People continue to experience how global warming can have devastating effects on the world. Crop yields have already started to decline from rising temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns and extreme weather events. Climate change is threatening the future of many foods, and that includes coffee. This threat and her love for coffee inspired Maricel Saenz to launch Compound Foods, a food science company to reinvent coffee.
Originally from Costa Rica, where coffee is ingrained in the national identity, Maricel wanted to dedicate her time and energy to creating solutions fighting climate change. Maricel left her first startup to create a product that could recreate coffee in a sustainable way. Coffee is one of the most consumed products in the world and it comes with a large water footprint. Maricel’s idea for Compound Foods is to replicate the coffee experience with less environmental impact.
In this episode, I sat down with Maricel to talk about Compound Food’s mission in tackling climate change, her career in science without being a scientist, her journey of building a company at the start of the pandemic, and the future of the coffee industry.
I hope you enjoy this conversation with Maricel Saenz.
From fighting bacterias to fighting climate change
Maricel shares why she left her first startup to start Compound Foods to fight climate change. Maricel’s experience in biotechnology and her longing to impact the world positively were the catalyst to launch Compound Foods and ultimately, what happens on a coffee farm in the lab.
Find out why Maricel decided to follow her passion to tackle climate change in this episode of Crossing Borders. If you want to learn more about Maricel’s backstory, I talked to her in Episode 76 about the battle against drug resistant bacteria and the challenges of raising capital in Silicon Valley as a Latina entrepreneur.
Drawing inspiration from nature
Research shows that 50% of the land we grow coffee on today may not be suitable for growing coffee in the future. A big chunk of coffee production could go away over the next few years due to environmental changes, for which we must take action and start producing coffee in an environmentally friendly way. Compound Food’s draws inspiration from nature and relies heavily on the fermentation process to create a product that has the same chemical composition of coffee beans. Microbes play a key role in creating flavors and aromas and are grown efficiently and in a scalable way.
Check out this episode to learn more about why Maricel wants to make coffee without coffee beans!
Changing the mindset around climate change
Maricel conveys an empowering message to go from climate anxiety to taking action. We can still do something significant about climate change and the environment. Technologies and companies are being built around climate change and people have the power to make big changes through simple choices, like buying a product that has less of an environmental impact.
Listen to the rest of this episode to hear Maricel on changing the mindset and the advice she would give to her younger self.
Coffee is one of the most consumed products on the planet and the way we produce it today has a high environmental impact. Solving this global problem is not easy and needs all hands on the (coffee) table. If this resonates with you, Compound Foods is on the lookout for more passionate team members to join the team.
Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to hear Maricel tell her story in her own words and her enthusiasm about creating a climate-resilient future, starting with your morning coffee.
Outline of this episode:
- [01:06] – The backstory of creating coffee without coffee beans
- [02:30] – Why is coffee the perfect target?
- [03:28] – Why does coffee contribute to climate change?
- [04:10] – Why do we need to brew coffee without coffee beans?
- [05:10] – Two minute background on Maricel
- [06:05] – First startup experience
- [06:40] – Singularity University and meeting her first co-founder in the synthetic biology field
- [07:10] – From fighting bacteria to fighting climate change
- [08:03] – Can we do something for climate change now?
- [08:40] – From climate anxiety to taking action
- [09:27] – How to take action fighting climate change
- [12:00] – Opening jobs at Compound Foods
- [13:05] – What does it take to build a company like Compound?
- [14:05] – From Costa Rica to the Bay Area
- [15:33] – Fundraising for a live product
- [16:25] – Thoughts on fundraising
- [17:35] – Why is Compound not a synthetic food company?
- [19:50] – What does the future look like?
- [21:05] – What are the next steps for the business?
- [22:09] – What advice would you give to yourself when you were first getting into tech
Resources & people mentioned:
- Maricel Saenz
- Compound Foods
- Sci-Fi Book: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
- Newsletter: Snaxshot
- Podcast: Crossing Borders
This episode of Crossing Borders is brought to you by AWS Startups.
AWS Startups supports entrepreneurs in Latin America across multiple programs, including Cloud Credits to help startups test features and extend runway, technical support to help optimize AWS solutions and integrations with your product, and – on the business side – help you build strategic contacts with investment funds, accelerators, and corporations to accelerate your growth.
For more information, check out aws.amazon.com/es/campaigns/founders, where you can access $1,350 in AWS credits for your startup.