and brand building and the single most important message that we need to deliver to consumers who never heard of us is delicious. Meat doesn't have to come from animals. And Dave Chang is such a hardcore meet guy that he wants banished all vegetarian items from his menu on principle. Okay and there's no more sincere and voluble. Endorsement than to put our product on a menu for a chef to put on the menu because every chef puts a dish on the menu. They're putting their livelihood in the reputation on the line for the subsequent restaurants relaunch initially again. They're not high volume but they were high credibility restaurant because they were run by uncompromising chefs who are known primarily for their meat. Get you going like high end restaurants in New York and San Francisco and La Right and the thing about chefs. Is that what they want? Is something new something challenging and the thing that's different about our product than any place product is that it has the magic of meat that that only chef can see and there's never been a plant based product because of the the team primarily. That does the magical thing that meet does when you cook it which is transforms completely. You can tune the flavor profile by whether you cook it. You know rare or well done and stuff like that and think for a chef having the creative possibilities that that opens up just makes it exciting for them so. I think that's part of why we were so fortunate to be able to work with these great chefs. It was something new for them to put their artistic skills to use pat. I I wanNA talk to that Obviously a lot of what you do is proprietary and patented in secret. But I'm curious like how do you as you kind of improved it and got it to where it is today? How do you is it? Spices is it. Is it like I don't know is it is a different like ingredients. How do you? How do you is that? I taste spices at all. I mean and it's actually. The ingredients are relatively few. I mean it's the flavor is almost entirely from simple small molecules like amino acids vitamins sugars. Things you can find in vegetables animals. Whatever same simple ubiquitous bio-molecules plus hime as a catalyst and that's most of what's behind the flavor. We don't put spices then. There's no like meat flavor. Rinse in there. It's pretty straightforward. It's it's that the way that we approach the problem was. We basically asked the question. How does how does meat do it? How does meat from cow produces that flavor because if meat from a cow can produce at flavor with bio-molecules said that it contains which we knew at the time? Were extremely similar in competition to the things that are found in plant cells. If we can figure out how meat does it then. We don't have to fake the flavors. We can build in the exact same flavor chemistry into our product so that it does the same thing and it it literally creates the flavor in real time. When you cook in the raw form which you can you can actually eat it raw. Which I wouldn't recommend for the covers and the flavor is completely different from the Cooke version And that's unlike any plant Dr Food before and it tastes bloody. Because he's a weird gives it a bloody? That's you not eating the beef Burger since nineteen seventy six and I've talked a lot of people who are full on vegans and they're freaked out by impossible. Burgers. 'cause they taste so much like beef. Do you eat them. Do even possible burgers. I I mean I've outgrown my craving for for a long time ago but I do like impossible burs fact my sister who has been pitched as long as I have can't bring herself to eat one. Two right yeah exactly exactly. It's just it's just it. Even though she knows of course everything. That's nothing from animal. It's just like a visceral people have very visceral reactions. That are it's it's not your frontal lobe calling the shots at and just mention pat that last just last year you upgraded the recipe for the Burger and then you began rolling it out at grocery stores and then at Burger King which introduced the impossible. Oppor that people in crazy for and then applebee's and white castle and all these other chain started selling it and people loved it. I mean I think even Glenn Beck you know. People like who are like you would imagine would go after vegetarians or like Like they they loved it. You did you see that video yeah or Solaris yet Glenn Beck is like this. I did this great. I can't tell the difference in you went from like just you know David Chang and a couple of restaurants in two thousand sixteen to now. They're everywhere like seven thousand Burger King locations right impossible and there were there were shortages people waiting in line that can get them. So how do you? How much do you have to producer this stuff to me? Demand now unfortunately. That's one of those numbers. I think I'm not supposed to talk about but I just tell you. Lots many millions of pounds Are you able to meet demand? Well the you know. A big part of our fundraising is that. It's exactly this betting on our success. We we have to be building capacity on the premise. That demand will be many fold greater than current sales And have to keep doing that to stay ahead of the demand. What happened a year and a half ago was we were planning on building capacity. But we weren't prepared for this surge in demand that happened over very short period of time it happened so fast that Then we you know basically. We're playing catch up because you know this is. This is a problem of being in a business that produces stuff you know. It's a big investment to build capacity. It takes time. And you're guessing you're doing something that's never been done before where there's no roadmap and we have to say. Okay what's demand going? Be in two years. Yeah as you started to get more popular and people started to Say Hey scrape you then came all kinds of pushback? Okay let me talk about some of the pushback And you know what you're going to get people saying look this is unhealthy. It's full of sodium. It's full of saturated fat. This is you know it's it's full of a bunch of you know. Gmo stuff then. You had the meat industry saying you can't call this burgers their states in the US. Where I think you can't call it a unless it comes from an animal. You can't call it a burger and you know other group saying you know you know you're this is Franken food or lab. Grow all this stuff when you hear people say hey you know. This isn't healthy. What you say I would say from a health nutrition standpoint. We have been extremely deliberate and conscientious to make a product that we believe a substantially better for the consumer then what it replaces and it has the same protein by availability. The same bioavailable people make a big deal about the fact that the sodium content is higher. But you could say yeah and the sodium content of a Paris higher than a peach but the fact is that the sodium content in four ounce. Impossible Burger is. I think one sixth of the sodium allowance in a sodium restricted diet. Okay so this is not a Kale Salad. It's a burger and it's targeted at someone who would otherwise be buying the animal version. We WanNa make it the healthiest most nutritious product we can possibly make and still have it be a burger. Okay if you WANNA Kale Salad please go buy Kale. If you a burger you're better off buying arbor than the conversation. When you hear about these states that are proposing to prohibit companies like yours from using the word meat In their packaging. I mean what happens if you can't call it a burger at in like Missouri or some state. What are you GONNA do? I think that those most most of the bills have been proposed to restrict our labeling have not passed in the