MBA Program: INSEAD
Industry: Agtech / Biotech
Founding Student Names: Tim van Vliet, Saby Maity
Brief Description of Solution: INSEACT wants to mass process insects to produce protein powders that can be used for fish feed. By producing insect-based protein, we will create a more sustainable, consistent and competitive product than current fish feed (fishmeal).
Funding Dollars: We won €35,000 from the INSEAD Venture Competition (IVC) and €5,000 from the INSEAD Social Impact Award. We have had no formal round raised yet.
What led you to launch this venture? We were inspired by a fishing family in Samoa who cannot make a living any longer due to overfishing of the Pacific. We were determined to look for a solution. We realised that most of the fish caught in the Pacific is used for fish feed.
Once we identified this, we analyzed many alternatives and we concluded that insect rearing could provide a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to fish feed made from fish. In the process, we came across another great sustainability opportunity. Insects are perfect for cleaning up agricultural waste streams. That is why we plan to work together with large sustainability-focused palm oil companies to convert palm oil production side-streams into a food source for the insects.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with your venture? Winning the INSEAD Venture Competition (IVC) and INSEAD Social Impact Award was an amazing trigger for us. Winning both awards as ‘juniors’ was an INSEAD first. As a result there was great momentum. We quickly saw ourselves meeting with renowned investors and other potential partners. Doors were opened to so many great contacts. We are now working on some exciting partnerships that will hopefully be announced soon.
How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? We would not have been able to set up INSEACT without INSEAD. INSEAD provides a great learning ground for entrepreneurial concepts. Coming into INSEAD with an idea to work on during your program is a great tip for any new MBA admit.
We formed a group of people to compete in the IVC. Over 200 people participated in this competition. As we progressed, we used the help of IVC mentors to get from an idea stage to a real business.
During our entire MBA programme we used the INSEAD entrepreneurs-in-residence to schedule private mentoring sessions, something that is accessible to any INSEAD MBA student. These seasoned entrepreneurs proved an invaluable source of advice and contacts.
What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you?
Aged 16, I watched a documentary on how an American teenager sold office furniture online. I figured if he could, why couldn’t I? The day after I started setting up a website and ordered a container of office chairs from China. Ever since I started that e-commerce business, I didn’t know how to do anything else. I ran that business for five years and later set up an infant nutrition business in Beijing.
I was interested in electric cars since my undergraduate days when I worked on building and driving electric and racing cars. I have been continuously inspired through the years by how Tesla has taken on an extremely difficult automobile industry and disrupted it with a mission driven by conservation of the environment. Sustainability-focused transformation of food streams is a necessary step to maintain the growth of the human population and civilization and to me, INSEACT aims to do something very similar to Tesla in the protein production industry.
Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it?Definitely POM (Process and Operation Management). Professor Andre Calmon inspired many of us to be brave and to take INSEAD’s slogan ‘Business as a Force for Good’ seriously. I think setting up a social impact business is a great way to follow his guidance.
What is your long-term goal with your startup? We want to be the world’s largest insect company with factories all over Asia to maximize our impact on society and the environment.