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From Aspiring Biochemist To Transforming The Protein Industry

Christopher Kong

Better Nature Tempeh

Powered By:

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From Aspiring Biochemist To Transforming The Protein Industry

Christopher Kong

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Better Nature Tempeh

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Christopher Kong
Full transcript here

About Christopher Kong

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Episode 120: Amardeep Parmar (https://www.linkedin.com/in/amardeepsparmar) from The BAE HQ (https://www.linkedin.com/company/the-bae-hq) welcomes Christopher Kong, CEO and Co-Founder of Better Nature Tempeh.

Christopher Kong, CEO and co-founder of Better Nature Tempeh, shares his journey from aspiring inventor to leading a company that aims to make tempeh the world's go-to source of protein. His path involved transitioning from a scientific career to entrepreneurship, leveraging tempeh fermentation technology to create sustainable, high-quality protein alternatives.

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Show Notes: 

00:00: Intro

01:45: Childhood dreams and evolution of interests from inventing to science.

02:44: Academic path in biochemistry, the realisation of wanting to have a broader impact beyond being a doctor.

04:48: Christopher's shift from pursuing a scientific career to exploring business avenues for broader impact.

07:33: Realisation that consulting wasn't the right fit and the pivot towards entrepreneurship.

09:09: Initial career explorations and the decision to focus on startup and entrepreneurship.

11:18: Reflection on transitions and maintaining a clear vision for the future.

13:39: Meeting co-founder at a competition and initial tempeh business idea.

16:19: Evolution from the original idea to Better Nature Tempeh.

18:23: Transitioning from the initial concept to the current business model.

21:04: Early steps into building Better Nature Tempeh and navigating post-graduation decisions.

21:55: The strategic decision to defer corporate job offers and commit to entrepreneurship.

25:53: Major achievements and the placement of products in supermarkets.

26:02: Marketing strategies and educating consumers about tempeh.

28:05: Overcoming challenges in building credibility and securing partnerships.

31:49: Clear vision for tempeh's role in the future food landscape.

33:58: Long-term vision for Better Nature Tempeh and its potential impact.

38:55: Closing remarks and encouragement to try Better Nature Tempeh products.

Christopher Kong

https://www.linkedin.com/in/cwnkong/

Better Nature Tempeh

https://www.linkedin.com/company/betternature/

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Show Notes

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From the first time founders to the funds that back them, innovation needs different. HSBC Innovation Banking is proud to accelerate growth for tech and life science businesses, creating meaningful connections and opening up a world of opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors alike. Discover more at https://www.hsbcinnovationbanking.com/

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Christopher Kong Full Transcript

Christopher Kong : 0:00

What if we decentralized protein? We knew we landed on a really interesting piece of technology, tempeh fermentation something that my co-founder did his PhD on, actually, but never thought about commercializing with me. With my background in biochemistry, I was able to understand the science. With my background in corporate stuff, business stuff. I was able to understand some of the commercial impact that I could have. The grand vision is that we see tempeh as the world's go-to source of protein for stock.

Amardeep Parmar: 0:39

Today on the podcast we have Christopher Kong, who's the CEO and co-founder of Better Nature Tempeh. They create a high quality, alternative, sustainable source of protein for everybody's needs. Christopher grew up wanting an inventor and he was fascinated by biology and chemistry, but he didn't want to be a doctor. He was exploring different careers and he was very interested in entrepreneurship. While at university, for a freak incident, he then entered a university competition where there was a tempeh-branded idea, where he met his first co-founder, and they later took that on and used their unique processing to make this new brand, which is now in stores nationwide and is doing incredibly well. This is his story and where they are today. We're the BAE HQ and our mum and we're powered by HSBC Innovation Banking. So what you're doing today is incredible. But when you're growing up, when you're a kid, what was your dream? What was your ambition? What did you want to be when you grew up?

Christopher Kong : 1:45

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an inventor. I think many kids go through this. They start off as like, oh yeah, I want to be an FBI agent, I want to be a police officer. I went through that journey, but when I was five or six I landed on I want to be an inventor. Or I want to be a scientist. For example, every time, I've got two brothers one older, one younger and every time they broke one of our toys which inevitably happen like, for example, a remote control sort of like car I would break down the car, be like, these components seem pretty cool, let's make another toy. And I found so much like yeah, like so much fulfillment from doing that that I was like damn, I just want to keep on doing whatever this is. See, when I was super young, I wanted to be an inventor.

Amardeep Parmar: 2:40

Did that carry on to what you choose to study later on, or did you?

Christopher Kong : 2:44

Yeah, sort of. I mean from a super young age, like when all the kids were wearing like so, not like not wearing, reading Harry Potter. I never found that stuff interesting. You know, I never found like English or music or any stuff like that. Super interesting. I think now I've got like a much deeper appreciation for the humanities, but when I was younger that just wasn't, that didn't come naturally to me, but instead what came naturally was like all the books about dinosaurs. I was like I was obsessed with dinosaurs, like all the books about like what you know life on human sorry, what life on earth could look like in two, three, five million years. Like I absolutely love all that futuristic stuff like sci-fi, the cartoons, like I love that and yeah, that this interest in being an inventor sort of evolved into an interest in the sciences in general. So I mentioned like putting together electronic components. That was interesting, right, but I didn't, I couldn't actually get my head around it. I was like like how does this work? Like what the heck is electricity? Like what is, like you know, magnets? Like still mind blowing, to be honest. But what I thought was super interesting was the life sciences, especially biology. So at school loved biology, I also loved chemistry and I wasn't interested in like the broader biology stuff. Like I wasn't interested in oh, this is like biodiversity and like let's throw, you know, a square there and see like how many species there are, like all like migration patterns, like I actually could not care less, but what I really, what really got me interested was like all the biochemical mechanisms which underpinned all of these different biological processes. So less sort of macro, a lot more micro, and that's what then triggered me to study biochemistry at uni.

Amardeep Parmar: 4:48

And when you were studying that, was it you hoped for? you enjoy it?

Christopher Kong : 4:49

Yeah, I mean, when I went into university, I was like super committed to going the whole way through academia. I was like I was, you know, I was super committed to doing a masters, then committed to doing a PhD. Like for me, like the vision was I wanted to be the next Sir Alexander Fleming. And, you know, growing up in an Asian household, my mom was like biochemistry, like what is that? Like you should be a doctor. If you love biology and chemistry, you should be a doctor. But I think, from a very relatively young age, I realized that the impact that I could have on the planet as a doctor was severely limited versus the impact I could have as a scientist, right? So Sir Alexander Fleming for those that don't know, right, you know, discovered penicillin. Penicillin was basically the first antibiotic ever discovered and opened up the field of antibiotics. Right, and now we take it for granted. But back then, if you got pneumonia, you're pretty much going to die. So I thought, wow, like he had impact not only in his lifetime but for, basically, for you know, the hundred years since. And as a doctor, I realized that I would not be able to impact lives outside of my own lifetime. So that's what got me to study the sciences. So I wanted to be Sir Alexander Fleming. But at uni and it's only really struck in my final year of university, you know, I went to Oxford. It was an integrated masters program. The reason being was that the reason why I chose that course was because this was the fastest way that anyone could get a masters in biochemistry. If I went to the US, for example, that was an option. It'd be like a four year just to get a bachelor's, two years more to get a master's. I was like four year masters, this sounds incredible, let's do it. But in my final year, when I started having to work in the lab and having to actually do real science not just learn about science but actually do it I was like God, this is way too slow. And that's what sort of got me thinking OK, if being a scientist wasn't for me. But yet I'm still obviously super passionate about the impact the sciences, the sciences in general, can have on the betterment of human health, human life right, the planet, et cetera. Like, what other avenues are there available to me to be able to sort of channel that passion for the sciences to have that real world impact? And that's what got me into sort of the more business, I guess, side of things.

