Origin Story Interview W/ Roman Laus, Mewery

Origin Story Interview W/ Roman Laus, Mewery

Brighter Future

 / 

Nov 23, 2022

#BrighterFuture #entrepreneurship #Sustainability #ClimateChangeSolution #originstoryseries #seekthechange #Innovation #CultivatedMeat #FoodTech #TechInnovation #EthicalEating

Brighter Future

Today, we’re thrilled to be joined by Roman Laus from Mewery. Mewery is the first European startup cultivating “pork” meat on a proprietary microalgae base.

Hi, Roman! Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. For those of our readers who don’t know you and/or Mewery, could you tell us a little bit about who you are and your business?

My name is Roman Laus, and I’m from the Czech Republic. Although some might already know me from the food industry, I have a twenty-year background in IT. In fact, I have started and developed various companies, including Global DTP, Global eLearning, and an innovative real-estate business called Home Institute. These businesses have made my life financially stable and allowed me to pursue other interests. While frequently visiting the United States, I furthered my knowledge of exponential technologies by studying exponential organisations and Singularity University basics of exponential technologies.

I’ve been travelling a lot, teaching mindfulness methods and meditation abroad, and developing a couple of NGOs. I’ve also invested in a couple of startups and got one exit in the mentioned innovative real estate business about ten years ago.

That’s amazing, Roman. Congratulations on all your successes to date. Mewery is quite a departure from IT. What led you to the food industry?

Before Mewery, one of my best friends asked me to help create Future Port, Prague. This event showcased and promoted future technologies that would change the world. It started as an experiment, but we got more than ten thousand people at our last physical event in 2019. There was much interest here in Central Europe, and it became the largest Central European event for tech and innovative technologies. Thanks to this project, I came across exponential technologies and alternative proteins.

In 2018, I invited a couple of advanced companies in the cultivated meat industry from the US, Europe, and Australia to the Future Port event in Prague. When I saw them on stage, I felt like, “Man, this is something I would love to be part of somehow.” When COVID hit, the Future Port event had to be paused due to organisational and safety issues.

In my spare time, I came up with the idea for Mewery, a microalgae-based cultivated pork alternative. My wife, who happens to be a clinical biologist, played a significant role in bringing this idea to life. We chose the name Mewery because it is a rather novel, taking inspiration from the word “brewery”. We spent some time interviewing different cultivated meat companies and NGOs in this space. After that, I gathered all the information and decided it was worth pursuing from a business perspective. So that’s how Mewery was created.

What a great startup story! Thanks for sharing it. It sounds like you’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. Was there a particular point in your life when you said, “I’m going to build my own businesses rather than work a standard nine-to-five”?

During my university studies, I got a great offer to work at an IT company focused on localisation. We were a small team within the company. Today, it’s much, much larger since it’s been acquired by a worldwide investors group and became the largest localisation company in the world. Although we built up the internal department, the great work we were doing was not particularly noticed by the management. So, my colleague and I decided to team up and start our own company, a multimedia publishing company. I was just twenty-something years old at the time. I believe the entrepreneurial mindset has always been inside me, waiting for the right opportunity to emerge.

In theory, there are three kinds of people. Firstly, some people love to be employed. These types of people love to work from nine to five. They collect their wage and are happy with it. The second type is self-employed. They love to do everything independently, although they are okay with having one or two helpers. The last type is entrepreneurs. These people think about how to build something, make it effective, and how to set up the process so it can run without them. I am sure I have always been this kind of entrepreneurial type.

Once my businesses were at a certain level, I looked to invest in other companies. I began understanding where I could go and what would or wouldn’t work. I also gained experience in unsuitable investments and made occasional wrong assumptions. Still, when the idea for Mewery came along, I thought this was precisely the moment where my inner values (linked to Buddhist philosophy and meditation) finally crossed paths with my business experience. It fits perfectly because of its social impact, as well as being a huge business opportunity, of course.

That’s fascinating! Like you, many entrepreneurs say it feels like a calling or vocation rather than a job. I’m curious to know if you grew up in an entrepreneurial environment or if you had people in your life who steered you in that direction.

It’s difficult to say. My mum has been the head of the law department for an insurance company for her entire life. My father was a high school and university teacher, teaching mainly computer science. He would have lots of different computers at home, although, during communist times, there was hardly anything here in our country. My father started a few small companies in the 1990s after the iron curtain fell. He was an entrepreneur with many ideas but didn’t tend to build big companies. I would say I grew up in an entrepreneurial environment, but I was always pretty much influenced by people and much older friends I was surrounded by. They always had business ideas and always were thinking big. I also spent some time in the US, and the mindset there is to think big and just go for it. I believe that attitude stayed within me, too.

