Success Story: Beyond Meat
When sourcing private market opportunities, we are attracted to companies that demonstrate value drivers—such as market disruption, new consolidation opportunities, and purposefully built teams. For years we have felt that agriculture is one of the last remaining industries that has not been totally flooded with institutional capital, and therefore agricultural technology and food supply innovation remain ripe for disruption.
One of our 2018 investments hits particularly close to home and demonstrates how our curiosity permeates every aspect of our lives. As a result of a debilitating back injury seven years ago, our founder, Tready Smith, embarked on a journey to understand how she could help control pain and inflammation. Through this exploration, she tested a theory that has now become mainstream—replacing animal protein with plant-based protein in her diet. Always on the lookout for the best innovative, plant-based foods, she discovered Beyond Meat and knew this was something truly different.
The opportunity to invest in Beyond Meat originated from one of our venture capital partners. When presented with the opportunity to participate in one of Beyond Meat’s final rounds of private fundraising, we jumped at the chance. The plant-based protein movement is disruptive by changing the way people around the world view eating meat. By re-creating the components that make up animal protein with plant-based ingredients, the Beyond Meat team developed a product that has almost the same mouthfeel and taste as an all-beef burger or sausage. The brains behind Beyond Meat are a great example of what we consider a purposefully built team. Predominately made up of scientists, the board also includes a board member from major food retailer Tyson Foods, and a distribution expert, Don Thompson, ex-CEO of McDonald’s. With two identified value drivers, we recognized a winning combination.
Beyond Meat is constantly evolving through science and advancement to meet the exploding consumer demand. Although it holds the title as one of the most successful IPOs of all time, Wall Street was not prepared for just how disruptive this company would be to the marketplace, and institutional investors were wary of its merits and of its lofty valuations. Beyond truly came from obscurity to one of the most followed consumer packaged goods brands. Wall Street totally missed that this is a long term growth story. Despite the noise and volatile stock price, we had conviction that the long-term trend was intact, and the company would be able to deliver. This gave us the confidence we needed to hold tight after the IPO and encourage our partners to do the same.
“Every overnight success is 10 years in the making. It seems like it happens overnight, but teams have been working for a decade or longer behind the scenes until preparation meets opportunity.” This is how our team defines luck: when years of diligent preparation meets the right opportunity.
We have four other investments in AgTech and innovation that demonstrate our conviction in the plant-based protein and sustainable agriculture theme. We develop expertise and success through partnering with highly specialized teams, and we are constantly looking across all sectors and assets in order to find the right partner and investment. “We want to be in the opportunity before it’s launched into the majors—we are not looking for the investments that the institutional investment firms can access. By the time it gets to that point, all the juice has been squeezed.” Our Beyond Meat investment is just one example of how our small team executes on big ideas.