Amardeep Parmar: 7:33

How was that realization that what you dreamed of for so long wasn't maybe right for you? Was it quite easy to think, OK, pragmatically, I'll try and business instead. Or was that quite a big identity shift for you to say, ooh?

Christopher Kong : 7:45

Not really, not really, I think, you know, growing up. So my mom she was an entrepreneur, right. My dad as well, right, like serial entrepreneurs. And so that idea of going out there making something for myself was deeply ingrained and the vision that I had when I mentioned all still holds true but always had the element of entrepreneurial sort of ism. That even is a word, right.

Amardeep Parmar: it's a word today.

Christopher Kong : It's a word today, right Entrepreneurialism sort of baked in. So I didn't just want to be a scientist. If I was the next Aragz and the Fleming, I'd also want to be involved in actually taking that innovation to market and playing around with all that stuff. And so when I first started at uni, I was going to a lot of like business type talks but really, but the business stuff for me at that time felt like it was going to come later, like it was going to come after the PhD, it was going to come after, maybe, a career in the sciences to really, like you know, develop that innovation. I guess it was just in my final year of university that I realized, okay, that whole business stuff needs to come up a little bit sooner.

Amardeep Parmar:

What were your first steps in that? Right.

Amardeep Parmar: 9:02

Where did you then? So, okay, you're not going to now go and do a PhD. What do you think? Okay, this is what I'm going to do first, to get onto my new path.

Christopher Kong : 9:09

Yeah, no, super interesting. I sort of explored quite a lot of different, I guess, career paths. So it started off with like I don't know, like some really honestly in retrospect, super random stuff. So like experimented with asset management. So I applied for like a few asset management internships like, did a little like stock picking competition, but I realized like I've got no interest in doing research into why this company would do well and sort of just like taking a bet, like that did not interest me at all. I wanted to be a lot more operational. So that then led me to, okay, if I want to be more operational, like what career opportunities are there to sort of get a feel for lots of different industries, and consulting was a relatively obvious option in that sort of like perspective. And so I applied for loads of different like you know consultancies. I read all the books, right. Like case in point and stuff like that, and went to all the you know like the what's it? The talk, the recruitment events that were hosted and it's sort of I guess the message that they all shared was join us, solve a real problem, right, have real impact, and that really resonated. I was like, well, I don't know, I know I'm passionate about the sciences, but I actually have no freaking clue how you'll get from like a bench top sort of, or like a paper scientific paper to an actual real world sorry, real world product that's going to impact people. Why not join a consultancy where I get to sort of play around loads of different industries, learn all these different skills, skills.

Amardeep Parmar: 10:53

PowerPoint.

Christopher Kong : 10:53

PowerPoint, powerpoint, excel. Learn all these skills to be able to have that impact. So I, you know, was very fortunate to have been to be successful, you know, yeah, to successfully get an internship at McKinsey in the London office. So this was one. This is summer of 2017. So quite a few years back. But, yeah, realized that consulting probably wasn't for me either.

Amardeep Parmar: 11:18

So you have to go another transition there, right? So you thought, okay, scientist, not for me, consulting, that's the way that I can do the things I want to do. And now also not for me. What do you do then? Because it's I think it said reasonable thing that many people go through is that the first couple of things they try aren't necessarily the right thing. And I don't know if you thought this as a kid, but a lot of people have that pressure to have the right thing straight away. So what did you next go on to? What did you try next?

Christopher Kong : 11:45

I mean, I think the one thing that was consistent was that vision, that sort of big picture, blue sky thinking, sort of that very amorphous sort of idea of the person that I wanted to be. The things that really motivated me, the things that really excited me. No one knows what the path that they're on will lead to, but I think it's really important to have that direction, that North Star, so to speak. So for me, I think what I'm really grateful for is that that North Star never changed. I still wanted to be like an innovator. I still wanted to be a scientist. I still wanted to tinker around with things. I still wanted to have that impact. I still wanted to. So it didn't matter whether it was in stock picking or asset management or consulting, as long as I felt like I was sort of trending towards that North Star. So when I realized that consulting wasn't for me, I was like you know, I was only an intern, right, it was only two months. The real thing that didn't resonate with me was that I didn't feel like my work was having purpose. I had purpose. I didn't feel like I was having the impact that I wanted, but then the work itself was actually all right and the people that I met are still my best friends today. So that sort of balanced out the cons of the work, perhaps not being the most interesting. So I thought, okay, you know what, not for the long term, definitely not going to become partner or anything, but as a thing to do for like one and a half, two years, sort of cut your teeth right or whatever. Why not? Why not give it a shot? So that was my mindset after the internship. But then, yeah, sort of everything changed in my final year of university.

Amardeep Parmar: 13:38

So what happened in that final year?

Christopher Kong : 13:39

Yeah. So after the internship you know very gratefully they extended an offer to me to join full-time, which I very gratefully received and accepted. But again this sort of idea in the back of my mind that this wasn't exactly perfect and it sort of just lingered and I couldn't really shake away. So I thought like you know, why is it not perfect? Going back to what I just said, it's really that impact piece wasn't quite there and I thought really the only way I could have that impact was to either join like an impact-driven business right, start up whatever stage, or found my own where I could be the architect of the purpose of the business. So that's sort of what I landed on right. But again, it was super nice to have that safety net of a full-time job on paper, like an amazing job right, sort of just waiting there for me for when I graduated. But my final year of university I started playing around. Loads of different things, went like, started applying and sort of, yeah, playing around with all these different startup pitching competitions at university and there was one actually organized by this organization called the GAP Summit. And the GAP Summit there are this, there are essentially this like student forum right, sponsored by major biotech and pharma companies. It's hosted, they alternate between hosting it at Cambridge, UK, right, and Cambridge, Massachusetts in the US and the idea behind it is that it's all about how do we address the gaps in biotech, the gaps being like sustainability, for example, or like the innovation gap, etc. Etc. And I just applied. I thought like why not? Sounds pretty cool a weekend in Cambridge. You know Love that. Yeah, it was quite a selective process. They sort of only took on a hundred delegates from all around the world, from all the amazing universities that you and I both know, and two months before this physical conference took place, they randomly allocated the hundred of us into teams of five, assigned the team of five a mentor like actually like a real world entrepreneur or advisor or investor or whatever and told us that we had to come up for a business idea, and then the top seven teams then got to pitch at the conference. So I just so happened to be put into this team with now one of my co-founders, Driando, and that's when everything sort of got derailed.

Amardeep Parmar: 16:15

Was the idea tempeh at that time, or what was the idea that you came up with together?

