Nestled in the breathtaking landscapes of Switzerland, Christoph Jenny’s journey from the mountainous terrains of his childhood to the forefront of sustainable innovation with Planted, Europe’s fastest growing FoodTech startup in the alternative protein space, is a testament to vision, resilience, and a profound connection to nature.
The company, Planted, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Innosuisse, Credit Suisse, L Catterton, and Be8 Ventures.
In this episode, you will learn:
- The journey from Christophs upbringing to founding Planted reflects a profound connection to nature, shaping a commitment to sustainable alternatives not only good for the environment but also consumer health.
- Moving from an early fascination with economics, Christoph learned that success transcends numbers, emphasizing the pivotal role of culture and leadership.
- Advocacy for a delicate balance between unwavering conviction and adaptability is crucial for navigating the unpredictable landscape of entrepreneurship.
- Planted’s inception involves proprietary technology such as biotechnology and fermentation, focusing on taste, health, environment, and affordability for a truly sustainable alternative ultimately “better than meat from animals”.
- Raising $115 million in capital, Christoph underscores the importance of aligning with investors who share the long-term vision and maintaining transparency during fundraising.
- Transitioning from an investment manager to an operator, the emphasis is on the value of transparency, competition in fundraising, and consistently maintaining a well-prepared data room.
- Planted envisions a world where alternative proteins have gone mainstream, with Christoph dreaming of waking up to a reality where their products reach a substantial portion of the consumer base.
For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here).
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About Christoph Jenny:
Christoph Jenny is the co-founder of Planted, a company that helps connect people with the best plant-based foods. Prior to starting Planted, Christoph worked as a partner at CIP Management AG, an investment management company.
Christoph also worked as an investment manager at Jacobs Holding AG and as a senior consultant at KPMG Switzerland. Christoph has a background in transaction services and restructuring. Christoph began their career as an intern at Credit Suisse before working their way up to student assistant.
Christoph Jenny holds a Master of Arts in Finance and Banking from the University of Zurich and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Economics from the same school.
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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: Alright, hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So today. We have a pretty interesting founder. You know we’re going to be talking about building scaling. You know, financing all of the good stuff we’re going to talk about. You know their journey how they got started. You know, especially with production. How to think about product versus technology also about consumer they demographics and why they may choose you and your product or even culture and how to create you know something that is very much mission driven so without furtherther ado let’s welcome our guest today Christoph Jenny welcome to the show. Thanks.
Christoph Jenny: Pleasure to be here I thunder.
Alejandro Cremades: So originally born in Switzerland in the middle of the mountains so give us a walk through a memory lane. How was life growing up. So.
Christoph Jenny: A I used to literally take my bos let ah to school in Winter. So It was a lot of fun growing up I think I grew up on a playground Essentially so I’ve been ever. Ah, yeah, close to the mountains enjoyed them a lot and have. Very deep connection to where I’m from.
Alejandro Cremades: Now in your case How how do you get into numbers and economics and stuff like that.
Christoph Jenny: Hey. Ultimately I don’t know I think I didn’t know what I wanted to say if it was our architecture or something else I chose business was not blown away by the marketing Concepts and everything but I got really into economics. And and focused on this was really astonished that you can try to build models to explain reality and learn from this especially because you always,, you’re always wrong and so you learn a lot and I really like this like loop of trying to predict something be wrong and trying to find out why I was wrong.
Alejandro Cremades: Now your case, you know it’s been. You know quite a sequence of events when it comes to the professional career on the way that you combined it with places like credit trees or Kpmg before you actually went to a family office. You know that changed you know the way that they. Ah, you go about things for the way that you think about things you know which was a really nice you know sequence, you know before you got into the entrepreneurial journey. But I guess you know out of being in the corporate world at a company like credit suite or kpmd which are massive businesses. What did you learn? you know there.
Christoph Jenny: In my career in the beginning I said I think it came very much from the economic side and I thought the truth is always in the numbers and I think I found out very fast that just getting to the numbers and having the same understanding of what the numbers are is very important. But then it’s a lot about culture and team that you can build around yourself and so I went to Lyn to a lot of the management interviews and expected to find out what the true numbers are but instead I found out if it’s a good operator, an inspiring operator um somebody that can rally a team can rally for a vision or a mission which. I Sort of found out I think over the course of my career is much much more important. Obviously you need to have good unit economics because if the unit economics don’t work Out. It’s difficult to scale but beyond that I think it’s a lot on the team and culture Side. So I think that was probably the most fruitful experience.
