Origin Story Interview W/ Antonella De Lazzari, Naturannova

Origin Story Interview W/ Antonella De Lazzari, Naturannova

Brighter Future

 / 

Nov 1, 2023

#BrighterFuture #entrepreneurship #Sustainability #ClimateChangeSolution #originstoryseries #seekthechange #PrecisionFermentation #PeptideTechnology #EnvironmentalSustainability #HealthTech #peptide

Brighter Future

We’re joined by Antonella De Lazzari, co-founder of Naturannova, a biotechnology firm based in Chile.

Thank you so much for joining us, Antonella. Do you think you could tell us a little about your business?

My name is Antonella De Lazzari, and I am one of the co-founders of Naturannova. We aim to create natural peptide-based, functional, and sustainable ingredients across various industries. Peptides are short chains of amino acids, which are often described as the building blocks of protein. They occur naturally in nature and our bodies, acting as messengers and instructing our cells to perform vital functions. Our biotech startup harnesses nature's power through proprietary technology, integrating data, AI, and bioinformatics. We also use what’s known as precision fermentation.

At the moment, we’re focused on developing natural flavours— particularly sweet ones— as a substitute for sugar and artificial sweeteners for food and beverage manufacturers. Despite being present in foods and our bodies, we still know relatively little about these molecules and how they can impact our development. This presents a significant opportunity for exploration. Peptides have been evolving in nature for hundreds of millions of years— they may have even been present at the dawn of life— but only recently have scientists started to uncover and understand their potential benefits.

Our mission is to bridge the gap by building the necessary technology to translate the nutritional potential of custom-made peptides into tangible, real-world ingredients.

You mentioned that you use AI, among other technologies. How does artificial intelligence support you on your company’s journey?

AI helps our scientists understand the interactions between peptides, their properties, and their characteristics. Additionally, AI enables faster and more cost-effective profiling than conventional discovery processes. Once we thoroughly understand their physical, chemical, and biochemical properties, we can determine their potential functionalities and use them as ingredients. This is why we leverage AI— to expedite the process and gain insights into complex biological processes.

What do you believe sets your business or mission apart from others in your industry?

We are dedicated to providing access to adequate and nutritious food. Currently, one out of three people worldwide lacks regular access to real food which is nutritious. Additionally, we aim to reduce the risk of food-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes, which affects around 422 million people. We strive to minimise pollution and the consumption of natural resources by leveraging precision fermentation capabilities. Our mission is to create a significant impact through these initiatives.

Where does the company name "Naturannova" originate? What does it signify?

"Naturannova" is based in Chile, and its CEO is Juan Carlos Duarte Ramírez. He was the one who first got the company going. The name "Naturannova" was chosen to reflect the company's core values: the combination of what’s natural with what’s new. We think of "nova" as a word that stands for innovation.

Which part of your work is most fulfilling to you?

Sometimes the idea of making a positive impact may sound cliché, but once you can measure the triple impact— economic, social, and environmental— for a business, the notion of cliché disappears. There is no way back to building businesses without considering these aspects.

I can say that I appreciate the project of Naturannova; it combines that triple impact and is an untraditional job. From a young age, I heard about the concept of "purpose" from entrepreneurs that inspired me and other mentors. It centres around understanding what I love to do, what I excel at, what the market needs, and what the world needs. Naturannova embodies all these concepts, and it's a fantastic feeling to wake up every day knowing that each task we face contributes to a greater purpose. Working on my purpose is crystal clear to me, and I am willing to do everything it takes to achieve the final goal.

Is the idea of purpose what drives today's workforce? Is there a desire to be a part of the "purpose economy" where people base their choices on the impact and sense of purpose in their work? And if companies can't offer this, does it become challenging for them to attract staff and succeed as businesses, indicating that purpose is at the core of what everyone desires?

Surely, everyone has a purpose, and it gives our lives meaning. Identifying that purpose might take time, but once we understand why we do what we do and for what reason, life takes on a whole new significance. It's great.

I see what you mean. How do you stay informed about the changes happening in your industry?

We have access to many communities, so it’s easy to stay updated. In our case, several food tech communities like FoodHack provide brief news through newsletters every Friday. They also offer in-depth analysis of key industry topics.

