326. FoodTech’s Female Founders, Crossing the Chasm for Alt Proteins, and Why the Psychedelics Market isn’t like Cannabis (Jenny Stojkovic)

Jenny Stojkovic on TFR

Jenny Stojkovic of the Vegan’s Women Summit joins Nick to discuss FoodTech’s Female Founders, Crossing the Chasm for Alt Proteins, and Why the Psychedelics Market isn’t like Cannabis. In this episode we cover:

  • The SF Tech Exodus
  • Learning from Ron Conway
  • Alternative Milks & Crossing the Chasm
  • How to Avoid the GreenTech Failures of the 2000’s
  • Why Delivery Matters in Psychedelics

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Transcribed with AI:

Jenny Stojkovic events joins us today from San Francisco. Jenny is the founder of Vegan Women’s Summit, a movement for changes in the future of food. She’s also director at SF.citi, which represents an advocates for the tech sector in conversation with city policymakers and legislators in San Francisco. Jenny, welcome to the show.

How are you?

I’m very good. I’m very good. Thanks. Yeah, I’m excited to talk to you. You are an expert in a variety of different areas that we’re very passionate about. We invest in food tech, and we’re in the middle of the country tagline at the firm is investing in outsiders. And I, I know that you have unique data and perspective on that. So looking forward to getting into it. Why don’t you you know, take a moment walk us through your background and your path to tech.

Yeah, absolutely. So I have spent the last six, seven years working in the heart of Silicon Valley, in the tech industry, really focused on how we can grow startup innovation, growing that ecosystem. And man, I can tell you, in the last six or seven years, things have changed a lot, especially post pandemic, we’ve had so many different eras of the tech industry. And back when we started, it was kind of coming out of that post 2008, big boom, that we were working a lot with folks like Uber and Airbnb, especially a lot of Ron Conway, who is the founder of SF.Citi’s SV Angel portfolio companies. And so some of those early battles in the gig economy and things like that were very fascinating. And in 2018, with some of this background in the tech industry, I started to see food tech emerge in our space in Silicon Valley. And so seeing how food tech was starting to grow, I started to dip my toe into it, and very quickly learned that it was a very male dominated space. So my work with Vegan Women’s Summit, VWS, has been how we can create a more diverse, equitable future of food, women in the future of food are really starting to take off yet are receiving a small amount of the funding of their male counterparts. So we are looking to make sure that women are empowered and are receiving all the support that they need to grow in this ecosystem, as folks probably listening know, about 97% of all venture capitals currently going towards male founders. So we’re hoping to turn the curve on that.

Amazing looking forward to unpacking some of these different topics we dig in. But of course, you mentioned Ron Conway, he’s a legend. I’m a bit ashamed in eight years of hosting the show. We haven’t had him on yet. But you know, how did you first meet Ron? And what’s the context in which you’ve worked with him?

Yeah, absolutely. So back in 2012, Ron was very close friends with I then fortunately, late Mayor Ed Lee in San Francisco. And this was a very different time in the city, okay. 2011 had double digit unemployment in San Francisco. So this big heyday of tech boom, where we’re less than 3% unemployed in the city was a very, very far away pipe dream. And so at the time, Ron and Ed got together. And you know, Marc Benioff and a few of the other folks were involved, to talk about how we could change policies and regulations to make San Francisco a blooming city again, so that that big post 2008 Bump was a big part of how SF city, the only tech trade association in San Francisco was founded. So Ron founded it with the thought in mind of how can I grow this tech ecosystem? How can I grow it as a citizen and community member of San Francisco? How can we make sure that the.com bust that happened before it doesn’t happen again. So that was really his impetus. And Mayor Ed Lee was a huge champion of it, we brought the double digit unemployment rate down to less than 3%. Right before the pandemic. So we created a heck of a lot of jobs, we brought a lot of companies to the city. And that’s really what my focus has been. How can I create an ecosystem that attracts founders that makes companies want to be in San Francisco? How can we make sure that they are growing and thriving, there’s a lot of interesting political challenges, societal challenges. I mean, we can get into that there’s, there’s a lot that’s gone on in San Francisco, in this last decade or so. And a lot that’s changed even last two years. So that was the goal of SF.Citi and our work. And Ron is our founder and Board Chair. I’m his executive director. That’s what we have been pursuing.