state legislature And those that have I. I'd say that the smart money is that they're not going to pass constitutional test but even in the hypothetical case where someone tells us. We can't call it. Well whatever the point is that consumers will figure out what it is and we'll we'll call it whatever we need to call it. Do you think they're threatened the beauty associations threatened by US incredible? Still tiny compared to them. But you're because because they know this is coming and it's just a matter of time we get the economies of scale that they have and When we've expanded our suite of products and so forth that It's going to be game over for them and I think that's why even from before we had our first product. I know from a direct source that a representative of that industry actually reached out to a lobbyist and basically said to you know ask that ask the lobbyists to get congress at the USDA to shut us down. Wow that means you've arrived pat. I mean they're fighting a rearguard action And they're on the wrong side of history pat. I'm wondering You've you've now raised over a billion dollars at this point Which saves a lot of money to do this and even attracted investment from people like Bill Gates and celebrities athletes in tons of different venture firms. But Why is it so expensive like is it is just like all the equipment you need and all sorts of labs and the resources and the materials like? Why is it so expensive? Why does it cost so much? Are SAY LARGE FRACTIONS EXPENSE? So you know. We have an R. and D. team. That's about one hundred twenty people really just as good a group of scientists in any company pretty much ever in history but the work. They do isn't insanely expensive. But we have to scale up production of a physical product that you know. We sell on the scale of tens of millions of pounds a year. We had to build a supply chain for our team protein and and those things are relatively expensive. There's you know Just a the capital investment in building manufacturing facility and all that capacity and That's a big part of it. Is that and the thing is that you have to invest ahead of growth and and you know betting on your success basically. So if we're going to increase volume by several fold this year and several. Fold the next year. Well we need to be building capacity right now. That's like ten what were selling. It's very different from if we were building an APP or something like that where you know. It's it's just you're just paying coders basically right right fair fair point. Yeah I'M PAT obviously You know we have to talk about everything that's going on right now in the world With with the effects of the pandemic and the economy And I mean has it. Has It affected your business Definitely we have to operate differently. I mean I think you know the the workspace. Our workspace is deliberately designed to be effectively. One large space where people are in visual contact with a lot of their colleagues. It's very it's very interactive environment. So it's quite compromising to to a lot of the things that are important to us and of course our RND labs the ability to do actual wet lab work. You can't do because even though it's essential to the future of the planet it's not immediately essential to day to day life for us to be operating. So we're we're so the D operations. Basically you know the people are still getting worked on planning. Experiments analyzing data stuff like that. But it's compromise manufacturing. Yeah it's complicated Pat. I want to go back to something. We talked about earlier. Which was when you turn down that giant offer from Google To Buy your company because had you said Yes to to that offer you would have been an extremely wealthy person right now. And you know. I think that every entrepreneur I've interviewed has said you know they don't care about money and and for the most part I believe most of them but I I actually really really don't think you care about money at all. I'm not motivated. I mean first of all I live in a nice place same place. I lived in for thirty years. I have enough money to take care of my needs and so forth and if I didn't I'd probably be spending a lot of time thinking about money. And where do I get and so forth but the situation I'm in right now is not going to be improved a bit by by more money. Okay Super Rich. If you become a billionaire Eli my life worse. I'm GonNa tell you serious. I'm serious because I know a lot of people who are super rich and I would say by and large. They're not as happy as I am. Their kids are much more likely to be miserable than my kids are. It sounds like such a stupid thing but once you have your basic needs met I think more money. adds very little value. And if you're trading if you're talking about something as incredibly valuable and motivating to be as mission of this company and so forth and so important to the world of course I wouldn't trade that for money when you think about it right. I mean if you didn't ever do impossible foods in you're honored after retirement at Stanford and they would talk about the research you did and genetics and all the breakthroughs led to and and Co founding this academic journal and you went on to do this thing after you left Stanford I mean. You left that safe comfortable job when you started this business. It's now reported devaluated four billion dollars and I know as you said. It's not your motivation. But I mean the fact it is. It's a value four billion dollars And I mean when you think about all of the things that got you to this point you know and the risk you took by leaving and you know do doing this and all that happened before I mean. Do you think that your success because of your intelligence and how hard you work do think you know. More of it has to do with luck. I think the most important thing is I feel like there. A lot of people who are smarter smarter than me and in terms of the kind of problem solving skills Were entirely capable of doing this. So what what I think is important that I contributed is the initiative and the determination to do it. It's basically the critical thing that I provided was that I looked at this problem. I saw that nobody was seriously taking it on and I basically decided. I'm going to take responsibility for solving this problem because I was exceptionally capable of solving it but basically because I decided to do it. I think that's the most important thing and I feel like it's the one thing that that keeps a lot of valuable things from happening. Is People feel like you know someone else must be? This is someone else's job to solve you know. Why would I be the person to do this? I'm so unqualified because I was unqualified. Well the answer is someone's got to do it and I feel like a lot of good things would happen if people were more willing to just say. I'm going to take responsibility to solve this problem. And so I think that's the. The main attribute the enabled me to to take on. That's Pat Brown founder of impossible foods. In addition to plant based beef the company is also recently rolled out plant port that challenge still to overcome making a nice shoe. See plant-based steak. The pet says quote. There's no question we're GonNa get there and thanks so much for listening to this show this week you can subscribe wherever you get your podcast you can also write to us at. H. NPR DOT Org. And you want us into tweets at how I built this or at Cairo's this episode was produced by Rachel Faulkner with music composed by routine Arab. Louis thanks also to Candice Limb Julia Carney Neva grant and Jeff Rodgers. I'm Roz and you've been listening to how I built this this is NPR.

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