I also read a lot from sources like the World Economic Forum, and I listen to various podcasts, mainly focusing on business growth strategies. I found a valuable book called "Get A Grip: How to Get Everything You Want from Your Entrepreneurial Business" by Gino Wickman and Mike Paton, which serves as a toolkit for entrepreneurs. It helps leadership teams develop a clear vision, establish focus, and build discipline. I can stay updated and make better decisions by combining these resources and media outlets.

How do you maintain a positive mindset and stay focused on your goals when encountering challenges and setbacks?

Having a clear sense of purpose gives me the strength and conviction that I'm on the right path. It's more a matter of recognising that gut feeling— the intuition that assures me I'm heading in the right direction. Granted, it's not always easy, and you must be patient sometimes, but when you're aligned with your purpose and consistently act with that alignment, you become more positive.

I also find solace in practising meditation and yoga. Carving out that personal time allows me to reflect and prepare for each day. While my purpose remains steadfast, daily contemplation is essential to evaluate our progress and strategise ways to confront the challenges that arise.

Could you talk me through a typical day, including meditation and yoga routines, and how these activities integrate into your work life?

I like to wake up early as I find mornings quieter. I start my day by making maté, a very strong herbal tea from Argentina. Afterward I meditate for 20 minutes, then catch up on news and browse through the FoodHack community platform and various online newspapers.

Throughout the week, I engage in team meetings with my colleagues. If there are no meetings, my focus shifts to my responsibilities at Naturannova. In the afternoon, I make an effort to incorporate some physical activity. This could involve yoga or taking a stroll. As for social activities, I usually reserve those for the weekends to strike a balance.

But it can be challenging. There are instances when you become extremely focused in your business, desiring to stay completely informed about every development and to address all issues immediately. Finding that balance and allocating time for socialising and self-care can be hard. I try very hard to incorporate it, though— because ultimately, it is crucial for both the business and personal aspects of life.

What lessons have you learned from your most significant failures, and how have they contributed to your growth as an entrepreneur and as an individual in general?

One major lesson I've taken away is that many concepts I encountered in forums like the World Economic Forum or through courses from organisations like the Exponential Foundation— ideas or businesses that seemed impossible to me— were more attainable than I once thought. At a certain point in my life, I was confined to a traditional job because I deemed these aspirations impossible.

But I realised that success hinged on locating the right resources, nurturing the desire to pursue those goals, and taking decisive action. This realisation marked a significant turning point in my journey. Additionally, the issue of self-confidence emerged, closely tied to my previous point. When you convince yourself you're incapable, it becomes the main thing that keeps you from your goals.

What role has mentorship played in your journey? How have you learned from others along the way?

Having the right mentor is essential with the multitude of daily tasks and numerous variables. A mentor guides you, streamlines decision-making, and provides relief in your business. I've encountered mentors through various programs, including my father and family. The entrepreneur community is expansive and supportive, fostering a willingness to assist. Given our interconnectedness, reaching out merely involves sending a message to arrange a brief call, enabling the sharing of experiences and participation in numerous events. To me, this is paramount. I continuously seek to connect with inspiring entrepreneurs, mentors, partners, and colleagues who tread a similar path. This facilitates the exchange of experiences, seeking advice, or simply finding reassurance and patience when needed.

Are you sharing your learning experiences?

Yes. I became acquainted with my team during a program called GRIDX, a company incubator based in Argentina. They specialise in transforming scientific ideas into startups, primarily focusing on biotechnology. A few weeks ago, I interviewed individuals interested in participating in the program. Upon concluding the interviews, I received numerous messages expressing that I had inspired them. This was surprising, as I had never considered myself an inspirational figure. Nonetheless, we all have something to offer and contribute to one another.

What kind of advice would you offer to someone seeking a similar path as yours?

Feel free to pursue what you believe and feel you should follow. Please don't give up on the quest to find your purpose; we all have one, and its discovery can sometimes require time. That's the primary point— pursue what resonates with you.

Next, cultivate patience and kindness. Embrace the journey more than the outcomes, for it can be challenging to handle frustration. There might be moments of feeling lost, inadequate, or unsure about how to infuse meaning into life. But these are instances where searching in the right places and having the will to act matter. Occasionally, self-doubt might creep in, suggesting that you lack the skill or that success is unattainable. But just remember that it's simply a matter of taking action and committing to it.