It’s a timely topic, right? I was speaking with some folks at TechCrunch the other day, and I was sort of saying, you know, there’s this big story in the headlines has been the great resignation. I feel like the story should be the great migration. There is an exodus that’s occurring, you know, what have you seen in the data? And you know, how has that affected San Francisco and how do you think it’ll affect tech?

So first and foremost, the tech exodus is real. There’s been a lot of debate back and forth, back and forth. Is it really happening? Are people really leaving San Francisco and the data doesn’t live? We estimate that probably close to 10% of folks have moved out of SF during these past two years, obviously, let’s put a caveat on everything we discussed today. We have not fully reopened offices yet. So things could change in the next six, eight months. But where we are at today, we do have about 10% of the population outside of the city. Now, to what extent those are tech workers. That’s something that we don’t know, because so many folks went into this remote world, right? One of the things that was really interesting about the exodus is that there was this whole conversation around, everyone’s going to Miami, everybody’s going to Austin, everybody’s going to all these other cities. But in actuality, when the data came out last year, the majority of San Francisco residents that left went to other parts of California, so 19 of the 20, top places where SF residents went, was indeed other places in California, of course, the other one was Texas, Austin did get a lot of Californians. But overall, most people are leaving the Bay Area, but not necessarily the state. And this is going to be something that will, you know, have to monitor in the next half year or so because Google’s now announced their reopening and coming back in person, Microsoft is very bullish on in person work Microsoft is they’re an older company, they’re not one of the new tech companies, they want people back 80% of the time. And Google same thing. They’re all kind of going back to this new, we want you back in the office, but their workers have been gone for two years, will the workers come back? Will the workers just say, You know what, we’re gonna quit. We are seeing that happen at a couple of the companies where the workers are starting, you know, mass resignations as well.

You know, Jenny, it’s hard to be on Twitter, without seeing some of the SF investors talking about the problems in San Francisco. Right. Classically, you know, homelessness and public safety, some areas of focus. I know from personal experience, like I live in work in Chicago. So I’m familiar with some of these issues in a large city. But I spent much of the winter last year in Northern California. And it just seems like it’s much more visible. And it just seems like it’s more exacerbated in San Francisco in the bay area than many other areas. You know, how can the city balance you know, the needs around safety without returning to mass incarcerations?

So that is the $14 billion question. Yes, that is, indeed what our city budget is almost $14 billion. We spend a lot in the city of San Francisco, but we have less than a million people. And that’s a big part of this conversation when we talk about, oh, my gosh, you know, folks that are experiencing homelessness, it’s a crisis, there’s an epidemic on the streets. Yes, there is a huge, huge issue that we’re dealing with on the streets. But also keep in mind that we are 49 square miles. So it’s condensed, it’s very, very difficult to not pass through some of these areas, because it’s such a small, small city. So some of these things can seem much more concentrated and seem more visceral. And in your face, if you go to places like Chicago, where there’s What is it 2.7 million, maybe 3 million people there close to that. It’s about the size of my hometown, in Toronto, it’s a lot more spread out and distributed. So in terms of the actual per resident homelessness, San Francisco is not the worst, but it’s a small place. So it looks like it’s a lot worse than it is. But to the policy extent, there’s a lot that’s being done, our mayor, London breed is focused on opening up, you know, the safe injection sites, that’s a big piece of it, we have a lot of drug use, that’s been allowed to happen on the streets. And so moving folks to a safer place, so they can start to get some of the resources that they need is a big focus that she’s had. If anyone remembers, the last president, very staunchly opposed any safe injection sites, the United States lags behind other places in the world, like Germany or Canada, when it comes to really being progressive on how you can deal with folks that are experiencing addiction. So I think that’s going to be a big piece. That’s what she’s really going in on is helping to get those folks into those spaces. And hopefully, that can start to get people on the right track and move them out of the homelessness in the city. It’s gonna be a big endeavor, though, a really, really big endeavor. And she does have a lot of opponents on many sides. There’s also a lot of folks that don’t believe in some of the Civil Rights infringements of conservatorship, as you mentioned, you know, how do we balance moving to a space where folks are dignified, but also, you know, when they’re not in a place where they can mentally take care of themselves, they’re getting the support that they need, that’s going to rely on some tougher laws that a lot of folks aren’t too happy about in the city of San Francisco.