It’s interesting to trace these connections back throughout a person’s life and see what may have contributed to them becoming the person they are today. It sounds like you had a lot of positive influences and role models throughout your life. What part of your work feels the most fulfilling to you?

Watching it grow and being able to transmit my enthusiasm to others is what makes me happy. I also love the freedom it offers. It allows me to make the choices I want to make. I am conscious about my decisions to not end up working for somebody else or doing things I don’t want to do. This approach to work is the most fulfilling option for me. I enjoy having the opportunity to follow my vision and those of people around me and see the direct results of my efforts. I like to share my passion with those around me; those who want to stay are the people I love to work with. In business, I want people to have the same convictions or inner values as I do and not just go along with it because it’s their job. A team with a similar ethos of making a change or starting a movement can make an impact. These are the aspects of my career that are the most fulfilling for me.

Awesome! Your enthusiasm and passion for your work are very clear. But starting a business is no easy feat. It takes hard work, discipline and perseverance. When you think of Mewery and all it has to offer the world, what drives you and keeps you motivated to keep going?

Regarding Mewery, it’s all about creating slaughter-free meat that my children and future generations can choose to consume to be aligned with their values. I want them to talk about their values and act accordingly. Having an impact on the world is why I decided to start Mewery. It’s what makes the struggles and hardships so worth it.

Due to the technical and scientific nature of the business, Mewery will not be a short-term project. There have been some challenges along the way, but I’m focused on bringing the products to market. What motivates me is the idea of seeing Mewery products at grocery stores or served at my favourite restaurants. I want everyone to have a choice between conventional meat and slaughter-free, healthy meat. I envision we will have 30% of conventional meat, 30% plant-based, and 30% cultivated meat on our shopping mall shelves in the future.

Has there ever been a point in your life or career where you decided to do something different or take a new direction than the one you originally planned?

Yes! The Future Port events, and all of the amazing people I met, opened my eyes to all of the amazing innovations and technologies coming down the line. They showed me what was possible in the future. I strongly believe that society will change dramatically in the next ten to fifteen years, and some of the technologies I have seen will be a part of that.

That moment of realisation was a turning point for me. I wanted to use my view of the world, my knowledge, and my connections to help create something important and sustainable. I wanted to be part of a powerful societal shift. It completely changed the trajectory of my life and career.

That’s incredible! Many are happy to talk about what they ‘would do if…’ but you actually did it. No matter how motivated or experienced the entrepreneur is, starting a business is never easy. What challenges did you face when taking Mewery from an idea to a real startup?

I’ve heard that food is one of the most challenging industries one can get into, but the cultivated meat industry takes it to a new level. It’s challenging to bring scientists together and find the proper disciplines or people to take interdisciplinary roles. You can’t just find a stem cell biologist and then make the product with them. You really need a couple of different disciplines that are somewhat related and can work together. For example, one type of engineer might have a great general knowledge of the area while another will narrowly specialise in an important aspect of it. It’s all about finding the right people with the right skills and knowledge.

At Mewery, we are creating co-cultivation, which is a very complicated task. It means we are bringing different people with specific skills and expertise together to collaborate on a unique product. Understanding the industry and building an amazing team has been the most challenging part of getting Mewery off the ground. I had the idea, business mindset, and passion, but ultimately, I have no scientific background. What is beautiful, though, is that due to my lack of in-depth knowledge, I gave the seed to our scientists to develop something completely new. Our unique technology for the cultivated meat industry started with my stupid question. They laughed and said, “Of course, it’s not possible.” And then, five minutes later, they were like “Wait a moment!” They hit on something, gained momentum, and it’s been going ever since. Being competent in a field you have limited knowledge of is a challenge, but sometimes it’s actually helpful not to know much at all!

That’s amazing. You’re absolutely right that sometimes asking “stupid” questions or being an outsider to an industry allows for a perspective that has never been explored before, leading to world-changing ideas! What books, movies, or people have inspired you most throughout your journey?

My biggest teacher has been Lama Ole, a Buddhist scholar and meditation teacher from the West and the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, the head of the Tibetan Kagyu school. There have been a couple of other Tibetan masters I studied with and different kinds of philosophy schools in different institutions. In terms of business, there is a very well-known book by Tim Ferriss called The Four-Hour Work Week, which really opened my mind at the time. My experience at Singularity University and the Exponential organisations’ framework and their approach to life and the future also greatly impacted me. In terms of Mewery, many documentaries about the climate crisis and the entire food industry opened my mind considerably.

To be honest, I’ve learned more from people than from books. I love to read, but I haven’t had much free time over the past eighteen months. I’m either reading reports and investment offers or all the other documents that come with running a business. I love to read all of the digests and reports from the industry too, which is helpful with the business but also enjoyable for me.

