A couple of years ago, as his 50th birthday approached, Andrew D. Ive (MBA 1997) took a moment to consider his career. It had been a successful one, he thought. He had spent the previous 20 years building businesses, most recently at the global venture capital firm SOSV, where he was a partner and managing director of Food-X, the firm’s accelerator program focused on the food industry. But now, as he considered his next decade, and the world as it looked to his 17-year-old daughter, he realized he needed to shift his focus. “It sounds sort of hokey,” he says, “but I realized I wanted to spend the next 10 years deploying everything I’ve learned—the mistakes I’ve made, the experiences I’ve had—on making this world a better place.” For Ive, that meant turning all his business know-how toward addressing climate change and other major problems.
In 2018, Ive launched Big Ideas Ventures to find and support the entrepreneurs positioned to mitigate the effects of climate change and help the world adapt to the realities of a warming planet. The firm’s first fund is the New Protein Fund, dedicated to growing companies producing meat, seafood, and dairy alternatives through plant-based or cell-based technology. “If these alternatives are as tasty as their animal-based counterparts, and if they’re priced right, then our reliance on animal protein will decrease and the need for factory farming”—a significant contributor to climate change—”will decrease,” Ive says.
The fund received support from some surprising places, including the country of Singapore’s investment company, Temasek, and Tyson Foods, the world’s second largest processor of chicken, beef, and pork. Both were looking to the future with their investment in Ive’s New Protein Fund. Singapore, which imports 90 percent of its food supply, considered the uncertainties climate change is introducing into the global food market and set a target of fulfilling 30 percent of its nutritional needs domestically by 2030; alternative protein sources could help the country realize that goal. Tyson spotted a burgeoning consumer trend as people are becoming more aware of the impact of dietary choices on climate change as well as personal health and animal welfare.
Twelve startups joined the accelerator’s first cohort, including a company producing lab-grown foie gras and one creating a range of classic cheeses, such as Camembert, Gruyere, and feta, from cauliflower. Another is producing a facsimile of traditional pork dumplings from jackfruit. (Big Ideas Ventures, which is based in both New York and Singapore, is focused on funding foods that have cross-cultural appeal.)
From his experience, Ive understands the trajectory of these young food businesses, in addition to all the potential pitfalls. Big Ideas Ventures focuses on the transition points as a company moves from product to a commercial kitchen and beyond. “We dedicate a lot of our time to helping a company scale its business,” he explains. “We have experts who work with them on identifying the process, the formulation, the ingredients, how to scale from a production standpoint, and how to find the right co-manufacturers.”
Ive has the goal of investing in 100 plant-based and cell-based food companies over the next four years, and is making plans for a second, larger fund to support companies developing ecologically efficient food production technologies—innovations that can reduce carbon emissions, plastics, and packaging in the supply chain and improve land and water use. “Many large food companies have made commitments to reduce these factors to their shareholders and consumers, but haven’t identified the technologies to deliver on them yet,” Ive says.
“We are going to solve the world’s biggest challenges by supporting the world’s best entrepreneurs,” Ives believes. “Ultimately it’s not going to be the policy makers, the lawyers, the politicians, or the academics who are going to solve these challenges. It’s going to be scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.”