Is your expectation that the exit is continues, you know, into the future as hopefully the pandemic you know, subsides, at least the case rates and the numbers are lower Now, does this trend continue or do you think it’s reversed?

I think that the post-pandemic San Francisco, much like many other urban centers is going to look different. I don’t know that the San Francisco of, you know, march 2020, and the San Francisco of March 2023, are going to be two different things. I don’t think it will go back to exactly how it was before, I do think it will fill in more, we are seeing lots of signs of rents rising again, a median to bed is up to almost 4000. Now again, in San Francisco, so people are filling in. But I don’t think the downtown will have those full office towers that they used to, you got to think like, our downtown corridor is filled with massive skyscrapers, some of the more than 60 stories that were traditionally filled with nine to five workers every single day. So if you have all those offices like Salesforce, and Google and all of them where they’re saying, Hmm, you only have to be in the office, say 40% of the time, then that’s a 60% reduction of people that would be filling the towers. And so I think you’re going to start to see more uses of the downtown space, there’s already people talking about converting it to housing.

Wow, incredible. You know, before we leave the point on Ron, in your work with Ron, have you learned some things on the investment side as well, I know, you’ve worked with him heavily on the policy side, but he’s sort of a legend in the business. I remember studying, you know, his philosophies and playbooks many years ago, when we were founding the firm here, you know, have you guys collaborated at all on that side,

I have been very fortunate to sit in on pitch meetings with Ron Conway here and there. And it’s interesting to watch, I will say, Ron, it’s insane how his mind works, he doesn’t miss a single number, you can sit there and pitch for 20 minutes, and he will remember every single number. And if you don’t have a number that matches, it’s amazing to watch. His investments obviously, had been really, really fascinating. Following like crypto, and some of the stuff that he’s really leaning it on in the last few years has been fascinating to watch. Because look at what Cryptos become, look at how early SV Angel identified it, you know, Coinbase, things like that. I mean, he was on every single news channel last year with Coinbase’s IPO. He really had his eye on something that I don’t think anyone was paying attention to in a significant way like he was.

Amazing. So I know that you invest individually. And I know that you’ve got extreme passion around food, also female entrepreneurs. Can you talk a bit about what you’re investing in sort of stage and sectors that that are of interest?

Yeah, so I focus primarily on alternative protein. So alternative protein meaning technologies that are removing basically slaughtered animals. And so this would be anything from plant based innovation to cell based innovations. So folks might know that as you know, quote, unquote, lab grown meat, there is there still a little bit of a branding, we have to redo in that industry, but also things like precision fermentation. That would be like perfect day, you’re actually able to buy their products for a robot in stores already today. And that is proteins that were made without an animal in a lab. And then other things like alternative leathers and textiles. So I’m trying to keep an eye on what are those white spaces where we haven’t tackled, we’ve put billions and billions of dollars into plant based burgers. But where are some of those gaps? So as an angel investor, and I’m an LP in a number of kind of more gross stage funds, we focus on things like proteins that have been on tap seafoods, a big one, I just did a cell based honey investment, which is very interesting. Nobody has done anything. And honey, it’s the first one in the entire world. That’s one that I’m very excited about and bullish on, because there’s just so many uses of animals that we haven’t really tackled. And the thing that you have to remember is that if we’re removing the demand of a cow through, you know, beyond burgers, and impossible burgers, there’s hundreds and hundreds of products and industries that are affected by the products that come out of a cow. So who’s thinking about all of those other pieces, the collagens, the gelatins, and all of that. So that’s what I like to focus on is where are the upstream and downstream effects of these disruptions that are already taking place? And how can we keep an eye on what the next five to 10 years is going to look like?

Amazing, so let’s go there. Double click a bit. So alt proteins, I see them in restaurants, I see them at grocery stores. But I still feel that we haven’t quite crossed the chasm there to the mainstream consumer, you know, like, my general group of socialites, you know, not super stoked when I show up with the Impossible Burger meat. You know, what does the data indicate about the degree to which you know, consumers are transitioning their sort of meat based consumption to all proteins?

So as of right now, folks that purely eat alt protein, right? Vegans folks have a plant based diet on the high end, it’s maybe 3%. Right? So folks that have completely transitioned very, very few still rising quickly. It’s like 100% growth year over year or something insane in some markets, but still very low. The flexitarian population quote unquote We’d like to call it. So that’s folks that are actively putting plant based proteins into their diet. It is anywhere from 40 to 60%, depending on the survey that you look at. So there is a lot more people that are starting to incorporate it. Yeah.