What is the biggest sacrifice you have made to get to where you are today?

I don’t think I have ever needed to make any sacrifices in my life. I’ve always seen them more as choices I have made. I have had difficult periods, but I took those times as tough lessons I needed to learn. I don’t believe in accidents. I believe we each sow the seeds for our future, which is what we live. So, I don’t tell myself that I sacrificed this or that. Instead, I chose something else, which either made my life easier or harder, but that’s all on me.

That’s a really interesting approach! If you feel comfortable sharing, do you believe in a higher power? And how does that belief (or lack thereof) affect your decision-making in life and your business?

I’m certain that there is freedom of choice and freedom of mind. I see the world as being connected, not separated. A space where all things are connected, and in terms of my decisions, I call it ‘trust space,’ which means everything we need is already here. We often think we must do a lot to get something. But you know, sometimes it’s best to do less rather than more. You can choose to be observant, get out of your way, and simply let things happen, and the thing you want may manifest by itself. But it doesn’t manifest by accident; it’s connected to your wishes.

As a planet and as a people, we’re currently undergoing a period of great change. Companies like Mewery are helping people to have an impact with even the tiniest decisions—like what products they consume. With that in mind, we’d love to know how you personally envision the future.

Everything will be more connected, including people and technologies, and shared among us. Hopefully, people will become less individualistic. The shared economy will work on many levels. If a decentralised society develops, it may be thanks to the blockchain. I do think there is a strong desire by many people in this society to become less centralised and less governed. Overall, I think the future is bright in terms of sharing more of our lives with each other and being more connected. I believe that the technologies we develop will support that.

I also believe that we will be much more focused on the environment and the sustainability of our planet. Based on the numbers we’re seeing now, the predictions for the future are not positive; however, we can still impact the severity of the outcome.  

In terms of technology, with AI, AR, brain interfaces, and all of the associated innovations, I hope that we hold on to what makes humans…well, human! We should foster our creativity, be truthful to ourselves, and do more of what we love. I think it could come to the point where we have the time, freedom, and ability to really work on our happiness in more conscious ways by doing what we love and contributing to society.

That’s an amazing vision for the future and one we hope to see in our lifetime! When you are no longer on this earth, and others (your close friends and family) reflect upon your life and all you have achieved, what do you hope they will take away from it?

I would love them to have a smile on their face when they talk about me. They would say, "It was fun when he was around.” I want my kids to develop a love of learning and work on their development to be beneficial to others. To move forward in their lives with the same spirit and enthusiasm as I am trying to keep up. My biggest wish is that everybody knows and understands that they can change and choose how they live. We are simply creating our future. I would love to be a positive inspiration for others in their lives, especially my children.

Speaking of children and younger generations, we’d like to give you a chance to speak directly to up-and-coming entrepreneurs, young or old, who are just starting out and are possibly shaping the future through their businesses. What advice do you have for them?

There is so much I would like to say.

First, always think big! You might feel like everything has been done or invented already, but that’s never truly the case. If you feel passionate about something, dive into it. You’ve got to go out and look for that passion. It won’t come to find you. I would also say you don’t need to be an entrepreneur right now, today. You can do many other things first. In my case, I travelled the world, saw diverse cultures, and met different people. Explore your world, your interests, and your hobbies. It will give you maturity and a broader perspective. The most important thing is that it doesn’t matter how long it takes; just never give up!

Second, find people you really love to work with. Don’t choose people just because they are your friends and you want to build a business together. I wish someone had said this to me when I was just starting my journey.

Third, if you want to be an entrepreneur, you must learn to be brave. Fear freezes decision-making and the ability to act and find unique methods. Try to develop as much courage as possible and always be moving forward. Never allow yourself to freeze or stop progressing in your life or business.

Finally, always have someone next to you to whom you can talk to. Building a business is stressful, and we all need to lean on others sometimes. I recommend you do this with a friend rather than only with a co-founder or a spouse, as it can be very heavy on them. And offer the same listening ear in return. But, ultimately, I would say go for it. If you have an idea, anything can happen. There are no limits!

Great advice, Roman! There are some real gems in there. But, like all good things, this amazing conversation must end. To wrap things up, we have one final question: If there was one lasting message you could share with the world, what would that be?

Trust yourself.

Find a way to consciously and honestly connect with your inner self, trust yourself and your processes to become always a better person to be more beneficial to others, too!  

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A huge thank you to our wonderful guest Roman Laus for participating in this interview and sharing his experience. If you would like to find out more about Roman and the work he is doing at Mewery (or try these tasty products for yourself one day), you can find him at: www.mewery.io.

To stay up to date with our latest content and interviews with amazing people like Roman, subscribe to the Brighter Future newsletter here.

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