Big Idea Ventures has launched our very own podcast The Big Idea Podcast: Food. Each week Big Idea Ventures Founder Andrew D. Ive will speak with some of the most innovative minds in the food space and talk about the exciting projects they are a part of.
To listen to the episode click the links below!
To learn more about Mewery, check out the links below!
Mewery : https://www.mewery.io/
Andrew D Ive 0:00
Welcome to the Big Idea podcast where we focus on food. Today we’re going to be talking to Roman Laus from Mewery. Mewery is a company that’s creating porkcine or pork cells using cell based technology, and some really interesting approaches, which I haven’t seen in other cell based companies. So great conversation to be had. Hope you enjoy it. Let’s get into it. Thanks very much.
Hi, Roman, how are you? Welcome to the Big Idea podcast where we focus on food. Really looking forward to the conversation today?
Roman Laus 0:46
Yeah, hello, Andrew. I’m fine. How are you doing?
Andrew D Ive 0:49
Oh, come on, give me a better Hello than that Jesus.
Roman Laus 0:54
As I said, I’m getting out of the COVID wave. So um, I’m weaker than normal but, but very good mood.
Andrew D Ive 1:01
But your normal is normally twice as energetic and as powerful as normal people. So even if you have half the energy of normal, you’re still at a normal person’s capacity.
Roman Laus 1:14
A very good start.
Andrew D Ive 1:18
Let’s get into it. So Roman, tell us about Mewery, and what you guys are focused on.
Roman Laus 1:26
Yeah, I’m delighted to tell you more about how we started with Mewery and what we are doing. So Mewery is a cell based company. It’s a food tech startup, which uses the unique micro algae technology, which can unlock the scalar potential of the whole industry, as we say. We are basically developing a technology which enables us to cultivate porcine cells, using micro algae for a media for growth factors and also scaffolds. So we are aiming to introduce a porcine or pork products to the market within next next few years.
Andrew D Ive 2:16
Okay, let’s let’s unpack a lot of that. So you’re a cell based company, you’re focused on pork. What you guys have decided to do is to focus on using micro algae to solve some of the scale up challenges of the cell based meat category. You also said it will be available in a few years. Let’s get a bit more specific. When you say a few years is that just because of the regulatory environment, restricting the ability to sell the product inventor in all places apart from Singapore, or is the few years timeline based on how long it’s going to take you to solve the challenges of scaling up pork cells?
Roman Laus 3:15
Both and actually they are different aspects and quite the journey to get into market with cell based product. So first of all, we definitely need more time in r&d, and working, you know, on scale up. We are just at the phase of getting our first prototypes, and having amazing results with cultivation, co cultivation of microbiology and mammalian cells. So we definitely need some time here and next, of course, it’s not easy in Europe or even in US to introduce a novel food or a new product to market.
So it definitely needs a couple of years, you know to apply for, for novel food regulation and go through the whole process before you can even go to market. So I would say it’s both and it’s it’s r&d time we need and of course the whole bioprocess design and regulation in terms of entering any of the markets you mentioned apart from Singapore, which might be the fastest, let’s let’s see what the UK will do soon and how US will catch up and Europe.
Andrew D Ive 4:34
So, let’s say for example, the regulatory environment was solved. Various countries recognized that under a microscope the cells that you grow using cell based technology are identical to the cells used that you can biopsy from a pig or a cow or chicken or fish etc. So you know, the regulator’s catch up wouldn’t that be amazing? but let’s say for example, they’ve done that, from a technology perspective from a solving the scale problem perspective, what would be your estimate for Mewery getting a product to market.
Roman Laus 5:16
So we are just at stage from going from very small grams scale into lab scale. So we have dozens of crumbs, and we will go to pilot year after. So I would say there are no regulatory processes needed or they are in place, basically, I believe that within next two and a half, two and a half to three years, we could manage those to enter the market.
Andrew D Ive 5:44
Yeah, I think so too. Knowing what I know about your company, I’m thinking you could get kind of small premium quantities to market maybe at the end of 2023. Because you’re moving towards pilot scale quite quickly, which is quite impressive. Now let’s go back to the micro algae aspect. Tell us a little bit about micro algae as an ingredient or as a unit, and why you’re leveraging that as part of the cell based scale up approach.
Roman Laus 6:23
I can definitely tell in general why we chose micro algae, unfortunately, I was asked by the patent attorney not to go into details because I’m very talkative and I love to tell the whole world.