40 to 60%? I’m shocked.

Yes. So 40 to 60% of folks are actively buying a plant based protein at least once a month. Now also consider that in the United States, plant based milk has a 40% penetration rate. Right?


Yeah. Almond milk. Number one, right. So lots of people have made the leap when it comes to milk milk is like the early leader. But now what about the cheese and the meat and every other thing that comes after it? That’s what we’re kind of tackling now. And so, in terms of where plant based protein is going, there’s been a lot of speculation, you know, did we over inflate the market? Is there just not the consumer need for all these types of plant based meats? Right. So that’s, I think we’re a little too soon to tell because we’ve kind of historically just been a Pepsi versus coke situation, there’s only really been beyond and impossible out there. But there’s several 100 more plant based protein companies that are scaling and raising hundreds of millions that are going to be debuting all across the North America and beyond this year, right. So there’s still a lot of room. Chickens. Huge seafoods huge. We don’t eat that many burgers in America, we went all in on burgers, but most people are eating chicken. That’s the main protein that we eat in this country. So there’s a ton of plant based chicken companies during you might have heard of Drake, just you know, that’s his big investment. They’re making huge, huge leaps and bounds. Tyndall just raised like 100 million in a Series A. So there is a lot of surface that we haven’t even scratched yet.

Talk a bit about all proteins versus things like regenerative AG, you know, in the context of climate change, you know, what, what are the solutions that are going to have the most impact when it comes to, you know, reversing sort of this scary trends when it comes to climate?

So this is a conversation I have quite a lot, because there is, you know, when it comes to the future of food investing, there’s a lot of divergence between, you know, what should we be investing in. So some folks are really going all in on agriculture solutions, or they’re going in on ways to improve animal agriculture. So here’s a way that we can mask some of the methane that’s coming out of cows, like here’s a, you know, solution to make low carbon beef, right. And so that’s an entirely different school of thought of how we can iterate on the food system. And quite honestly, if you speak to anybody, when it comes to the numbers, you know, we have about 10 years left, until we’re gonna reach a point of the climate crisis of no return with our temperature warming. And so we have 10 years to make the most difference possible. And if you look at the numbers, all of those changes are iterative compared to what we can do with the proliferation of low cost scalable plant based proteins. It’s just insane how much of a carbon footprint we can reduce a methane footprint, we talk about carbon, when it comes to sustainability quite often, you always hear about carbon emissions, but carbon is not what is really going to be the killer in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. nitrogen and methane are much, much worse for the environment for heat trapping, and they largely are coming specifically from cattle ranching. And this is why you’re always hearing about, you know, the cow farts and the cow burps, because that’s actually making a difference for warming on the climate right now. So we’re focused more specifically on how we can eradicate the use of the animal altogether, and stop with the iterative steps towards improving animal Ag, and just cut them out entirely, we’ve reached the biological limitations of using animals in the food system. So we need to start working towards how we remove them, whether it’s through cell based innovation, plant based innovation, or something in between, and there will be a lot in between.

So while it seems like we’re in a state of crisis, Jenny, when it comes to the climate, and, you know, it also seems like the effects of changing climate, you know, are accelerating to some degree, that alone in many cases doesn’t compel individual behavioral change. And there are many, you know, climate tech funds that are springing up great, great managers, but without economic capitalist incentives. My fear is that, you know, we’re gonna have a repeat of the green tech failures of the late 2000s. How do you think doing the right thing? And doing what makes money will converge, if at all, in this context?

