Origin Story Interview W/ Felipe Krelling, NewBio

Origin Story Interview W/ Felipe Krelling, NewBio

Brighter Future

 / 

Mar 15, 2023

#BrighterFuture #entrepreneurship #Sustainability #ClimateChangeSolution #originstoryseries #seekthechange #SustainableInvesting #ClimateTech #VentureCapital #AlternativeProteins #BiotechInnovation #ClimateAction

Brighter Future

We’re here with Felipe Krelling, founder of the NewBio VC investment fund, dedicated to promoting technologies that can reduce our dependence on animal and resource-intensive products.

Thank you so much for being with us, Felipe. Do you think you could introduce yourself and your work?

I’m Felipe Krelling, and I manage a fund that invests in climate and biotech-driven startups— mostly in the food and materials industries— which may be able to develop superior alternatives to products conventionally derived from animals. I’m focusing on both areas because there’s an enormous (and inevitable) financial opportunity that makes these fields very interesting places for the venture capital curve. My thinking is that the development of non-animal alternative products can only increase as we work to combat climate change, which is a gigantic priority. Facilitating industries and consumers to participate in the solution instead of the problem is a great way to help, especially when it comes to animal use.

That’s great. There are certainly well-established links between animal agriculture and environmental degradation. Could you tell us a little about your background?

Well, one of my backgrounds is in the software industry. I studied system analysis in Brazil and computer science in Toronto. While studying, I kept seeing pigs being transported to a slaughterhouse, which was a fairly common sight in some areas, and I had an epiphany one day that this felt really wrong. It pushed me to become a vegan, and since then I’ve resolved to use my time, money, and energy to impact the world positively.

I came across the concept of Effective Altruism, which is about finding the best ways to use one's time and effort to bring positive change. What resonated with me back then was the alternative proteins industry. I began building my knowledge in this field and started to work for the Good Food Institute, a non-profit that supports the alternative food industry in terms of policy, science and technology, and corporate work.

After three and a half years of working with startups, investors, accelerators, and entrepreneurs all over the world, I felt I could do even more— so I met some nice individuals who agreed to form a fund with me. We raised and invested a few million dollars in 16 startups, and have supported their founders and entrepreneurs to build this ecosystem. Today, I am building NewBio VC, which aims to go even further in these fields.

Building your second fund is very impressive. Who would you say you’re really targeting with the fund you manage?

A great advantage of specialized funds is that you can focus on your sector holistically, considering every aspect of what makes it work and which directions to go. So we look for early-stage startups that are building businesses that are key to advancing these sectors, from ingredients, processes, and products. And we also foster collaboration and joint efforts across industries, so we are always open to bringing further investors who are not focused on these fields to participate as well.

The “win-win” mindset works a lot in this space. People help each other, so it’s not a “winner takes all” situation. For example, the meat industry is valued at $1.6 trillion, and the dairy industry is valued at over $650 billion, with dozens if not hundreds of categories and subcategories, and that doesn’t even address the supply chain itself. And since that market is huge and there is a very strong sense of mission alignment throughout the industry, cooperation is very strong in this sector.

The level of complexity, time, and intensiveness of capital requirements in these fields also makes them more competitive. Execution matters in any business, of course— but I’d say it’s particularly invaluable here.

What gave you the confidence to start your fund?

Becoming an investor was a natural process. I dedicated a huge amount of time to participating in and supporting a specific sector, and this resulted in a fantastic network of great people in every corner of that space, all around the world. I realized there was so much value in the knowledge and relationships I had that there was no better thing for me to do than start this VC journey. With the track record I’ve been building, and the obviously urgent need for the solutions we’re working toward, I knew the time to start this was now, not tomorrow or next year.

It sounds like you’ve got a very solid plan. Have you always had these entrepreneurial characteristics and abilities?

I’ve been around entrepreneurs my whole life. At the beginning of my work with the Good Food Institute in Brazil, it was just my boss and me, which really felt like a startup, since it needed a lot of flexibility, time, and curiosity. There was a strong “owner mindset.”