Christopher Kong : 16:19

Yeah, so the idea that we came up together was all about tempeh, but it's not. It was actually completely different to Better Nature Tempeh today. So the idea we actually came up with the name, all that was completely different, but it did sort of still center on tempeh fermentation, which is technology that our entire business is built on. In fact, the idea was sounds so silly now, but it was for a effectively an espresso machine, but for making tempeh instead of coffee.

Amardeep Parmar: 16:52

Okay, right.

Christopher Kong : 16:54

So a tabletop device that allowed anyone anywhere to make their own supercharged protein at home, and I think back then this was like 2018, I was also sort of working as sort of again playing around with all these other startups, and one of the startups was this blockchain startup back when sort of blockchain and Bitcoin and all that stuff crypto was super, super big and this whole idea of, like decentralization was super interesting. So I was like well, what if we decentralize protein? Like, what impact would that have? And my experience, or my journey towards sort of reducing my meat consumption, stemmed from my awareness that I had no idea where my food was coming from. And the fact that I had no idea what was involved in producing the animal protein that I was having sort of meant that I was happy to eat these animals, whereas if I was to truly sort of lift the lid, so to speak, on that process, I'd probably think twice. So I thought, what if we could decentralize that? What if we could make it super transparent so everyone knew exactly where their food was coming from? Would that sort of enlighten people to change perhaps some of their diets? And so, yeah, that's where the idea for Tempeh Easy came from, that sort of Nespresso machine for tempeh. But yeah, we've put that on ice for now.

Amardeep Parmar: 18:23

So it'd be interesting to do that journey because obviously today it's Better Nature Tempeh and it's a very different territorial idea. But you met your co-founder at that competition and I'm guessing behind the scenes ideas were staring around. What made the original idea evolve into what it is today?

Christopher Kong : 18:39

In two months. We didn't have time to get consumer feedback. It was literally just create a business plan, create a broad sort of business plan on a sheet of paper, create a deck and go for it. We knew we landed on a really interesting piece of technology tempeh fermentation something that my co-founder did his PhD on, actually, but never thought about commercializing. But with me, with my background in biochemistry, I was able to understand the science. With my background in what ever corporate stuff, business stuff, I was able to understand some of the commercial impact they could have, as well as, of course, in the broader sense, the impact, just generally speaking, to the environment et cetera they could have. So I thought that was absolutely key. But the way in which that technology manifested itself was I was totally flexible on and what we realized was that no one's going to buy a machine to make tempeh if no one knows what tempeh is simple as that. So then the idea became okay, how do we absolutely blow up the awareness of tempeh? So we very quickly pivoted after winning that competition. So out of 20 teams we won, we got a few. At that time we thought it was a huge amount of money, but looking back it was like three grand, after winning that funding or whatever that sort of like stipend. We then started thinking, okay, how do we blow up the awareness of tempeh? And that's what got us to creating tempeh crisps, so snacks made using tempeh. But then we very quickly realized the world doesn't need another high protein snack. What is truly unique about tempeh that warrants consumers' attention towards it? And we realized it was because of the role it can play in reducing people's meat consumption without compromising on taste, texture, right. Enjoyment of that protein. So that's when, then. That's how we then sort of transitioned from the snacks to where we are today, so serving that, that sense of plate me location.

Amardeep Parmar: 21:04

We hope you're enjoying the episode so far. We just want to give a quick shout out to our headline partners, HSBC Innovation Banking. One of the biggest challenges for so many startups is finding the right bank to support them, Because you might start off and try to use a traditional bank, but they don't understand what you're doing. You're just talking to an AI assistant or you're talking to somebody who doesn't really understand what is you've been trying to do. HSBC have got the team they've built out over years to make sure they understand what you're doing. They've got the deep sector expertise and they can help connect you with the right people to make your dreams come true. So if you want to learn more, check out hsbcinnovationbankingcom. So if you'll go through those early steps right, once you've had this competition done, you've graduated from university. Was it straight into Better Nature of Tempeh for full time or how did that come about that decision?

Christopher Kong : 21:55

Yeah, so I mean I graduated June 2018. The competition and everything sort of happened earlier, like around springtime, april-may time. It wasn't a straightforward decision to make, as you can imagine. Right Like I had this job offer on the table, I had worked extremely hard to get that internship in the first place Like it certainly wasn't easy, and I was really excited, to be honest, to join McKinsey. I thought it would have been a really good place to start my career Again. As I mentioned earlier, some of my best friends today they all joined at the time that I was meant to. So turning down that offer also meant turning down sharing that time with them. So it wasn't straightforward, but I think, yeah, like the thought process was, this is the time to take risk. I was 22 years old. I didn't need a lot to live. In fact, what I ended up doing was asking McKinsey if I could defer my entry date by year, and what that meant was that I basically I kept that safety net, but given myself a year to either smash it out of the park and determine whether or not better nature was going to be the thing that I commit many more years to, or fail, and that I think, yeah, having that sort of deadline to prove whether or not this could work meant that I just worked extra hard to try and kill it. Really, I tried to kill it and so, after the competition, after graduating, I then worked at Founders Factory because I realized one of the key components of success for this business was securing funding and I needed to know what then determines whether or not a startup could receive that funding. So I worked at Founders Factory they are this sort of accelerator, incubator, slash, vc based in London and by day I was grilling entrepreneurs, by night I was grilling myself. I was like, well, all these questions of asking these entrepreneurs, these poor entrepreneurs that have been, like you know, grilled on the spot, like I need to be able to answer them too. So all these, you know, I see sort of white papers that I was drafting oh, you know, team traction, right Defensibility, market size, consumers, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I was like shit, I need to answer all of this. Like this is all stuff I need to answer too. And that was that was super, super, like powerful. I thought that experience like super enlightening. And when I when the business idea I realized could answer all these questions that I was asking you know, these poor entrepreneurs, I realized that maybe I was onto something. And then I went out, raised our first round, built a team, so at that time that, like our two other co-founders, ellen and Fabio, joined. And you know, once you have a team, once you've got some funding, you can't really say, say no to that. And the prospect of it was just so exciting. I felt and I still am extremely excited, probably even more so than I was back then but like the prospect of being able to have this impact, to be the architect of that right To be, to still be that inventor that I always wanted to be when I was a kid, right Yet still feed into sort of my general motivations of having a positive impact on the planet. Yeah, just could not say goodbye to that. So you know, when Push came to shove I said no, it's McKinsey, and that was that.

Amardeep Parmar: 25:53

And I'm guessing there's no regrets?

Christopher Kong:

Absolutely not.

Amardeep Parmar :

So obviously. You've been on this journey now for a while. What have been some of the biggest wins, like tell us where better nature temper is today?

Christopher Kong : 26:02

Yeah, I think seeing your products on supermarket shelves just nothing really quite beats that, you know, like for example when I was at Oxford and you know Ellen. She also studied at Oxford. In fact she was the one that got me to. You know, that started me on my plant-based journey to begin with, back when we were both at uni. You know we used to go to this Tesco right around the corner from college pretty much every single day. That's where we bought our staples, that's where we bought our plant-based you know protein, that's where we bought our wine and beer before a big night out. And this Tesco on modern street. You know when I was thinking about well, like incubating that embryonic idea for Tempezi slash, better nature, I would look at that shelf and be like you know, here you have corn meatless farm, the tofu company cauldron, like wouldn't it be so cool if one day our product could sit on that shelf? Fast forward four years and we were there. So that was yeah, that was insane to think about. Like you know, when I was every time I pitched this idea to investors in the earlier days and I told you know, and then sort of the product positioning is that we are more all natural, more wholesome than your meat alternatives like corn meatless farm, but more, you know, higher in fiber, more tasty, more nutritious, you know firmer texture than your tofu's. I always look like in my mind's eye I see that shelf. So to finally be on that shelf is insane. And then, funnily enough, it's actually one of our best performing stores today. In of all of the 600 stores that we're in in Tesco, that one on modern street, like consistently, is somehow in the top like 20.