Well, at the time that we’re recording this, there is a massive crisis happening on another continent right now that is showing us what happens when you have a reliance on one resource and you don’t innovate. Yeah, you know, we all need to figure out how to not be reliant on oil solely because of the political ramifications alone, right. So there are very in your face forces, but then there’s other things like the pandemic, right. So the pandemic showed a massive disruption in the food supply system. For so many countries, we’ve got places like Singapore, where 95% Of all the food that they eat was imported. So what happened during the pandemic, and there was a supply chain disruption, they were running out of food, there was countries that literally ran out of food, because they were not innovating as a country and having their own domestic product. And so because of that, Singapore announced 30 by 30, they now want to produce 30% of their food in their own country by 2030, as a result, and that means plant based and cell based innovation, because they don’t have any land for animal AG, similar to Israel, similar to China, China just announced that cell based innovation is on their five year plan for making China’s new food system independent. So those are two huge, huge world changes that can show you right then and there. We need to innovate as a country, massive market opportunity, especially when you have governments that are starting to put policies behind it. There’s a lot of money to be made here. It doesn’t have to be a do gooder social impact thing, because it’s the way that the world is turning. It’s an inevitability. And I also think that there’s a lot of incentives that we can do to make sure that consumers want to adopt these products to right now, they’re very, very expensive. We don’t do any subsidies for plant based proteins, 99% of all of the government subsidies that go to food go directly to meat, eggs, and dairy currently, that’s why your Oh, please, you’re still getting an upcharge on it, because they’re not getting those same tax breaks, right. So if there’s a way that we could either incentivize, from a government standpoint, a way to make it cheaper, or to reveal the true cost of animal products, those are both ways that the market I think will inevitably see an uptick in people that just want to buy the cheaper thing that still tastes good.

Interesting. What are your feelings on insect based proteins?

Insect based protein, in my opinion, is really falling into that regenerative agriculture conversation. Is it a bit better than what we are doing? Well, it depends on what you’re looking at. If you’re looking at beef and pork. Absolutely, it’s way better from a sustainability standpoint, is it better than say, chicken? Well, the jury’s still out on that. There’s a UC Davis study that took a look at insect protein. And they compared the cricket protein and what you had to feed them and what kind of yield you got out in terms of animal protein to use for consumption. And one of the big, big things you hear about insect protein is they can eat junk, they can eat garbage, that’s why they’re so sustainable, you can feed them anything, and they’ll grow into protein that we can use. But the study actually showed that you have to pretty much feed them chicken feed for them to grow and have a strong yield without a big amount of them dying off. And so they’re pretty close to the same calorie and calorie out as chickens. So in my opinion, is it worth us putting all this time and investment into a food that’s only slightly more sustainable than chicken, whereas we can make a leap towards plant based protein that’s substantially more sustainable than chicken?

Aren’t there like black soldier flies are something that are shown to be like very economically viable, and in their ability to turn low. I hate to say low carbon, because you kind of disputed that earlier, but like, low carbon, you know, base feed into high utilizing protein?

Yeah, so they’re, they’re absolutely, like I said, it is depending on what you’re looking at, and depending on what you’re comparing it to, into a protein, by far and large, will be more sustainable than the alternatives out there. Because what we’re doing right now has no sustainability whatsoever, right? I’m not going to invest in insect protein, because I think that as much as they say that 1/3 of the world currently consumes insects. I think that study is pretty outdated, that figure is pretty outdated. If you talk to any VCs, it traces back from like the early 90s, where there was a huge generational change since so I don’t think people are going to want to eat bugs. And I also think that it’s not worth my time to move towards something that’s just a bit more sustainable, like the the flies, the crickets, you know, whatever it might be glad that they are better than cows but not not worth my time and money. I don’t think it worth yours either.

Tricky to assess consumer sentiment on that, too. I know. A lot of Americans are not super keen on it. I went to a big conference in this way back in like 2014. And there were three huge topics. One was the future of food in the context of using insect protein. The second and I don’t remember the fellow who spoke about it. I don’t remember his name. The second was a finance discussion. It was Max Levchin talking about Affirm before it was called. And the third was crypto and it was the Winklevoss twins talking about it here in Chicago. So two of those clearly did play out took some time. Just haven’t really seen the insect based protein thing take off.

Yeah, I think you know, to speak to your earlier point of your buddies who aren’t getting all jazzed about Impossible Burger. Do you think they’re gonna eat an insect burger? Can you see them saying like I’m switching my all American beef to bugs? I just I don’t see it.

No chance. I don’t think my wife is going to go for it if I propose crickets for dinner. But Jenny, like, just before we move on from food, you know, give us a sense, if you look at the market map and the whitespace, you know, when it comes to what we are, where we eat it or big trends in food, you know, what are the biggest opportunities that you’re most excited about in the coming years?

