Matías Muchnick, NotCo: Training Algorithms to Fix the Broken Food Industry from Chile, Ep 119

Matías Muchnick left the investment banking world in pursuit of a solution that would bring sustainability to the broken food industry. He could not have predicted that a couple of years later he would be training an algorithm to understand humans’ taste preferences to create a plant-based mayonnaise that would appeal to the mass market. 

In 2015, Matías cofounded NotCo, a food tech company that is using AI to take animals out of the equation in the production of milk, cheese, eggs, and meat. Just eight months after launching their first product in 2017, NotCo achieved 8% market share of the total mayo category in Chile in the first stores they launched in, a country that has ranked third in mayo consumption per capita in the world.

I sat down with Matías to talk about his experience in the investment banking world, starting a vegan food startup in 2012 and, ultimately, his decision to leave the company. We also discuss his transformative experience in the US where he connected with his current co-founders, then getting accepted into IndieBio, and eventually raising money from Kaszek Ventures and Jeff Bezos. Matías also talks about his most recent round of funding and preparations for launching in the US.

“R&D in the food industry was operating on coal”

Inspired by other entrepreneurs’ stories, Matías left his job as an investment banker and started thinking about what he wanted to do next. He had always been curious about the food industry but didn’t fully understand it. As a finance major, he likened it to the subprime crisis of 2008, where there was a disconnect between companies and customers who were buying and selling products they didn’t understand. At the time, the consumer was also changing, demanding a more sustainable way of producing food. Matías realized that what the food industry needed was disruption.

Learn more about why Matías decided he wanted to disrupt the food industry in this episode of Crossing Borders.

Cutting animals out of the equation

When Matías realized that the next step to advance his vision was to invest in technology, he immersed himself in the world of food, science, and entrepreneurship. During his postgraduate program at UC Berkeley, he became close to the biotech department where he learned about how the pharmaceutical industry was innovating using machine learning. That’s when Matías started questioning how these technologies could be applied to the food industry. He started surrounding himself with extremely qualified scientists including his co-founders Karim and Pablo, who were curious to explore this uncharted territory in the food space.

Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to learn more about how Matías formed his founding team and got started with NotCo.

Breaking the biotech barrier in Latam’s VC industry

Matías and his co-founders had been bootstrapping NotCo when they received a call from Ryan Bethencourt, the former Program Director at IndieBio. Ryan offered them a waiver to get into the prestigious biotech accelerator, which they hadn’t even applied for because they thought they had zero chance of getting in. Under IndieBio’s spotlight, NotCo became the first startup to receive a term sheet before Demo Day, and got the attention of Kaszek Ventures, who instantly became interested in their industry and invested in their Series A and subsequent rounds.

Find out more about NotCo’s growth trajectory and milestones they have achieved over the years in this episode of Crossing Borders, including becoming the first Latam startup Jeff Bezos invested in. 

Matías Muchnick is revolutionizing the way in which we think about food through NotCo’s vision for food production that is sustainable and efficient. The next generation of consumers is already changing, and Matías is making sure that the food industry continues to innovate to accompany that change.

Outline of this episode:

  • [2:16] – About NotCo
  • [7:46] – Becoming an entrepreneur
  • [14:24] – Reaction of friends and family
  • [16:22] – The breaking point with Eggless
  • [19:50] – NotCo’s inflection point
  • [25:07] – How NotCo raised money from Jeff Bezos and Top VCs
  • [31:14] – Next steps after raising $85M in a Series C 
  • [34:55] – Advice to Matías’ younger self
  • [36:37] – Books, blogs, and podcast recommendations

Resources & people mentioned:

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