Amardeep Parmar: 28:05

You mentioned earlier on about the education need around Tempe right that people need to understand, like you said, the nutritional value, the fiber, everything like that. Have you been able to do that? Have you been able to market something which maybe people have never heard of in the earlier days and show them that this something which is valuable to them, that they should be trying out?

Christopher Kong : 28:23

Yeah, I guess the good news is that we weren't alone. Like, if you search up Tempe on Google, like the first 10 hits are all going to be about like how amazing Tempe is, right. Like whether it's from nutritionists, whether it's from dietitians, whether it's like these amazing looking recipes. People only have great things to say about the food, which is obviously super helpful, right. And the fact that Tempe originated in Indonesia like hundreds of years ago, like we're talking about three to four hundred years ago, means that we also have this culinary tradition that we can lean on. So you're right, if we were to basically create a food product out of thin air and market that, that as a small business would be hugely, hugely so difficult. But the fact that there was already this bank of positive stories and all these like recipe ideas and this tradition of tempeh consumption for hundreds of years in Indonesia meant that we just had to articulate that to the modern western consumer. And I think to do that, we had to be really, really sure about where we were going to play and how we were going to win. What I mean by that is that as a small business, you can't play in every single arena. When Amazon first started they were just all about books and then they sort of like brushed out. Now they've got AWS and whatever, right. But when they first started they had one arena and they just had to absolutely nail that. And so for us it was like narrowing down exactly where we're going to play, and we realized that retail was. We could have gone into food service, we could have started supplying restaurants or universities or schools, whatnot, and there is a business there and there's something that we are now working on. But we knew we had to nail retail first, or at least that was what we committed ourselves to doing. And then how we were going to win was also super, super, had to be absolutely nailed. I mean, if you look at the current category, if we said that we were just a better tasting corn, is that that exciting of a proposition? Everyone is saying that they're better tasting than corn. Right. If we said that, oh, we were just tofu, but better, I mean, most people don't really have the most positive affiliations of tofu to begin with. So that is also a very weak proposition. So we had to be really clear about that that we were not going to be a tofu alternative and we're certainly not going to be a meat alternative. We were championing tempeh in its own right and that's what landed us on protein supercharged right. High quality protein, double the protein content of chicken eggs, with fiber, with gut health benefits, you know, with taste and texture. So, yeah, I think that really helped. Just being clear on what we wanted consumers to know is often like, yeah, it's often like 80% of the challenge of marketing.

Amardeep Parmar: 31:49

So that's like one challenge you've overcome there, which have obviously done very well, considering grintesco and all these other places. What was something of the big challenge that you faced and how did ?

Christopher Kong : 31:59

In the early days, right, and you ask any founder and will probably say something along the same lines. It's all about building credibility. Like trying to get onto a retailer shelf is, honestly, super similar to trying to secure investment from an investor, and both are also super similar to trying to get a manufacturing partner to give a shit right. Like you know, kids, kids, for all these people right. For retailers, the shelf space is money, investors, their money is money. For manufacturing partners, right, their time, their effort, they're going to invest in manufacturing your product versus Nestle's or Unilevers. That's money too. So it's all about building credibility and, as a first-time founder, as someone with like literally no experience, I had no idea that what I was doing was really difficult and, I think, overcoming that. I think you just got to be really good at selling the vision. So you know, I think in a co-founding team there needs to be one person who's superpower is selling, because you're going to be selling all the time when you're in your early stages. You're going to be selling to partners. You're going to be selling to investors. You're going to be selling to retailers. You're going to be selling to customers. You're going to be selling to your team right. To hire the best people. You just got to keep on selling. I think, obviously, like no one is born good at selling or convincing, but all these skills sort of yeah. I got cultivated over time so we obviously had loads of failures, right, but from every failure we learned something and we sort of took those lessons on board and we go again.

Amardeep Parmar: 33:49

So you mentioned that the vision right of how you've been able to get all of these different stakeholders involved. So, before we go into Quick Fire questions, what is the grand vision? Where do you ?

Christopher Kong : 33:59

The grand vision is that we see tempeh as the world's go-to source of protein for stop. We see tempeh as an incredible protein staple that can play into a wide variety of different product categories outside of just meat free. So the vision is tempeh not just on center of play, but really tempeh in every food occasion where protein is expected to be in, or should be Supercharged protein. So what does this mean in S Like? What does it actually mean? I know these are a lot of like big ideas, but it means you know tempeh based snacks, right. Whether that's on the go, sort of like fridge radar style snacks to protein bars, to protein shakes, to protein. You know tempeh protein packed sort of hummus and dips and spreads to perhaps even you know tempeh based breads and pastas. We're like, why not? Because you know it's all underpinned by this idea that tempeh is protein supercharged. So, and we know that consumers should be eating more protein, we know that consumers also looking to look after or, sorry, seeking to look after the gut health that need more fiber right, they need to be eating less fat, less carbs right. For the betterment of their health, but also more plant based foods for the betterment of the environment and animals. So, yeah, we see tempeh as this amazing protein, or tempeh fermentation specifically, the technology that underpins all of our products as this amazing protein diversification platform that we can then build different products on top of.

Amardeep Parmar: 35:59

So it's amazing to see what you've done so far and it's really exciting to the future as well. But we need to move on to quick fire questions. So first one who are free British Asians that you think are doing incredible work and you'd love to shout them out for the audience to pay attention to?

Christopher Kong : 36:12

I think what Rushina Shah is doing with his insane grain is super cool, so big shout out to her. You know she's just recently secured Harry Kane as an investor and like yeah, have you looked into how she did that?

Amardeep Parmar: 36:25

Yeah, I know about this.

Christopher Kong : 36:26

It is unreal, so like mad props to her and what she's achieved with the Insane Grain. In fact, we actually shared an office a couple of years ago, so it's really cool to see how she's come along with that business. I got to give a shout out to one of the little moons founders. I mean I haven't met Vivian yet so, but I've met Howard, Howard Wong. He's just such a genuine guy and he's also, you know, a big supporter of us. So it's just like massive shout out again If I think about the journey that we're on and the journey that little moons have been on, right. Very similar. They sort of take they took Marchie, right, everywhere, in the same way that we want to take Tempe everywhere. So I think a lot of learnings we can take from that. And I mean, if you're on social media, you'll probably have heard of a brand called Impossi Brew right, especially if you're looking to reduce your alcohol consumption, which I think you know is starting to become much trendier now, and you know I've personally sort of dropped alcohol as well. So yeah, Max Wong, founder of Impossi Brew, just super cool science, super cool product. Love the brand. And yeah, I love the mission.

Amardeep Parmar: 37:42

Yeah, so it was kind of awesome and love to get the long time day as well, if people want to find out more about you, though, and what you're up to what Better Nature Tempe is up to which they go to.