So there’s a few different things that excite me. So there’s industries that excite me, and there’s places that excite me, massive, massive opportunity in Africa, right now, Africa is very quickly entering middle income in the next few decades. And there’s a huge, huge whitespace there for alternative proteins, we’re already seeing a few different companies pop up, they have a cell based protein company out of South Africa already, which is pretty wild to think. And so Africa as a population, as well as Asia as a population, those are two places to invest, where there still is a ton of opportunity, huge population, huge population growth, that’s projected as well, in terms of the actual industries that are exciting me that I’m keeping an eye on. I am beating down everybody with this. And I’m gonna say it here again, the infant toddler space is huge. It is absolutely. So we don’t talk about this enough. There is almost no products up until a few years ago that went towards high quality infant nutrition. And it’s crazy, because 100% of us were babies, right? So there was zero innovation from Nestle’s dairy infant formula that they invented 67 years ago, even though it’s crap, it’s one of those food products, much like pet food, which now you’re seeing pet foods soaring. It’s a huge market category, we didn’t innovate at all. So there’s a few companies that have popped up that are doing cell based breast milk companies that Bill Gates in a lot of, you know, breakthrough Ventures is leading on. So huge, huge opportunity there. Nobody’s really covering the pregnancy to toddler space at all, from a nutrition standpoint. So that really excites me. I’m really also excited, I think seafood, you’re gonna see a lot, a lot of movement, seafood really hasn’t been tapped into. And it’s the primary protein that’s eaten in Asia. Like I said, we spend a lot of time on burgers in this country, but it’s less than 20% of the protein that we consume as Americans. So a really big opportunity there. Also, leathers textiles, you’re now seeing every test that you buy his vegan leather performance leather, the BMW is the new must my new Mustang maki cross your fingers, I get it in the next few months is going to be vegan leather. There’s a huge shift away from from leathers Well, and that’s partly consumer sentiment, because people are more likely to adopt animal free innovation if they wear it versus if they eat it. But also, again, that upstream downstream effect, if we’re starting to remove cows, there’s so many products that are involved. And so leather is a very, very highly toxic, leather tanneries are really, really bad for the environment. So I think you’re going to see a lot there. There’s mushroom leather, there’s Apple, leather, cactus leather, pineapple leather, there’s cell based leather that uses same technology that you can use for meat, tons of stuff that’s going to start to proliferate in the next few years.

Jenny, you started the Vegan Women’s Summit, and you’ve grown, you know, this community to over 25,000 female entrepreneurs in less than a year, which is astonishing. Tell us about the origin story of this. And you know, what, what’s the the mandate and the goal of the Vegan Women’s Summit?

So I started this in one of my many, many conversations were sitting around the table with a bunch of tech lobbyists from all the different tech companies. And I was the only woman sitting there. And I realized pretty quickly that that was a big problem. The tech industry has just been, you know, very monolithic. And who’s led it, that’s where it gets the tech bro moniker right. And whereas food tech started to grow, I started to see the same patterns replicate much of the money that went into the early food tech companies came from Silicon Valley, that is where the majority of them were based. So I was really concerned and really saw that if we didn’t make a concerted effort to diversify this feature of food, it was going to be the same exact result as the tech industry. So that’s why I started AWS. It is my goal that we can find a way to get women’s representation, not just as founders, but also as talent, talent pipeline in the space. We want to make sure that women are getting jobs in this space that women are also becoming investors in the space. That’s the next big piece, right? They estimate that women leave about a million dollars on the table throughout their professional career from not investing in the same way that their male counterparts do. So we want to give them those opportunities. Food there’s no better time to do than food because it’s rising quickly, where the 80% of food is purchased by women. So we are the ones that buy it and food and women have a really deep historical tie. We have been leaders in the food space. We were running food companies restaurants long before women were even allowed to even have businesses back in the 1800s. And so, in my opinion, it makes sense that this is a space where women can lead in.

Tell us more about sort of the platform and how it works, right. It’s a summit. So I assume everyone’s getting together probably once a year. But you’ve talked about jobs. And is there a cadence and a way that, you know, folks that are a part of this communicate and connect or how does that work?