Andrew D Ive 6:37
You know, please don’t say anything which would stop that process but let’s generally talk about if it’s okay with you, and only say what you’re comfortable with, of course, let’s talk generally about micro algae and then tell us whatever you can about how you’re leveraging it.
Roman Laus 6:54
Definitely, I mean, the the, the uniqueness of technology is basically that we use plant based aspect in mammalian culture. So we basically use micro algae as a source. And we use extract for for media, we also use growth factors from micro algae, and we also use micro algae as a scaffold. So this is just in really in general terms. And what concepts microbiology from the business point of view, I really see it as a huge shift in the whole cultured meat industry because micro algae has an enormous added value to the future products.
So first of all it contains all nutrients, which are required for the right diet. It has all the lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, amino acids, and on top it has a lot of vitamins. And, you know, it also consists of carotenoids something which helps you with the color of the product. It basically gives the product something we call fortification which means that the meat we create has added nutrient nutrition value. Basically added value in comparison with conventional meat.
So we really believe that that micro algae can can even make the meat better and we are now talking about different modifications you can make in the far future. So also we can create some kind of new kinds of products. So this is one of the benefits. I would really love to point out here because this richer nutrients are benefiting over other cultivation methods. So that’s why we we chose microbiology.
Andrew D Ive 9:09
Got it? So So one of the benefits I mean, it sounds like there’s a number of benefits you guys have identified using micro algae. One of the key benefits is you’re not needing to use fetal bovine serum or FBS by the sounds of it as a way of getting your cells to reproduce. So is your solution 100% non animal based in terms of both of the growth factors etc.
Roman Laus 9:43
Exactly, this is what we already have achieved. We have a medium where we don’t need to use FBS and we are having really good results already. So it is animal free, serum free and on top actually it’s much lower cost In comparison with known cultivation methods. The numbers we have so far are telling us that we are 70% cheaper than the classical cultivation methods known out there. I don’t know about all the secrets of all the companies, but what is out there, if we compare, we are 70%, cheaper,
Andrew D Ive 10:21
70% cheaper than FBS.
Roman Laus 10:24
70% cheaper than the whole media with FBS. I mean, well, you cultivate cells depends, of course, depends on scale. But if we are talking about lab scale, this is where we are.
Andrew D Ive 10:37
Understood. Now that in and of itself is something many companies have been trying to achieve for quite some time. You could create a whole company just around that aspect or just around that product. Do you see this being a product that you can either sell or license to others? Or are you firmly focused on bringing pork cells and their pork product to market for consumers? And that also reminds me and this is just part two of the question, why are you doing this? So, you know, is it about bringing real meat to market yourself? Or is it about taking the technology and supporting the whole industry or all of the above?
Roman Laus 11:24
First oa all, we were formed as a b2c company to really be a movement, which enables the whole industry to bring the products to market. And at Mewery, we want to have our Mewery branded line, it doesn’t have to end up just with pork products. But this is what we chose for our roadmap and it also doesn’t mean that we are solely only b2c, and we will never talk to any other company or license them, we are really open to explore all these opportunities.
I’ve been getting these questions more and more also from other companies, and also investors. So we are definitely open here to actually be an enabler for the whole industry, if needed. This is a strategic decision we need to make together with all our partners, but at the moment, we are b2c, our roadmap is to bring the product to market. And as I say, in the meantime, if we find it, you know, strategically useful and smart, we would definitely do it.
Andrew D Ive 12:35
Got it. Now, let’s circle back to why you’re doing this what’s what’s driving Roman, from Mewery to start this company to, you know, move forward with pork cells and and solve some of these scale up challenges.
Roman Laus 12:52
Yeah, I think my story is probably a bit different than most of the founders here, because either it starts in university, or you come from one of the big corporations, or many have a background in food tech, at least, for food as such, so I’m coming from completely different industry. I started 20 years ago as with an IT company, in localization business. We were really fast growing, we started to work for the bigger brands like Apple, Microsoft, and many out there. Becoming one of the most known vendor for localization business. Generally, it’s an IT company in multiple languages. And this actually made me free quite early.
When I was 26/27 I was not operational anymore, so I wanted to travel more and explore more opportunities. I always had an entrepreneurial mindset. I started a lot of projects and at the same time, I was always interested in mindfulness and meditation. This freedom actually gave me first of all time and also resources to be able to educate myself and then, after a lot of traveling and education, I started also to teach mindfulness around the world.