Christopher Kong : 37:52

Yeah, I mean I think the best place would be to follow us, follow me or follow the business on LinkedIn. Quite active on there. My other co-founders are super active as well, so massive shout out to Elin Roberts, our CMO co-founder, Driando Ahnan, who's our CTO, and Fabio Rinaldo, who's our COO. Yeah, I think that's probably the best place to keep in touch.

Amardeep Parmar: 38:17

And is there anything that you guys need help with right now that the audience could help you with?

Christopher Kong : 38:21

give us a go. Right, if you see us in your local Tesco or Asda sometimes we're in Lidl. If you're in London and you see us in Planet Organic or Whole Foods, if you're interested to give SuperCharge protein a taste or you can also find us on Amazon give us a go. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. But honestly, yeah, just giving us a try. If you like the product, that's great. Please keep coming back. If you don't like the product, we'd love to hear from you. Thanks so much for coming in today.

Amardeep Parmar: 38:54

Any final words.

Christopher Kong : 38:55

Yeah, I mean just massive shout out to you and what you've built with the BAE HQ. I think we need more stuff like this. There needs to be greater awareness of all the amazing Asian founders building the businesses of tomorrow. I think it's super cool to be part of this community and I wish I knew about you guys earlier.

Christopher Kong : 0:00

What if we decentralized protein? We knew we landed on a really interesting piece of technology, tempeh fermentation something that my co-founder did his PhD on, actually, but never thought about commercializing with me. With my background in biochemistry, I was able to understand the science. With my background in corporate stuff, business stuff. I was able to understand some of the commercial impact that I could have. The grand vision is that we see tempeh as the world's go-to source of protein for stock.

Amardeep Parmar: 0:39

Today on the podcast we have Christopher Kong, who's the CEO and co-founder of Better Nature Tempeh. They create a high quality, alternative, sustainable source of protein for everybody's needs. Christopher grew up wanting an inventor and he was fascinated by biology and chemistry, but he didn't want to be a doctor. He was exploring different careers and he was very interested in entrepreneurship. While at university, for a freak incident, he then entered a university competition where there was a tempeh-branded idea, where he met his first co-founder, and they later took that on and used their unique processing to make this new brand, which is now in stores nationwide and is doing incredibly well. This is his story and where they are today. We're the BAE HQ and our mum and we're powered by HSBC Innovation Banking. So what you're doing today is incredible. But when you're growing up, when you're a kid, what was your dream? What was your ambition? What did you want to be when you grew up?

Christopher Kong : 1:45

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an inventor. I think many kids go through this. They start off as like, oh yeah, I want to be an FBI agent, I want to be a police officer. I went through that journey, but when I was five or six I landed on I want to be an inventor. Or I want to be a scientist. For example, every time, I've got two brothers one older, one younger and every time they broke one of our toys which inevitably happen like, for example, a remote control sort of like car I would break down the car, be like, these components seem pretty cool, let's make another toy. And I found so much like yeah, like so much fulfillment from doing that that I was like damn, I just want to keep on doing whatever this is. See, when I was super young, I wanted to be an inventor.

Amardeep Parmar: 2:40

Did that carry on to what you choose to study later on, or did you?

Christopher Kong : 2:44

Yeah, sort of. I mean from a super young age, like when all the kids were wearing like so, not like not wearing, reading Harry Potter. I never found that stuff interesting. You know, I never found like English or music or any stuff like that. Super interesting. I think now I've got like a much deeper appreciation for the humanities, but when I was younger that just wasn't, that didn't come naturally to me, but instead what came naturally was like all the books about dinosaurs. I was like I was obsessed with dinosaurs, like all the books about like what you know life on human sorry, what life on earth could look like in two, three, five million years. Like I absolutely love all that futuristic stuff like sci-fi, the cartoons, like I love that and yeah, that this interest in being an inventor sort of evolved into an interest in the sciences in general. So I mentioned like putting together electronic components. That was interesting, right, but I didn't, I couldn't actually get my head around it. I was like like how does this work? Like what the heck is electricity? Like what is, like you know, magnets? Like still mind blowing, to be honest. But what I thought was super interesting was the life sciences, especially biology. So at school loved biology, I also loved chemistry and I wasn't interested in like the broader biology stuff. Like I wasn't interested in oh, this is like biodiversity and like let's throw, you know, a square there and see like how many species there are, like all like migration patterns, like I actually could not care less, but what I really, what really got me interested was like all the biochemical mechanisms which underpinned all of these different biological processes. So less sort of macro, a lot more micro, and that's what then triggered me to study biochemistry at uni.

Amardeep Parmar: 4:48

And when you were studying that, was it you hoped for? you enjoy it?

Christopher Kong : 4:49

Yeah, I mean, when I went into university, I was like super committed to going the whole way through academia. I was like I was, you know, I was super committed to doing a masters, then committed to doing a PhD. Like for me, like the vision was I wanted to be the next Sir Alexander Fleming. And, you know, growing up in an Asian household, my mom was like biochemistry, like what is that? Like you should be a doctor. If you love biology and chemistry, you should be a doctor. But I think, from a very relatively young age, I realized that the impact that I could have on the planet as a doctor was severely limited versus the impact I could have as a scientist, right? So Sir Alexander Fleming for those that don't know, right, you know, discovered penicillin. Penicillin was basically the first antibiotic ever discovered and opened up the field of antibiotics. Right, and now we take it for granted. But back then, if you got pneumonia, you're pretty much going to die. So I thought, wow, like he had impact not only in his lifetime but for, basically, for you know, the hundred years since. And as a doctor, I realized that I would not be able to impact lives outside of my own lifetime. So that's what got me to study the sciences. So I wanted to be Sir Alexander Fleming. But at uni and it's only really struck in my final year of university, you know, I went to Oxford. It was an integrated masters program. The reason being was that the reason why I chose that course was because this was the fastest way that anyone could get a masters in biochemistry. If I went to the US, for example, that was an option. It'd be like a four year just to get a bachelor's, two years more to get a master's. I was like four year masters, this sounds incredible, let's do it. But in my final year, when I started having to work in the lab and having to actually do real science not just learn about science but actually do it I was like God, this is way too slow. And that's what sort of got me thinking OK, if being a scientist wasn't for me. But yet I'm still obviously super passionate about the impact the sciences, the sciences in general, can have on the betterment of human health, human life right, the planet, et cetera. Like, what other avenues are there available to me to be able to sort of channel that passion for the sciences to have that real world impact? And that's what got me into sort of the more business, I guess, side of things.

Amardeep Parmar: 7:33

How was that realization that what you dreamed of for so long wasn't maybe right for you? Was it quite easy to think, OK, pragmatically, I'll try and business instead. Or was that quite a big identity shift for you to say, ooh?

Christopher Kong : 7:45

Not really, not really, I think, you know, growing up. So my mom she was an entrepreneur, right. My dad as well, right, like serial entrepreneurs. And so that idea of going out there making something for myself was deeply ingrained and the vision that I had when I mentioned all still holds true but always had the element of entrepreneurial sort of ism. That even is a word, right.

Amardeep Parmar: it's a word today.