So VWS started as one single conference with 250 Women in a room in San Francisco two years ago, we now have actually over 40,000, women professionals across six continents. So we work very, very quickly. It’s a testament to how much need there was in the space. It also shows you how many entrepreneurs there really are in this space, I’ve had over 1000 women apply to our pitch competition from 31 countries since we launched it last year. So huge growth, we do both an in person conference, our flagship conference that’s coming up in LA in April, we also do our virtual pitch competition. It’s the only pitch competition in the world focused on women founders in this space. And there are so so many women founders, so we make sure that they’re getting access to capital, we also do a job networking series, we have the only future of food job networking series in this space, we connected over 2000 job seekers with roles that places like Impossible Foods, beyond me to really helping so that mission driven talent can get access to these roles. as well. We provide the only Future of Food report for women founders in the industry. So that’s the state of women in the future of food. We collect data from over 150 CEOs every single year. And we really are able to dive into what are the barriers? And what are the opportunities, what’s going on with women in the space and how can we empower them?

You mentioned reports in general, you drafted a report for the UN on pervasive inequities that you uncovered against Foodtech women entrepreneurs and founders of color during investment rounds. One of the key findings from the report was that 84% of founders cited a focus other than market opportunity, as the primary reason for starting a company. We all love a mission driven founder, but if I’m playing devil’s advocate, is that a contributing factor to lack of funding, you know, if they’re not market focused.

I would say to that, first and foremost, women tend to be attracted to the mission over the money. Male founders are eight times more likely to be interested in financial gain with the companies or founding than women founders. So that’s just across the entire industry outside of the future of food. But in terms of why you should invest in women, well, women provide a 63% better return on average than an all male founding team. So even though they haven’t always been amazing, yeah, even though they’ve always been interested in mission, they’re getting you better numbers, right? Diverse teams build better products, there’s so many statistics that show that women founders are just a better bang for your buck as an investor. And it just so happens, they tend to be mission driven as well. Also, when you’re looking at an early stage company, when you’re investing in really the person and the idea, that’s all you can really go off of, especially if you’re doing angel investing, so you need to see that the person is in it for more than just, you know, a quick exit and some money if they are able to stick it out from a mission driven perspective, that’s very important, especially in industries, like the future of food, cell based protein is going to take a long time to get on shelves, some of these companies have been around for like 10 years. So you can’t have a flaky founder that’s just trying to get in and get out very quickly, because it’s not going to work for some of these industries. These are long term plays.

Amazing, amazing. Getting before we wrap up here, any thoughts on psychedelics? You know, is this a niche segment? Or, you know, Is there potential for for mainstream adoption?

Oh, my gosh, I mean, there’s 10 times more VC is in the psychedelic space in one year, right? The growth of psychedelics is huge. I’m sure there’s a lot of people that are interested in psychedelics that are listening right now, I did a piece a few months ago comparing cannabis and psychedelics as industries and how the growth is a little bit different. The people that are getting into the psychedelic space are doing it for a different reason. I know we just talked about mission driven, but the majority of angel investors and early investors, if you talk to them in the psychedelic space, cite some sort of personal experience as the reason why they’re getting into it. Whereas cannabis was largely like food and beverage and alcohol type folks that got into that space early because they saw it as a very similar industry. So signups will be different. I think that you’re going to see it regulate much faster, it’s already making gains much quicker than the legalization of cannabis. You’re also going to probably see it 95% For you know, medicinal therapeutic use. I don’t think you’re going to see recreational psychedelics as the majority of this industry. In fact, I think it’ll actually be the small minority. What do you think, are you are you interested in this space?

I’m bearish, I’m bearish. I mean even With the proliferation of VCs and funds in the space, that to me is not a signal because VCs will always chase hype, seen it in many different sectors over the past eight years, and even before that, and I just think there’s a lot of behavioral things that people will have to get over in order to embrace psychedelics. So it’s not an never thing for me. But it’s, it’s definitely not something that I think the collective consumer base can move quickly on to embrace. To a large extent, we haven’t even seen that in cannabis yet. I mean, we’ve seen a lot of gains in cannabis. But the majority of the investing in the space didn’t work out. Well, the majority of the VCs in the space, we had the Poseidon folks on the show, they’ve done wonderfully well. But there’s many more failures for every success in that space. And I just don’t think the markets ready for psychedelics quite yet.