So I was part of a big NGO, I was also part of some of the boards in different countries and at the same time I was starting businesses with my friends, so we had one real estate business. We managed to have exit within two years, which was very fast and«the timing was right, because the market changed. So we were really lucky there. I had invested in a couple of startups and was part of different projects.
However, the biggest drive and also probably the reason for starting Mewery was co founding future port, which basically became the largest, visionary and tech oriented event in Central Europe. So we, before COVID came, we had more than 10,000 people visiting and hundreds of companies exhibiting and through future part, I actually had to study exponential technologies. So I studied exponential technologies and organizations in US. And I had to prepare every, you know, annual event with all the content.
So I had to study all different topics, and one of the topics was future food and then I jumped into alternative routines. I got into GFI, and you know, different guys, we knew from our network, we went to US also. We spent some time in Peter Diamandis and, and the other guys there and then he found out that there are already companies who are not only doing plant based foods, but they’re also cell based companies who are already developing their prototypes.
At that time we had met Just in US, and we invited them to Prague, and then we invited also a couple of other companies, and it ended up a huge success in our event. Basically, when I saw them on stage, I thought this is something I wish to do one day, this is really something I really feel, it could solve a lot of problems. And yet, it’s completely aligned with my inner compass, you know, because it also saves animals and the cruelty and basically, anything, what changes people’s mind, I want to be part of, and I want to tell others what to do.
But I want to create opportunity for others, to say, hey, wait a moment, there might be a shift in my thinking, I might be having like a mindset shift and this is what I’m always excited about was in either in the teaching people to be more mindful or working with their mind, or actually doing business, which has social impact, and which actually can be a kind of a movement, not just the company. So within these two worlds, it all came together.
And then when the pandemic came, and then we stopped working on next future port prac, I basically thought this is the right moment. And on top, I met with my new wife, Christina, who happened to be a clinical biologist, and we had a lot of nights talking about, you know, about such project as Mercury. And then I decided that this is the right time, right conditions to found a company called Mewery, which is basically a novel word, which is mu very this is the place where the better cultivated meat is made.
Andrew D Ive 18:16
So it sounds like you’ve had a very, very different background than many of the founders that have been involved in moving cell based companies forward, as you said, not coming out of university not coming out of a corporation. What do you think the fact that you’ve got such a different background, the fact that you’ve done lots of different things, you’ve started different companies, you’ve had a journey to get here. What do you think that brings to Mewery that other don’t bring necessarily? How does that enhance how you will build and scale this business?
Roman Laus 18:57
First of all, I think I’ve worked all my life with people. So I really feel I can attract people who have a similar point of view or similar mindset. And in this, I think I can really inject the virus to people in a good way that they want this vision to be fulfilled. So I really feel people around me they are just, it’s not about making them work forever and for free, and you know, 24/7, but the enthusiasm I feel I can really see in other people, I mean, the whole team, so they basically love doing what they do, and this is the environment I want to create.
I’ve been interviewing hundreds of people already in several companies, I think I can feel who fits and who doesn’t. So this is one and also in this NGO, there were like 1000s of people I was in touch with so I really think that this is one aspect and experience I can bring.
Second is hopefully having a more distance into all this all the madness, when when startup starts to grow, and then investor starts to freaking out, and you know, I really feel that I can use something, what I was teaching others, and also I was trying to apply for myself.I have had feedback that people feel it stablises things, so I really wish to do it.
But I also want to stay sane. It’s a business with amazing goal and vision, but we also have a life we need to live and I think one should also be happy. It doesn’t mean it’s not hard, it’s not challenging, but on should always keep distance, and always be able to see things in total. So this is what I really love to bring in terms of a human approach to the company.
From the business point of view, I’ve seen companies growing very fast or very slow. I seen one exit. And I think it’s the whole business view I have, it’s definitely something that I can leverage from all the other companies, of course, it’s a different industry. So it’s not the same, but still the business principles, I definitely have incorporated, meaning my wins.
Andrew D Ive 21:32
So it sounds like you’re bringing sort of a more balanced perspective to the leadership role, where this isn’t about freaking out and every change and pivot and challenge. It’s about keeping things stable, understanding that this is a marathon, and so on.
