Seth Goldman is the Executive Chairman at Beyond Meat.
I recently caught up with him and had the chance to ask some questions about his journey.
Founded in California in 2009, the company sells its plant-based “meats” such as burger patties, sausages and “Beyond Beef Crumbles”, in the meat section of grocery stores in the US. Prior to Beyond Meat, Seth founded “Honest Tea” in 1998, which was acquired by Coca-Cola in 2011.
1. What was the most important lesson you learned while studying at Yale?
I entered the Yale School of Management from the non-profit sector (I had managed a Baltimore demonstration program for national service) and assumed that I would pursue a career in the non-profit sector. At Yale SOM I was inspired by the idea of mission-driven business – that private sector enterprises could pursue public sector goals.
2. What inspired you to partner with Ethan on Beyond Meat?
In 2012 as I was preparing to transition my role away from the full-time TeaEO role at Honest Tea, my wife Julie read an article about Beyond Meat getting ready to launch in grocery stores. It happened to be on her birthday and she said to me, “If this company succeeds, it would be the best birthday present ever.” My family has been vegetarian for more than 13 years, and we had been consistently disappointed with the plant-based substitutes. So I sent a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and said I’d love to help. The team responded right away, and as I got to know Ethan, it became clear he had an inspiring vision for transforming the meat case into the protein case. It was also apparent that he is a high-integrity guy with the right mix of humility and passion. I became an investor, then a board member, and then Executive Chair of the board.
3. How many Beyond Meat burgers do you enjoy a week?
At least four, and of course, now I can enjoy Beyond Sausage too!
4. Do you think of Beyond Meat as a technology company or a food company or both?
I think of Beyond Meat as a mission-driven food company. Our competitive advantage is based on our science, so that’s how the technology fits in.
5. Do you have a favorite non-profit? If so, which one?
My wife are involved in several non-profits, so I can’t have a favorite but we are most closely involved with Urban Alliance (where Julie works) that provides high school students with a work experience that builds their pathways to self-sufficiency. I am also proud to see the growth and impact of Bethesda Green) which is helping to build a local sustainable community in our hometown.
6. Do you ride with Uber or Lyft? Why?
I tend toward Uber. A good friend of mine from Coca-Cola’s Venturing & Emerging Brand Unit, Rebecca Messina, recently became their CMO and I believe in her, and her ability to help change culture.
7. What is your favorite Honest Tea flavor?
Hard to have a favorite here as well, but I am most proud of our Heavenly Lemon Tulsi Herbal Tea, which has both a great taste and a community impact – we work with a collective of tulsi farmers in Southern India, who are creating exciting opportunities for their families.
8. Outside of buy low, sell high — what is some no brainer investment advice?
I’m no longer a licensed investment professional (as I was before I launched Honest Tea) so I encourage people to consult with a financial advisor, but I choose to invest in what I believe in. Investment returns are never guaranteed, but by investing in line with my values, I know I won’t regret my choices.
*Disclosure: Collaborative is a major investor in Beyond Meat and I am a board observer of the company.