I think that the fact that we have such a massive amount of pharmaceutical folks that are investing in this space, you’re going to see a little bit different trajectory than cannabis, right? People want to take, you know, things like psilocybin to market as like an alternative to pharmaceuticals, right. That’s why they’re all getting into it, because they know that there, there’s data that shows that low dose of psilocybin is better than your SSRI for many different treatments, right. That’s why the VA the veteran Veterans Affairs is one of the main lobbyists that is pushing for legalization from a federal level, because the data doesn’t lie, it is a very, very good treatment method, I’m one of those people has a personal experience, my husband, you know, was able to get through PTSD from a very traumatic event that happened as a result of this. So I’m pretty confident that if pharmaceutical industries are able to regulate it and create a safe way to distribute it, that’s going to be a big piece, too, you know, abuse will be a concern. Certainly, if you take a whole bunch of what’s supposed to be, you know, one a day pills, you can turn it into a trip, right. So I think they’ll have challenges on their hand. But there is a good pathway forward. And it provides a very different benefit than cannabis ever could.

I mean, that’s a really interesting take. The delivery vehicle, no pun intended is is important here. And if the pharmaceutical companies add their credibility to it, then I think you remove a lot of the stigma amongst you know, the general consumer, because there’s this probably unwarranted trust of pharmaceutical companies in the United States, more so than other countries. And that could be a clever sort of Trojan horse to get mainstream adoption for psychedelics. Great take, Jenny, if we could feature anyone here on the show, who do you think we should interview? And what topic? Would you like to hear them speak about?

Probably one of my favorite VCs to follow? I don’t know. Have you had Alexis Ohanian on?

No, we haven’t. But that’s a good Seven Seven Six.

Yeah, I would like Alexis or, Serena, I mean, she just raised $111 million for her fund. I think that the way that he invests in the way that Serena invest is really interesting, because it’s not based on anyone, industry. I mean, he’s big on crypto and web three and NFT’s and stuff now, but he has such a broad portfolio. And the way that he thinks in the in the way that he’s thinking of the future I find very, very interesting. And yeah, I would definitely go with with him or or even Serena, if you’re lucky.

Great suggestions. Jenny, do you have any tools or hacks that are a secret weapon?

Go to bed early. That’s, uh, you know, I would say I read the book. Have you read the book? Why do we sleep? No. familiar with that one?

Yes. Yes, my wife read it. And she gave me the Cliff Notes.

Okay, so one of the things they talk about in it is, you know, there’s, there’s essentially, for evolutionary purposes, two different types of humans. There’s early birds and night owls. And that is a real thing. Like that is absolutely a real evolutionary thing. Because that way, we were able to guard the tribes, right, so some would be awake, and we’d have a very minimal period of time where there was no safety for the for the group, learn which one you are, and build your schedule around it, if at all possible. So when I figured out that I was an early bird, I just started going to bed at 9pm and started waking up at four or 5am. And getting into that natural rhythm that aligns with my clearly the way that my brain works. And the way that my body works, was very, very helpful to me, and not fighting against what clearly was not natural to my body.

Well, you look much better rested than me today. So I’m going to take your advice here, Jenny and read the book. Love it. Hey, Jenny, is there anything else you’re working on that the audience should be familiar with?

In fact, there is! I just announced today, we are publishing The Future of Food is Female. It’s the very first book focused on women’s leadership in the future of food. So I sat down and spoke to all of the most exciting CEOs, venture capitalists, celebrities, we even have a member of the European Parliament in there about what is going to happen in the food system and how these women are changing it. So if you’re interested in plant based innovation, Artificial Intelligence policymaking or perhaps cell based innovation I dig deep into it in my book The Future of Food is female. You can check in the show notes how to get a copy of the book comes out April 5.

Awesome. I am reserving my copy now and we will include it in the show notes. Finally, Jenny, what is the best way for listeners to connect with you and follow you know all that you’re doing?

Yeah, so if you’re interested in what we’re doing with VWS, VeganWomenSummit.com. We’re also on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram at Vegan Women’s Summit on Twitter @VegWomenSummit. If you’re interested in more generally, in my thought leadership, I am LinkedIn’s top food creator, which is like the cheesiest thing in the world to say, I’m very active on LinkedIn. So you can look up Jennifer Stojkovic and share a lot of content and my thought leadership on there everything from women founders to future food to diving a little bit into my thoughts on crypto psychedelics, and everything in between.

Next time we have you will talk about crypto and web three. She is Jenny Stojkovic. The group is Vegan Women’s Summit. Jenny, thanks so much for all you do. And thanks for sharing the time here today.

Absolutely. Thanks for having me. I look forward to the next time.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai