Crafting the Future of Food: Emily's Journey from an Engineer to a FoodTech Founder

Inside Genuine Taste: How a Passion for Science and Sustainability is Reshaping the Alternative Meat Industry

Klára Vítková

Investment Team
November 10, 2023
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Hello Emily, a pleasure to have you here today. To begin, could you share a bit about your background and the path that led you to Antler?

Certainly. My roots are in the United States, where I was raised amidst a family steeped in scientific and technical expertise. This environment instilled in me a drive to solve problems through an analytical lens. I pursued engineering for both my bachelor's and master's degrees, but my focus eventually shifted toward combating climate change and promoting renewable energy.

After several years advising corporations on technological innovation to minimize their carbon footprint, I felt a calling toward a more direct application of my work. That desire for tangible impact led me to Canada for postgraduate studies in climate change mitigation. However, the research often felt too removed from real-world implementation, which sparked my interest in the startup arena and entrepreneurship.

I felt a calling toward a more direct application of my work.

This new venture culminated in meeting my co-founder at a networking event, bonding over our shared passion for food sustainability and social impact, and subsequently founding Genuine Taste through Antler.

How did you meet your co-founder?

We met at a networking event organized by Y Combinator, we often joke that it was “founder dating”. Since he was already part of Antler's cohort I joined Antler as well.

How did the concept of Genuine Taste emerge? Did you have the idea before joining Antler?

Neither of us had the idea at the outset. We were searching for a concept with substantial market potential that aligned with our expertise. After workshopping several possibilities, we settled on one that sparked our passion and addressed a clear market need. Our combined backgrounds afforded us a technological edge and the capacity to develop robust intellectual property. The concept gained an extra layer of appeal for me, a self-professed food enthusiast, because of the potential to elevate alternative meats significantly.

Our combined backgrounds afforded us a technological edge and the capacity to develop robust intellectual property.

Could you also delve into your co-founder's background?

He's a powerhouse in biophysics, holding a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. A truly brilliant individual.

Tell me about the dynamics between you and your co-founder.

We’ve divided roles based on our strengths. In the beginning, we were both handling everything, but as time progressed, it became evident that my strengths lay in communication, empathy, and networking, propelling me into the CEO role. My co-founder, with his technical expertise and entrepreneurial background, was a natural fit for CTO. Our collaboration transcends distance, as we’re in different cities but communicate daily. We haven’t faced any major conflicts, but we believe in seeking mentorship and external advice to resolve disagreements should they arise.

What exactly is Genuine Taste developing?

At Genuine Taste, we're pioneering the production of cultivated fat. This involves harnessing stem cell biology to grow authentic animal fat without the animal, so to speak. We begin with a small number of stem cells from cows and nurture them in a bioreactor with nutrients, resulting in bona fide animal fat. This fat enhances the flavor, texture, and nutritional profile of plant-based meats.

At Genuine Taste, we're pioneering the production of cultivated fat. This involves harnessing stem cell biology to grow authentic animal fat without the animal

The broader goal is to facilitate a shift toward more sustainable protein sources, particularly as the global demand for protein climbs. However, converting consumers to plant-based options has been challenging due to underwhelming taste and variety. Our mission is to rectify that.

So, the market is not only ripe but also expanding?

Precisely. There was a surge of enthusiasm for plant-based meats, but market growth has plateaued. The reason? The current alternatives simply don’t measure up in taste and texture. No one will swap a delectable steak for a subpar alternative that lacks satisfaction.

That's where Genuine Taste steps in. Could you outline the progress you’ve made since inception?

My co-founder and I began brainstorming in December 2021, securing funding from Antler by April 2022. We’ve also garnered investments from Big Idea Ventures and Sustainable Development Technologies Canada, among others. Initially, we lacked even a lab space. Now, we’ve not only established one but have also developed our MVP, isolated our cell line, and optimized our growth media. We’re producing cultivated bovine fat in significant quantities and have evolved from conducting customer discovery interviews to negotiating contracts for paid samples with multinational companies.

Could you articulate the vision that Genuine Taste is striving towards?

At Genuine Taste, our aspiration is to be the vanguard in the shift towards sustainable protein alternatives. We are dedicated to pioneering a future where alternatives to conventional meat are not only readily accessible but also superior in taste, nutrition, and overall appeal. Our goal is to emerge as a pivotal global force, particularly through licensing our innovative technology to other cultured meat enterprises, enhancing the flavor of their products. What excites us immensely is the potential to enable the creation of structured products.

Our goal is to emerge as a pivotal global force, particularly through licensing our innovative technology to other cultured meat enterprises, enhancing the flavor of their products.

Presently, many startups are focused on simpler, unstructured items — think ground meats for burgers and sausages. However, our technology holds the promise to revolutionize this domain by facilitating the production of complex structured meats, like steak cuts or seafood, thereby expanding the variety of alternative proteins available to consumers.

In this ambitious journey, what would you consider the most formidable challenge you've faced thus far?

In the infancy of our venture, the foremost obstacle was establishing the right infrastructure — securing a functional and economical laboratory space to develop our minimum viable product. Thankfully, the Canadian landscape is evolving with more facilities becoming available. Currently, the broader economic climate presents a significant challenge, one that many are grappling with, though our positioning as a climate tech and biotech startup insulates us to an extent, complemented by the stability non-dilutive funding provides. From a personal perspective, transitioning from a technical expert to a first-time founder, I've had to recalibrate my focus from technical prowess to the critical importance of cultivating commercial relationships and strategic business development.

What value did Antler bring to your venture?

Antler was instrumental, particularly given our newcomer status in Canada. They integrated us into the local ecosystem and provided critical third-party validation, which opened doors and built trust. Their network also connected us to relevant investors and offered guidance through our initial growth and fundraising efforts.

How has Antler been supporting you post-program?

While the frequency of interactions has reduced, we still actively engage with Antler's team and have access to a partner for quick consultations. Their continued support is like having a seasoned board member available for advice.

Can you share a recent milestone or a memorable moment from your journey?

On a personal level, I never envisaged myself as someone who could command the stage. Yet, a year and a half into leading a startup, I find myself having spoken before audiences of hundreds, which to me, marks a significant personal achievement. Professionally, every milestone we conquer at Genuine Taste reaffirms our vision and fortifies our resolve.

It’s been an inspiring conversation, Emily. Thank you for your time.

The pleasure was all mine. Thank you for having me.

Klára Vítková

Investment Team

In addition to her bachelor's degree from King’s College London, Klára has pursued her master's degree at WHU in Germany and the University of Toronto in Canada. During her studies, she gained experience in PE from King’s Investment Fund, the only student-led investment fund with real investments. Apart from that she is a skilled journalist with a focus on stock markets, VC, and startups. Klára is also a member of the board at Family Business Network where she supports more than 6,400 young business family members from 65 countries from around the world.

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