04 Nov Episode #296: Jonathan Wolfson, CEO, Ingenuity Brands
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Pete Moore: This is Pete Moore on halo talks. I had the pleasure of bringing a friend of mine for 31 short years. Jonathan Wilson known by several different accolades, one, an avidly strong soccer player, and very reliable to an outspoken evangelist in several markets involved with sustainable brands, known as a technology pioneer. And I consider a visionary and a close friend, Jonathan, welcome to halo talks P
Jonathan Wolfson: It’s a pleasure to be here. And well, I wish I was actually there, but it’s a pleasure to be with you anyway, and I’ve lived in a bunch of them and feel great about that.
Pete Moore: Awesome. So, you know, as, as you know, you know, integrity, square, and what I’ve been doing personally has really been focused on the bricks and mortar side of getting people to move again, to exercise, to become part of their routine. Nutrition has always kind of been, you know, we want to capture that and be the authority on that, but we’ve just never really had the skillset to pull that off inside of a health club. So what I want to use this opportunity is to have the market here, understand what’s going on the brain nutrition side house food is really kind of turning into the new medicine and now how you kind of see the future potentially evolving where, you know, we do have this serendipitous convergence of fitness, nutrition, brain optimization. So why don’t you give your, your personal background that gave you a couple of a couple of hits already, but you take us through kind of how you became an expert in focus on this sector.
Jonathan Wolfson: Well, maybe, maybe, maybe you a puffed me up a little bit, but at any rate,uwell look,uI,uI, I bet, you know, I’ve been an entrepreneur,ureally since I finished grad school. And,uand the w the way I really got into this,uinto,unutrition into food science,uinto the nutritional elements of wellness really,uwas, was through the side door. It was not, it was not intentional by any means. I’ve heard lots of people talk about their unintentional careers, and this is a decent example of it. I,uI’ve always wanted to do things to help people in the planet. And,uand so,uback in early, early two thousands,uI,uco-founded a company focused on renewable energy and we were developing oils,ufor low carbon fuels that are ultimately by the way,uit, the technology scaled up.
Jonathan Wolfson: So if you ever flew on an echo sky’s flight on United it was the first ever commercial flight on an advanced biofuel, and it was ours. We were, which so, so we had this crazy idea and it actually worked, however it left us really pretty exposed to energy markets. And so we were trying to figure out, you know, how do we protect ourselves so we can really build a good business. And funny, funny, I’ll see how quick I can tell this, but I don’t use, bio-diesel starting to become a big about 12 or 13 years ago. And the funny thing about biodiesel is it operates in an engine much like your blood operates your body in the sense that if you eat lots of saturated fats, right, you get artery clogs, right? Because saturated fats are the things that are solid at room temperature, et cetera.
Jonathan Wolfson: And so when we, when people were making biodiesel with all these saturated oils, they started clogging up an engines and a great example of unintended consequences, the school district of Minneapolis mandated that all the buses needed to run on a blend of biofuel. It turned out they picked a biofuel with a highly saturated oil and the buses all clogged up, and the only way they could run the buses for a good chunk of that winter was to leave them idling overnight. So the funny thing, I mean, look because otherwise they would clog up in the bus the same way, saturated fat clogs up in your arteries. And we looked at this and we realized we had made this ideal biofuel oil for biodiesel, and it was extremely unsaturated. So we started to say, well, Hey, can, this is from algae. Can this be a food oil?
Jonathan Wolfson: And we went out there and we started we started really exploring. And ultimately we began what was ended up being about a five year regulatory process that included a lot of FDA, a lot of safety work. And we actually commercialized a number of incredibly high monolith, saturated fats. We commercialize something called thrive, algae oil and made it into 11, 12,000 stores. 95% mono and saturated fat, which is literally the heart healthiest oil you could think about. So that was kind of the side door in. And then, you know, from there we realized algae were really good at making omega threes. So we took this big plant that had originally been built to make fuel, and we refit that plant to make out, to grow algae that made omega threes so that algae could be fed directly to farmed salmon. So if you eat salmon, if you eat a piece of farm salmon in the world, there’s a one in three chances being fed a an omega-3 rich meal that we developed and, and is produced in a big factory. We built in Brazil originally make fuel. So
Pete Moore: I love it. So I’m asking you a couple of questions just as being an entrepreneur. Cause we’ve got a lot of listeners that are either coming up with an idea maybe just started it, you know, during COVID and what I try and tell people as they’re going down that journey is you got to be disciplined. You got to understand that, you know, there’s going to be wins and losses, and it might take you five or 10 years to like really create a business that is valuable. So, you know, when you kind of had this aha moment, obviously you had some venture capital you know, you’re a guy like me that when I find something and I get it, and I know it’s going to change the world, I get like super excited. And like, everybody needs to know about it yesterday. Right. So how did you kind of recalibrate, all right, this is John Wilson, the evangelist, this is John Wilson, you know, the disciplined business person that knows that I’m not going to change the world overnight. And how did you, how’d you kind of get your brain comfortable with like, alright, this is like a marathon, you know
Jonathan Wolfson: Pete, I it’s like a lot of things, but you know, my wife used to be, you know, I’d come home from some meeting somewhere and she’d be like, well, what was the meeting about what, you know, I’m like, oh, it was an early meeting. And, and then she said, well, what, what could happen? Well, there could be a partnership out of this or whatever, and she’d say, well, how long would that take? It’d be, you know, usually these partnerships take a year or two or three to put together. And she would always say to me, I can’t understand how you can do these things, which require all these little steps and then might bear fruit after 2, 3, 4 or five years. And I used to say to work and I still, and this, I believe this look, it’s about planting seeds, right? And it’s about harvesting relationships and it’s about working your off. Ultimately it’s about following the opportunity. So, you know, for me you know, I always wanted to sell low carbon fuel, but after oil collapsed in 2014, we couldn’t sell our fuel. We went overnight from selling the ups and FedEx and, and, and the us and the U S Navy to selling to nobody literally. And so, you know you know, they, they, they, you know, it’s, it’s necessity is the mother of invention. That’ll cheesy saying it may be cheesy, but it’s true. You got to follow the opportunity.