Roman Laus 21:56
Yeah, definitely. And I also learn, I mean, not to give up, I have a company for almost 20 years and we went a little bit down and again up. And I know that there are cycles. I mean, in life and in the life of the company. So my experience gives me leverage. It doesn’t mean I know everything, and I will just, you know, go through it as nothing happens. Of course, I’m still seeing there will be a lot of challenges up front, but actually, I love it. I mean, I love challenges. I’m going completely out of my comfort zone by going into industrial somewhere I have never been.
Andrew D Ive 22:37
You also mentioned a few times about getting people to change their minds, creating some kind of it almost sounds like evangelizing this new way of producing and producing food like creating momentum, or I don’t know that you said tribe necessarily. But you’ve talked about people changing their minds and creating a movement. Why do you think that’s critical for what’s happening in the cell base space? And do you think that’s sort of an important part of moving this category forward in the next five to 10 years?
Roman Laus 23:23
I think is super important. Otherwise, I would not put my life into it. I really think all disruptions, they come at the beginning, as a crazy idea. I remember my first course I had to do in the regulatory offices here in Czechia. I mean, they’re laughing they’re laughing they’re like, What are you talking about me This is complete sci fi, it will never work. It will never happen.
This energize me even more, I mean, this is because this is exactly where you can see that the immune system of the status quo, it’s very strong people are like trying to, you know, to hold what they are used to. And with the whole idea of alternative proteins it’s not if it’s the question is one because it’s it’s really needed. It’s really needed we cannot it’s not sustainable the way how we eat nowadays, or how we produce food let’s put it this way.
So it’s very obvious that if we are serious about climate change and about issues of what is happening in and around us, and if we really want to change something then changing our diet and changing the way we produce food is it’s I will not say the only but this is one of the things we need to do. If we really want to work against what is happening with our planet and I think it’s really serious. I mean, I’m not a fatalist you know, thinking that we are going into be doomed, but It’s definitely something we really have to care about.
That’s why I want to be part of it. Because you know, we were organizing the event and telling everyone these are the future trends. These are your opportunities. And we were telling them, take it change your mind, said that it’s not possible that you’re just in the Czech Republic, and you cannot make any big startup or anything really impactful. And then I realized and organizing these events, but what about being an example. So that’s why really put it together. And I don’t want to say that we that we will be the only one creating movement, but I think the whole culture orf alternative proteins and cultivated meat environment, actually, it’s creating a movement.
This was my feeling before I really decided to go for the company, I spent eight months interviewing different companies and founders from the field to really know is it the right time? Is it really viable? And my feeling was that I’m actually entering a pioneering kind of environment. I don’t know if I’m explaining well in English, but it’s like you could really feel that it’s starting, that people are not only seeing a business opportunity, but they also have this urge to do something which will make impact for us, you know, as we said, together when we talk several times, I mean, also for our kids. So this is really a lifetime, or lifetimes, project.
Andrew D Ive 26:44
Absolutely right. Where are you based Roman? Where can people find you hanging out and living and working?
Roman Laus 26:52
If they want to hang out, definitely come here, because this is the best place to hang out. We have the best beer in the world. We are in the Czech Republic. I’m in Bernal. So please come and then I love to have a beer with you.
Andrew D Ive 27:07
So come for the BSD for the pork. Pork products. Definitely. Okay, so let’s very quickly because we’ve only got about 5 / 10 minutes left. Sounds like they’re sort of many levels to what you’re doing. Obviously, there’s the science and above the science, there’s the scale up. You’re using some very novel sort of traditional, non traditional, that’s a weird expression. I was gonna say non traditional for the cell based industry, but the cell based industry is so new.
I don’t know what I mean, you know, you’re not using FBS, that’s the start point. You’ve been able to create a natural plant based alternative to FBS, which is amazing. You’re using a plant based component for scaffold for each of the kind of challenges of scaling up cell based tech or cell based meat. So you guys are doing some amazing things.
Can people who are listening help? What kind of support do you need, as a company to, you know, to move this forward over the next two to three to four years? People listening? What what kind of help do you need? Is it more and more smart employees? Is it more funding? Is it more sort of support from corporate partners to help you scale and bring the product to market? What can we do listening on this side to help you speaking on that side?