I’ve also had the opportunity to speak with stakeholders, policymakers, investors, scientists, and entrepreneurs, and these interactions have inspired me a lot. I guess you could say they’re the source of my entrepreneurial spirit; I really found myself in them. It’s incredible to feel like you’ve found your tribe, you know?

To anyone who hasn’t managed to find that tribe yet— it isn’t always easy— maybe you could just get out there and build your own.

What would you say is the most fulfilling part of your work?

The financial opportunity is undoubtedly there, but what's even more important to me is the impact my activities will have on the world. Knowing that you are investing or supporting something that will make a real difference is extremely inspiring. It's motivating to be a part of building a better future.

Climate change is here, and emissions have increased by 10% since the Paris Agreement— this is in spite of the fact that we are supposed to reduce them 50% by 2030. The ship is sinking. Becoming the crew who bails it out and patches it up seems like the best thing to do. The only thing to do, really.

What were your biggest challenges in your career or with your own business?

Mental health and understanding my limits. The “save the world” mentality I was just alluding to really demands an enormous amount from you, and sometimes you just end up ignoring your own needs. It can also be very lonely. We don’t learn anywhere in the world to “do good” efficiently, so it’s common to find folks with this problem working in impact entrepreneurship. The turning point for me was to use the logic of my work to trick my brain: I had to tell myself, how can I do good if I’m not taking care of my body or mind? Nowadays that feeling has reached a healthy balance. It’s a matter of understanding the effects, including collateral damage, of what drives you.

I’m glad you’re doing right by yourself in your quest to do right by the world! Do you think you’ve made any big mistakes in your journey? If so, what lessons did you take from them?

Definitely! A lesson I learned very soon in my career was not to get trapped in the “chicken and egg” situation. Back in 2015, I had these ideas that I could jump learning curves and roadblocks just out of arrogance. So before learning that knowing what I didn’t know was as important as knowing what I’m good at, I got trapped in these loop situations that just held me back. “I can’t have that job since I don’t have that skill, and I can’t grow that skill because I don’t have that job.” So after a time I just began building and experimenting with things, taking advantage of my curious spirit and passionate heart to do something good. Best thing I did.

I've also learned that taking action sooner rather than later is essential. As the saying goes: a stitch in time saves nine. If you have a passion and ideas, there's no reason not to pursue them. We often hold ourselves back because of fear, but risk is an inherent part of entrepreneurship. Permanent stability and security? Those are just illusions.

A colleague of mine was recently made redundant at a large company. He’d had great financial stability, but then the company had to make cutbacks. It’s incredibly common. It's been challenging going it alone as I have, but I love the opportunity to build my future and write my own destiny and priorities. Though there’s a risk with anything, of course.

Of course. But we’re sure you can handle whatever lies ahead. Speaking of what got you to today, did you have any big “Aha!” moments in the past?

Becoming vegan was a critical point in my life. Seeing the reality of animals in factory farms, which most people don't see because it's not on TV, made me realize that just because you're not thinking about something doesn't mean it's not happening.

Another pivotal thing in my life was learning about Effective Altruism. It taught me how to align my passions with my actions. It's not just about finding a career path that aligns with your interests, like how if you play video games it somehow means you should go into a career in computer science. It's more about understanding how you, as a person, can use your skills and resources to make the most impact.

I used to think that it’d be impossible to continue supporting animals or the environment since I’d need to support myself somehow, but that was in the earliest days. You have no idea how happy I was when I realised I could do both.

Is there a book you might recommend to people as a source of inspiration— particularly something that has been impactful for you regarding your entrepreneurial journey?

It might be controversial, but I recommend reading The Prince by Machiavelli if you are too idealistic and somehow can’t see your place in the world. It made me realize that doing good things might not matter if you’re too naïve about how you do them. Think Again by Adam Grant is also one of my favourites since it teaches you the importance of keeping an open mind and how great minds of the past failed just out of pride or stubbornness. Humility and just staying curious and open were always behaviours I advocated for, so reading that book was fantastic. But let’s never forget there are no absolute rules in life. Sometimes an entrepreneur just needs to ignore the odds and keep going forward.