You mentioned kindness earlier. I’d like to know your perspective on balancing kindness, authority, and achieving tasks. How do you perceive their coexistence as an entrepreneur? How do you effectively incorporate these different aspects?

Kindness should come first, and it's not a matter of one being more important than the other. We can harmonise kindness and authority, finding a way to blend the two effectively. The message is received more positively when approaching situations with kindness, even when needing to assert authority or have difficult conversations. This approach helps others realise that we share common goals and work towards the same impact. So, it's a matter of skilful organisation and effectively managing ideas and tasks.

Do you recognise this trend in leadership more broadly? Is there a surge of kindness entering the realm of leadership as opposed to the more traditional dominant leadership style? Do you observe this phenomenon occurring?

Absolutely, yes. Now there is a shift in the way companies are structured. The term "verticalised" no longer applies, and there are fewer hierarchical steps. We are all collaborating with a shared purpose. It's like a spider model. Instead of being vertical, it's more of a horizontal approach where different areas interact closely, resulting in a more integrated system.

Another aspect to consider is that this approach significantly enhances speed. It fosters greater creativity when decentralised decisions are not concentrated within the same individuals. This paves the way for a more fluid progression.

When have you experienced your most significant “Aha!” moments?

My first one occurred when, as I mentioned earlier, something that seemed impossible in the business realm was achievable. Grasping what the market and the world required was a turning point. It was a complete shift in perspective for me.

Before this, I had been engaged in conventional businesses that solely focused on making money. Discovering the ability to quantify the triple impact— economic, social, and environmental— was hugely relieving. While "positive impact" and "purpose" might often be overused, the ability to genuinely understand and measure these aspects transforms everything. Once I got that in my mind, it became clear that this was the path I needed to pursue.

Another moment occurred concerning Naturannova, specifically not at the outset but as time progressed. In the initial stages, my fascination with the idea was evident. However, as the months passed, my immersion in the technology and product grew deeper, leading to frequent instances of realisation. I would often think, "Wow, this is truly remarkable." Given that my background is not rooted in scientific expertise, I encountered numerous of these moments during this journey.

What future do you aspire to help shape through your business?

The fusion of biology and technology holds the potential to address numerous challenges that our planet currently faces. This conviction drives my involvement in the field of biotech. For instance, considering the projected global population of 10 billion by 2050, we will require over 60% more food than what current production can provide. Unfortunately, our existing framework is inadequate and growing obsolete. Additionally, climate change poses a significant threat. These reasons underscore my desire to make a meaningful contribution.

Biotechnology and other relevant disciplines are the foundation of our future. These fields can revolutionise our current production methods and challenge the status quo.

Through Naturannova, we aim to ensure access to nutritious food. The significance of proper nourishment cannot be overstated. Good food empowers people with energy, proactivity, and the capacity to learn. Having the knowledge to make informed decisions that drive meaningful change is crucially important. This objective aligns with addressing chronic diseases that affect a substantial portion of the population.

Lastly, we're committed to curbing pollution and the depletion of natural resources. We want to contribute in a meaningful way to the battle against climate change.

What kind of future do you aspire to create for yourself?

I aspire to create something significant. I envision a large company like Naturannova where we all share the same vision. We collaborate closely, contributing our efforts to build and develop various ingredients, all while cherishing the journey. This can be challenging since we often get too fixated on the results. I aim to establish the company of my dreams, and I emphasise enjoying the journey rather than solely focusing on the outcomes. As I previously mentioned, striving for that balance holds great importance to me.

Each day requires a mindful approach. It’s helpful to start the day by consciously acknowledging that I'll navigate it with intention. Its being present at the moment facilitates attaining that daily balance. It's not a destination you can simply reach; it's a continual journey. And nature plays a role, too: I love the natural world, and being in nature gives me a special feeling of connection and relief.

If there is one lasting message that you could share with the world, what would that be?

I advise people to spread goodness from wherever they are and utilise their strength and time to contribute positively. We all have the potential to create something positive with the resources at our disposal. It's important to dedicate our time to doing good.

That sounds great. Antonella, thank you very much for spending some of your time with us. Your business sounds extremely well-founded, and we wish it enormous success in the coming years.

If you’d like to read more about Naturannova, see www.naturannova.com.

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