Christopher Kong : It's a word today, right Entrepreneurialism sort of baked in. So I didn't just want to be a scientist. If I was the next Aragz and the Fleming, I'd also want to be involved in actually taking that innovation to market and playing around with all that stuff. And so when I first started at uni, I was going to a lot of like business type talks but really, but the business stuff for me at that time felt like it was going to come later, like it was going to come after the PhD, it was going to come after, maybe, a career in the sciences to really, like you know, develop that innovation. I guess it was just in my final year of university that I realized, okay, that whole business stuff needs to come up a little bit sooner.

Amardeep Parmar:

What were your first steps in that? Right.

Amardeep Parmar: 9:02

Where did you then? So, okay, you're not going to now go and do a PhD. What do you think? Okay, this is what I'm going to do first, to get onto my new path.

Christopher Kong : 9:09

Yeah, no, super interesting. I sort of explored quite a lot of different, I guess, career paths. So it started off with like I don't know, like some really honestly in retrospect, super random stuff. So like experimented with asset management. So I applied for like a few asset management internships like, did a little like stock picking competition, but I realized like I've got no interest in doing research into why this company would do well and sort of just like taking a bet, like that did not interest me at all. I wanted to be a lot more operational. So that then led me to, okay, if I want to be more operational, like what career opportunities are there to sort of get a feel for lots of different industries, and consulting was a relatively obvious option in that sort of like perspective. And so I applied for loads of different like you know consultancies. I read all the books, right. Like case in point and stuff like that, and went to all the you know like the what's it? The talk, the recruitment events that were hosted and it's sort of I guess the message that they all shared was join us, solve a real problem, right, have real impact, and that really resonated. I was like, well, I don't know, I know I'm passionate about the sciences, but I actually have no freaking clue how you'll get from like a bench top sort of, or like a paper scientific paper to an actual real world sorry, real world product that's going to impact people. Why not join a consultancy where I get to sort of play around loads of different industries, learn all these different skills, skills.

Amardeep Parmar: 10:53

PowerPoint.

Christopher Kong : 10:53

PowerPoint, powerpoint, excel. Learn all these skills to be able to have that impact. So I, you know, was very fortunate to have been to be successful, you know, yeah, to successfully get an internship at McKinsey in the London office. So this was one. This is summer of 2017. So quite a few years back. But, yeah, realized that consulting probably wasn't for me either.

Amardeep Parmar: 11:18

So you have to go another transition there, right? So you thought, okay, scientist, not for me, consulting, that's the way that I can do the things I want to do. And now also not for me. What do you do then? Because it's I think it said reasonable thing that many people go through is that the first couple of things they try aren't necessarily the right thing. And I don't know if you thought this as a kid, but a lot of people have that pressure to have the right thing straight away. So what did you next go on to? What did you try next?

Christopher Kong : 11:45

I mean, I think the one thing that was consistent was that vision, that sort of big picture, blue sky thinking, sort of that very amorphous sort of idea of the person that I wanted to be. The things that really motivated me, the things that really excited me. No one knows what the path that they're on will lead to, but I think it's really important to have that direction, that North Star, so to speak. So for me, I think what I'm really grateful for is that that North Star never changed. I still wanted to be like an innovator. I still wanted to be a scientist. I still wanted to tinker around with things. I still wanted to have that impact. I still wanted to. So it didn't matter whether it was in stock picking or asset management or consulting, as long as I felt like I was sort of trending towards that North Star. So when I realized that consulting wasn't for me, I was like you know, I was only an intern, right, it was only two months. The real thing that didn't resonate with me was that I didn't feel like my work was having purpose. I had purpose. I didn't feel like I was having the impact that I wanted, but then the work itself was actually all right and the people that I met are still my best friends today. So that sort of balanced out the cons of the work, perhaps not being the most interesting. So I thought, okay, you know what, not for the long term, definitely not going to become partner or anything, but as a thing to do for like one and a half, two years, sort of cut your teeth right or whatever. Why not? Why not give it a shot? So that was my mindset after the internship. But then, yeah, sort of everything changed in my final year of university.

Amardeep Parmar: 13:38

So what happened in that final year?

Christopher Kong : 13:39

Yeah. So after the internship you know very gratefully they extended an offer to me to join full-time, which I very gratefully received and accepted. But again this sort of idea in the back of my mind that this wasn't exactly perfect and it sort of just lingered and I couldn't really shake away. So I thought like you know, why is it not perfect? Going back to what I just said, it's really that impact piece wasn't quite there and I thought really the only way I could have that impact was to either join like an impact-driven business right, start up whatever stage, or found my own where I could be the architect of the purpose of the business. So that's sort of what I landed on right. But again, it was super nice to have that safety net of a full-time job on paper, like an amazing job right, sort of just waiting there for me for when I graduated. But my final year of university I started playing around. Loads of different things, went like, started applying and sort of, yeah, playing around with all these different startup pitching competitions at university and there was one actually organized by this organization called the GAP Summit. And the GAP Summit there are this, there are essentially this like student forum right, sponsored by major biotech and pharma companies. It's hosted, they alternate between hosting it at Cambridge, UK, right, and Cambridge, Massachusetts in the US and the idea behind it is that it's all about how do we address the gaps in biotech, the gaps being like sustainability, for example, or like the innovation gap, etc. Etc. And I just applied. I thought like why not? Sounds pretty cool a weekend in Cambridge. You know Love that. Yeah, it was quite a selective process. They sort of only took on a hundred delegates from all around the world, from all the amazing universities that you and I both know, and two months before this physical conference took place, they randomly allocated the hundred of us into teams of five, assigned the team of five a mentor like actually like a real world entrepreneur or advisor or investor or whatever and told us that we had to come up for a business idea, and then the top seven teams then got to pitch at the conference. So I just so happened to be put into this team with now one of my co-founders, Driando, and that's when everything sort of got derailed.

Amardeep Parmar: 16:15

Was the idea tempeh at that time, or what was the idea that you came up with together?

Christopher Kong : 16:19

Yeah, so the idea that we came up together was all about tempeh, but it's not. It was actually completely different to Better Nature Tempeh today. So the idea we actually came up with the name, all that was completely different, but it did sort of still center on tempeh fermentation, which is technology that our entire business is built on. In fact, the idea was sounds so silly now, but it was for a effectively an espresso machine, but for making tempeh instead of coffee.

Amardeep Parmar: 16:52

Okay, right.

Christopher Kong : 16:54

So a tabletop device that allowed anyone anywhere to make their own supercharged protein at home, and I think back then this was like 2018, I was also sort of working as sort of again playing around with all these other startups, and one of the startups was this blockchain startup back when sort of blockchain and Bitcoin and all that stuff crypto was super, super big and this whole idea of, like decentralization was super interesting. So I was like well, what if we decentralize protein? Like, what impact would that have? And my experience, or my journey towards sort of reducing my meat consumption, stemmed from my awareness that I had no idea where my food was coming from. And the fact that I had no idea what was involved in producing the animal protein that I was having sort of meant that I was happy to eat these animals, whereas if I was to truly sort of lift the lid, so to speak, on that process, I'd probably think twice. So I thought, what if we could decentralize that? What if we could make it super transparent so everyone knew exactly where their food was coming from? Would that sort of enlighten people to change perhaps some of their diets? And so, yeah, that's where the idea for Tempeh Easy came from, that sort of Nespresso machine for tempeh. But yeah, we've put that on ice for now.