Roman Laus 28:47
Yeah, beautiful. I mean, most of the things you said definitely would help. I mean, if you want to come to a beautiful country and want to jump into our enthusiastic journey, we are really open. For more people be introduced to the team. Definitely we will be raising next year, we will be raising next round of investments. So definitely, man funds will be needed. And I’m also exploring different kinds of scalar partnerships around the world to really see what will be the best and fastest way to enter the market in terms of regulation and also scale up facilities and actually pilot facilities. So definitely, we are we are searching here for four partners if we don’t decide to build it here in Brno, the whole the whole facility, but we are just definitely exploring all the opportunities. So any any help on that level is welcomed.
Andrew D Ive 29:49
Now I know you’ve said you’re going to be raising funds next year, right now for people in terms of when this recording is. It’s July 2022 Because we don’t know when people are going to get around to listening to this podcast, it could be next year before they get to it. So as of July 2022, you’re looking for additional funding, you will be raising more capital next year. Out of interest, if the right investor came along, somebody who was really enthusiastic about what you’re doing, but could add some real value beyond just money, would you consider adding them as an investor before 2023? Or are you adamantly fixed on it needs to be next year when you raise money for summary,
Roman Laus 30:38
We are actually starting conversations with the seed round investors already in October, November. So we are just trying to discuss the terms but the round itself will start by the end of the year or beginning of the next year. So we just close precede round, so we are not, we are not in need of funding at the moment.
Andrew D Ive 31:01
Sure, one sort of thing, from my point of view, having worked with a lot of startups is if anyone offers you money, find a way to take it. Just find a way because you never know, it’s like buses, you never know when the next one’s coming along. Okay, where is the best place to get a hold of Roman and Mewery, give me some of your contact details, some ways that people listening can find you, can reach out and engage.
Roman Laus 31:32
Now definitely the best place to go to get to know us is our website. So it’s https://www.mewery.io
Andrew D Ive 31:56
What about social media platforms and contacts for Roman, you don’t necessarily have to give your email because that could be getting you, you know, at least 10 emails from people listening to this podcast, you never know. But what’s a good way of getting ahold of Mewery aside from your website, and also Roman?
Roman Laus 32:19
I think the best is to actually contact us on LinkedIn or contact me directly on LinkedIn. I mean, I’m very responsive there. This is also where we announce all the news it’s on LinkedIn. So we are still really focusing on LinkedIn channel, we are not trying to cover all the social media channels, but LinkedIn is the one to go to.
Andrew D Ive 32:40
Okay, so that would be Roman Laus last name. If they type in that, they’ll get you and Mewery will pop up?
Roman Laus 32:51
Andrew D Ive 32:53
I’m also seeing the photographs behind you. I know that one of the passions that brought you to start this company, was your family. And these are the family photographs. Are they your real family or some cute app pictures?
Roman Laus 33:08
No, no, no, I’m at home. I’m at home. So this is my family. And this is, as I mentioned, Christina, was was the source of inspiration especially and also knowledge to, to start it all.
Andrew D Ive 33:24
Perfect. So Roman, from Mewery, thank you for your time today. I appreciate you coming on the line given over the last two weeks, you’ve been struggling with COVID. I went through it too. I get what you’re to some degree going through, although it affects us all in very different ways, which is very strange. But thank you for you’re, not at your normal, powerful, vibrant level but even so, because I know you well, I know what that’s like, even so you come across very, very strongly. So thanks for the call today.
Roman Laus 34:00
Thank you, Andrew, for the invitation. It’s always a pleasure to spend time with you. Thank you.
Andrew D Ive 34:05
So Roman Laus through LinkedIn, or www.mewery.io. If you want to reach out to Roman, and have a chat about what he’s doing and why Mewery is quite special in the cell base space. So thank you, Roman. Really appreciate your time. I’m going to press pause and then we can say a quick goodbye. Thank you.
Thanks for coming along to the big idea podcast where we focus on food. I hope you enjoyed the conversation with Roman from Mewery today. So as ever, if you have questions if you’d like to support and get involved in what Roman or Mewery are doing, please do reach out. They gave you the contact details during the earlier part of the podcast.
My name is Andrew D Ive IV. I’m the founder of Big Idea ventures and we’re focused on working with young entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. So if you’re interested in what I’m doing, or big idea Ventures is doing, please do reach out to us at Big Idea ventures.com Or you can find me on LinkedIn. So that’s today’s podcast. I hope you found it useful and entertaining. If you have questions, please do reach out to us. That’s it for today. Look forward to greeting you and having you engage with our next podcast. Thanks very much. Bye
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
© Big Idea Ventures LLC 2021