What were the most significant compromises you've made to get where you are today?

In the beginning, I really compromised my mental health and ignored all the signs of it just to keep going. I also made some serious sacrifices in my personal life to achieve what I have; it’s come at a real cost, unfortunately. I gained a lot of weight and struggled with various mental health issues for a while because I didn’t have the resources or support I needed to be doing what I was doing. That’s all going much better now, though.

If I could go back and talk to myself, I would tell myself not to sacrifice so much and to prioritize self-care and mental health. Because doing the things I wanted was totally possible while also caring for myself. Of course, making time for your loved ones is also important, as balancing work and personal life can be challenging. But you can achieve your goals and still take care of yourself. You can't save the world if you're not saving yourself.

Cheers to that: you can’t stop the world from falling to ruin if you let yourself do the same. How do you envision the future? Is there a future you would like specifically to help create with your new venture capital fund?

I am working towards two main goals for the future: addressing climate change and finding solutions to the negative impact of animal agriculture. This includes pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, animal use, overfishing, food security, food safety, and plastic pollution.

One solution I am focused on is investing in and developing alternative proteins with the same taste, texture, convenience, and cost as traditional products without using animals. This way, eating products with the same aspects as animal products won’t mean destroying the planet. I’m from Brazil, where so much of the Amazon has been destroyed to produce food for cattle and beef-eating. That’s not efficient. I can’t prove it, but I bet kids in the future will find that weird about us.

Another solution I’m very interested in is using biotechnology to replace leather, wool, silk, skin, and plastic, with materials that don’t cause harm to animals or the environment. So I support the creation of a future where buying the best food or material products won’t impact our planet or mean a sacrifice in quality— but the opposite.

How do you think you would like future generations to reflect on you and your journey?

I hope to be remembered as someone who tried to address and mitigate the pressing issues of our time. I accept that there is chaos in the world, and I want to work towards finding solutions and making a positive impact. I see myself as someone trying to put out the fire in the house instead of ignoring it, or pretending it just doesn't exist.

Is there any advice you would like to give to young and upcoming entrepreneurs?

My advice for entrepreneurs is to get help thinking about the most impactful thing they can do on Earth. When you find a problem that you love to think about, dig deep into it and learn about it as much as you can. If you have a great understanding of the problem, it will help your solution really be a solution.

People should do what they are truly passionate about. If you work on reducing plastic consumption but you’re not passionate about it, for example, you won't explore new technologies for plastic reduction as effectively as someone who loves thinking about it.

When you identify a problem, study business models, previous attempts to solve the problem, and the history of the problem. If it’s too complicated, try to find parallels and other sectors which had similar challenges as yours.

To use my example: within the alternative protein space, I studied clean energy and the history of related sustainability issues in the 90s. People were very sceptical of these problems back then— but why? And what did it take for the critical jump in this space to happen?

If you do this kind of comprehensive thinking and research, you’ll seriously improve your chances of having a good impact on your business. Conversely, if you don’t have that passion, you won’t survive the inherent down, or low periods, of entrepreneurial life.

It makes sense— we just have to consider a problem from many angles. If you had one lasting message that could reach every person on this planet, what do you think it would be?

No one needs to turn their lives completely upside down to make the world a better place. It is better to have 10% of humanity doing something, but not everything, to impact the world than 0.0001% of people doing everything perfectly. So if there are things in your life that you can do that tackle these issues, even though they may not be perfect, I would say you should go and do them.

And there is no better time than now to start an impactful business. If it’s clear that action is not being taken by companies and conglomerates, then there you go! That’s a clear opportunity for new startups and solutions to emerge. There’s a huge amount of data on how critical our climate change situation is going to get. Use that data to find what you can work on fixing.

That’s great advice. Thank you so much for telling us a little about your philosophy and how you’d like to change the world for the better, Felipe! We wish you the greatest possible success in the funding of climate and biotech startups, and we hope NewBio VC is able to support amazing founders in the future!

To learn more about Newbio VC, please visit www.newbio.vc.

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