Amardeep Parmar: 18:23

So it'd be interesting to do that journey because obviously today it's Better Nature Tempeh and it's a very different territorial idea. But you met your co-founder at that competition and I'm guessing behind the scenes ideas were staring around. What made the original idea evolve into what it is today?

Christopher Kong : 18:39

In two months. We didn't have time to get consumer feedback. It was literally just create a business plan, create a broad sort of business plan on a sheet of paper, create a deck and go for it. We knew we landed on a really interesting piece of technology tempeh fermentation something that my co-founder did his PhD on, actually, but never thought about commercializing. But with me, with my background in biochemistry, I was able to understand the science. With my background in what ever corporate stuff, business stuff, I was able to understand some of the commercial impact they could have, as well as, of course, in the broader sense, the impact, just generally speaking, to the environment et cetera they could have. So I thought that was absolutely key. But the way in which that technology manifested itself was I was totally flexible on and what we realized was that no one's going to buy a machine to make tempeh if no one knows what tempeh is simple as that. So then the idea became okay, how do we absolutely blow up the awareness of tempeh? So we very quickly pivoted after winning that competition. So out of 20 teams we won, we got a few. At that time we thought it was a huge amount of money, but looking back it was like three grand, after winning that funding or whatever that sort of like stipend. We then started thinking, okay, how do we blow up the awareness of tempeh? And that's what got us to creating tempeh crisps, so snacks made using tempeh. But then we very quickly realized the world doesn't need another high protein snack. What is truly unique about tempeh that warrants consumers' attention towards it? And we realized it was because of the role it can play in reducing people's meat consumption without compromising on taste, texture, right. Enjoyment of that protein. So that's when, then. That's how we then sort of transitioned from the snacks to where we are today, so serving that, that sense of plate me location.

Amardeep Parmar: 21:04

We hope you're enjoying the episode so far. We just want to give a quick shout out to our headline partners, HSBC Innovation Banking. One of the biggest challenges for so many startups is finding the right bank to support them, Because you might start off and try to use a traditional bank, but they don't understand what you're doing. You're just talking to an AI assistant or you're talking to somebody who doesn't really understand what is you've been trying to do. HSBC have got the team they've built out over years to make sure they understand what you're doing. They've got the deep sector expertise and they can help connect you with the right people to make your dreams come true. So if you want to learn more, check out hsbcinnovationbankingcom. So if you'll go through those early steps right, once you've had this competition done, you've graduated from university. Was it straight into Better Nature of Tempeh for full time or how did that come about that decision?

Christopher Kong : 21:55

Yeah, so I mean I graduated June 2018. The competition and everything sort of happened earlier, like around springtime, april-may time. It wasn't a straightforward decision to make, as you can imagine. Right Like I had this job offer on the table, I had worked extremely hard to get that internship in the first place Like it certainly wasn't easy, and I was really excited, to be honest, to join McKinsey. I thought it would have been a really good place to start my career Again. As I mentioned earlier, some of my best friends today they all joined at the time that I was meant to. So turning down that offer also meant turning down sharing that time with them. So it wasn't straightforward, but I think, yeah, like the thought process was, this is the time to take risk. I was 22 years old. I didn't need a lot to live. In fact, what I ended up doing was asking McKinsey if I could defer my entry date by year, and what that meant was that I basically I kept that safety net, but given myself a year to either smash it out of the park and determine whether or not better nature was going to be the thing that I commit many more years to, or fail, and that I think, yeah, having that sort of deadline to prove whether or not this could work meant that I just worked extra hard to try and kill it. Really, I tried to kill it and so, after the competition, after graduating, I then worked at Founders Factory because I realized one of the key components of success for this business was securing funding and I needed to know what then determines whether or not a startup could receive that funding. So I worked at Founders Factory they are this sort of accelerator, incubator, slash, vc based in London and by day I was grilling entrepreneurs, by night I was grilling myself. I was like, well, all these questions of asking these entrepreneurs, these poor entrepreneurs that have been, like you know, grilled on the spot, like I need to be able to answer them too. So all these, you know, I see sort of white papers that I was drafting oh, you know, team traction, right Defensibility, market size, consumers, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I was like shit, I need to answer all of this. Like this is all stuff I need to answer too. And that was that was super, super, like powerful. I thought that experience like super enlightening. And when I when the business idea I realized could answer all these questions that I was asking you know, these poor entrepreneurs, I realized that maybe I was onto something. And then I went out, raised our first round, built a team, so at that time that, like our two other co-founders, ellen and Fabio, joined. And you know, once you have a team, once you've got some funding, you can't really say, say no to that. And the prospect of it was just so exciting. I felt and I still am extremely excited, probably even more so than I was back then but like the prospect of being able to have this impact, to be the architect of that right To be, to still be that inventor that I always wanted to be when I was a kid, right Yet still feed into sort of my general motivations of having a positive impact on the planet. Yeah, just could not say goodbye to that. So you know, when Push came to shove I said no, it's McKinsey, and that was that.

Amardeep Parmar: 25:53

And I'm guessing there's no regrets?

Christopher Kong:

Absolutely not.

Amardeep Parmar :

So obviously. You've been on this journey now for a while. What have been some of the biggest wins, like tell us where better nature temper is today?

Christopher Kong : 26:02

Yeah, I think seeing your products on supermarket shelves just nothing really quite beats that, you know, like for example when I was at Oxford and you know Ellen. She also studied at Oxford. In fact she was the one that got me to. You know, that started me on my plant-based journey to begin with, back when we were both at uni. You know we used to go to this Tesco right around the corner from college pretty much every single day. That's where we bought our staples, that's where we bought our plant-based you know protein, that's where we bought our wine and beer before a big night out. And this Tesco on modern street. You know when I was thinking about well, like incubating that embryonic idea for Tempezi slash, better nature, I would look at that shelf and be like you know, here you have corn meatless farm, the tofu company cauldron, like wouldn't it be so cool if one day our product could sit on that shelf? Fast forward four years and we were there. So that was yeah, that was insane to think about. Like you know, when I was every time I pitched this idea to investors in the earlier days and I told you know, and then sort of the product positioning is that we are more all natural, more wholesome than your meat alternatives like corn meatless farm, but more, you know, higher in fiber, more tasty, more nutritious, you know firmer texture than your tofu's. I always look like in my mind's eye I see that shelf. So to finally be on that shelf is insane. And then, funnily enough, it's actually one of our best performing stores today. In of all of the 600 stores that we're in in Tesco, that one on modern street, like consistently, is somehow in the top like 20.

Amardeep Parmar: 28:05

You mentioned earlier on about the education need around Tempe right that people need to understand, like you said, the nutritional value, the fiber, everything like that. Have you been able to do that? Have you been able to market something which maybe people have never heard of in the earlier days and show them that this something which is valuable to them, that they should be trying out?

Christopher Kong : 28:23

Yeah, I guess the good news is that we weren't alone. Like, if you search up Tempe on Google, like the first 10 hits are all going to be about like how amazing Tempe is, right. Like whether it's from nutritionists, whether it's from dietitians, whether it's like these amazing looking recipes. People only have great things to say about the food, which is obviously super helpful, right. And the fact that Tempe originated in Indonesia like hundreds of years ago, like we're talking about three to four hundred years ago, means that we also have this culinary tradition that we can lean on. So you're right, if we were to basically create a food product out of thin air and market that, that as a small business would be hugely, hugely so difficult. But the fact that there was already this bank of positive stories and all these like recipe ideas and this tradition of tempeh consumption for hundreds of years in Indonesia meant that we just had to articulate that to the modern western consumer. And I think to do that, we had to be really, really sure about where we were going to play and how we were going to win. What I mean by that is that as a small business, you can't play in every single arena. When Amazon first started they were just all about books and then they sort of like brushed out. Now they've got AWS and whatever, right. But when they first started they had one arena and they just had to absolutely nail that. And so for us it was like narrowing down exactly where we're going to play, and we realized that retail was. We could have gone into food service, we could have started supplying restaurants or universities or schools, whatnot, and there is a business there and there's something that we are now working on. But we knew we had to nail retail first, or at least that was what we committed ourselves to doing. And then how we were going to win was also super, super, had to be absolutely nailed. I mean, if you look at the current category, if we said that we were just a better tasting corn, is that that exciting of a proposition? Everyone is saying that they're better tasting than corn. Right. If we said that, oh, we were just tofu, but better, I mean, most people don't really have the most positive affiliations of tofu to begin with. So that is also a very weak proposition. So we had to be really clear about that that we were not going to be a tofu alternative and we're certainly not going to be a meat alternative. We were championing tempeh in its own right and that's what landed us on protein supercharged right. High quality protein, double the protein content of chicken eggs, with fiber, with gut health benefits, you know, with taste and texture. So, yeah, I think that really helped. Just being clear on what we wanted consumers to know is often like, yeah, it's often like 80% of the challenge of marketing.

Amardeep Parmar: 31:49

So that's like one challenge you've overcome there, which have obviously done very well, considering grintesco and all these other places. What was something of the big challenge that you faced and how did ?

Christopher Kong : 31:59

In the early days, right, and you ask any founder and will probably say something along the same lines. It's all about building credibility. Like trying to get onto a retailer shelf is, honestly, super similar to trying to secure investment from an investor, and both are also super similar to trying to get a manufacturing partner to give a shit right. Like you know, kids, kids, for all these people right. For retailers, the shelf space is money, investors, their money is money. For manufacturing partners, right, their time, their effort, they're going to invest in manufacturing your product versus Nestle's or Unilevers. That's money too. So it's all about building credibility and, as a first-time founder, as someone with like literally no experience, I had no idea that what I was doing was really difficult and, I think, overcoming that. I think you just got to be really good at selling the vision. So you know, I think in a co-founding team there needs to be one person who's superpower is selling, because you're going to be selling all the time when you're in your early stages. You're going to be selling to partners. You're going to be selling to investors. You're going to be selling to retailers. You're going to be selling to customers. You're going to be selling to your team right. To hire the best people. You just got to keep on selling. I think, obviously, like no one is born good at selling or convincing, but all these skills sort of yeah. I got cultivated over time so we obviously had loads of failures, right, but from every failure we learned something and we sort of took those lessons on board and we go again.

Amardeep Parmar: 33:49

So you mentioned that the vision right of how you've been able to get all of these different stakeholders involved. So, before we go into Quick Fire questions, what is the grand vision? Where do you ?

Christopher Kong : 33:59

The grand vision is that we see tempeh as the world's go-to source of protein for stop. We see tempeh as an incredible protein staple that can play into a wide variety of different product categories outside of just meat free. So the vision is tempeh not just on center of play, but really tempeh in every food occasion where protein is expected to be in, or should be Supercharged protein. So what does this mean in S Like? What does it actually mean? I know these are a lot of like big ideas, but it means you know tempeh based snacks, right. Whether that's on the go, sort of like fridge radar style snacks to protein bars, to protein shakes, to protein. You know tempeh protein packed sort of hummus and dips and spreads to perhaps even you know tempeh based breads and pastas. We're like, why not? Because you know it's all underpinned by this idea that tempeh is protein supercharged. So, and we know that consumers should be eating more protein, we know that consumers also looking to look after or, sorry, seeking to look after the gut health that need more fiber right, they need to be eating less fat, less carbs right. For the betterment of their health, but also more plant based foods for the betterment of the environment and animals. So, yeah, we see tempeh as this amazing protein, or tempeh fermentation specifically, the technology that underpins all of our products as this amazing protein diversification platform that we can then build different products on top of.

Amardeep Parmar: 35:59

So it's amazing to see what you've done so far and it's really exciting to the future as well. But we need to move on to quick fire questions. So first one who are free British Asians that you think are doing incredible work and you'd love to shout them out for the audience to pay attention to?

Christopher Kong : 36:12

I think what Rushina Shah is doing with his insane grain is super cool, so big shout out to her. You know she's just recently secured Harry Kane as an investor and like yeah, have you looked into how she did that?

Amardeep Parmar: 36:25

Yeah, I know about this.

Christopher Kong : 36:26

It is unreal, so like mad props to her and what she's achieved with the Insane Grain. In fact, we actually shared an office a couple of years ago, so it's really cool to see how she's come along with that business. I got to give a shout out to one of the little moons founders. I mean I haven't met Vivian yet so, but I've met Howard, Howard Wong. He's just such a genuine guy and he's also, you know, a big supporter of us. So it's just like massive shout out again If I think about the journey that we're on and the journey that little moons have been on, right. Very similar. They sort of take they took Marchie, right, everywhere, in the same way that we want to take Tempe everywhere. So I think a lot of learnings we can take from that. And I mean, if you're on social media, you'll probably have heard of a brand called Impossi Brew right, especially if you're looking to reduce your alcohol consumption, which I think you know is starting to become much trendier now, and you know I've personally sort of dropped alcohol as well. So yeah, Max Wong, founder of Impossi Brew, just super cool science, super cool product. Love the brand. And yeah, I love the mission.

Amardeep Parmar: 37:42

Yeah, so it was kind of awesome and love to get the long time day as well, if people want to find out more about you, though, and what you're up to what Better Nature Tempe is up to which they go to.

Christopher Kong : 37:52

Yeah, I mean I think the best place would be to follow us, follow me or follow the business on LinkedIn. Quite active on there. My other co-founders are super active as well, so massive shout out to Elin Roberts, our CMO co-founder, Driando Ahnan, who's our CTO, and Fabio Rinaldo, who's our COO. Yeah, I think that's probably the best place to keep in touch.

Amardeep Parmar: 38:17

And is there anything that you guys need help with right now that the audience could help you with?

Christopher Kong : 38:21

give us a go. Right, if you see us in your local Tesco or Asda sometimes we're in Lidl. If you're in London and you see us in Planet Organic or Whole Foods, if you're interested to give SuperCharge protein a taste or you can also find us on Amazon give us a go. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. But honestly, yeah, just giving us a try. If you like the product, that's great. Please keep coming back. If you don't like the product, we'd love to hear from you. Thanks so much for coming in today.

Amardeep Parmar: 38:54

Any final words.

Christopher Kong : 38:55

Yeah, I mean just massive shout out to you and what you've built with the BAE HQ. I think we need more stuff like this. There needs to be greater awareness of all the amazing Asian founders building the businesses of tomorrow. I think it's super cool to be part of this community and I wish I knew about you guys earlier.

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