Alejandro Cremades: Did you see did you see any patterns there. Obviously you probably spoke and interviewed a lot of operators and and engaged with many of them and I’m wondering if you developed any type of pattern there where you were able to really quickly. Differentiate You know good operators from bad operators.
Christoph Jenny: Hey, no I think ultimately no not I also don’t have the perfect track record but I think what I found out is this strong correlation I think he needs very strong conviction but you need to be capable to listen at key moments. So I think it’s this really nuanced thing of like having a strong conviction for what you believe in because. 10000 people will tell you like why don’t you do it like that or why do it? Why don’t you change it or you should change this or that and I think if you would listen to everybody along the way I think you would dilute your company or product way too much. So I think you need to really know what you want and believe in it to like to a fault. At the same time I think there’s like every now and then the crucial moment in a company where you need to listen and I think finding that balance is what made people really really strong and that listening I think externals be it from investors board members but also internally from key employees and I think this is what I find also for myself. Ah, to be is where I grow every year where to learn like where to listen and where to just show conviction and and believe in yourself and your product and your company and your team.
Alejandro Cremades: Now where you say word to listen what kind of listening is that what does that listening look like.
Christoph Jenny: I think it’s very different I love to update my information set as I go through the week the month of the year and so I think it’s sometimes like small comments but all the sudden they get you thinking and why are we doing it like that. Um, and then you start to think and then you’re like. Hey it’s actually a pretty good point I get what they said and so I think for me that kind of listening is the best when I can try to understand why somebody said something get the good feedback like sort of out of the box something like a blind spot and then be like hey cool. And this is a huge opportunity that I should act on or this is a huge risk and they need to find a way to mitigate it.
Alejandro Cremades: Now it sounds like for you really transitioning into the investment Side. You know was pivotal so walk us through how did that transition happen and and how was that you know the immediate. Kind of thing that needed to happen before you venturing into becoming an entrepreneur.
Christoph Jenny: Yeah, actually I started out as an um entrepreneur So I had that with sixteen I had my own first Web Shop. So I think I always had that in me I Think what I’ve learned is really this sort of that. For the long term. It’s not the Sprint. It’s a marathon and you need to be extremely consistent and so I think this is what I learned and what my transition was when I thought it’s It’s all about getting the deal done and when you sort of just advise based on deals. That’s what you focus on right? get the deal done and then it’s the next project. Um, when you run a business, especially yeah, like ah for for a family family office that invests long term and it’s very much about the value you create over the long term and about managing those assets and making sure that you have the right team the right people to build things for the long Run. So I think it’s this. Long run view and how to build teams where I for sure learned a lot of things from great operators I came across during that time.
Alejandro Cremades: So at the family office. What were some of the things that you were doing. Yeah.
Christoph Jenny: Hey in the beginning It was simple investment work sourcing deals finding deals and at the end it got then rudder operating as I jumped in on a portfolio of restaurant beverage brands and.
Alejandro Cremades: 2
Christoph Jenny: Really got into the nitty gritti of day-to-day operations and so I think this was really good sandb blocks to learn a lot. What like what the outside world is like and so I think if you’re in working as an investment manager or in the investment side I think you oftentimes only see very. Small parts of the business but day-to-day taking long people for the restaurant side. It was ah line cooks line chefs. Um I worked in the restaurants and ah trying to just understand like how how that part of the business works I think is. Something you just appreciate the lot and that’s where I think Also I learned a lot from great operators that really understood their businesses ground up in some cases built and from the ground up and and I think this appreciation for understanding a business beyond the numbers and the data but understanding it from the ground up. Think this is what I started to really value.
Alejandro Cremades: Now in your Case. What would you say were some of the things that you needed to see in order to take action with planted because you know as being part of that investment experience and journey in your professional career. That’s essentially what exposed you to the problem and got you excited enough to take Action. So So what were some of the things that needed to happen from 80 from ideation all the way to incubation and and launch a plant. It.
Christoph Jenny: Yeah, so I think like on the restaurant side when we operated the restaurants we looked at the alternative proteins quite early on and wasn’t blown away by taste or ingredients depending on how you look at it or I think both in the end. And as somebody that lived on and off vegetarian or vegan I think it was particularly like yeah sad because it was excited but at the same time like it didn’t I think go in the right direction because I believe that the consumer dimension of health is extremely important and that. For sure the early product I think it has gotten a lot better since which I think is very important. Um, it wasn’t didn’t blow me away and then one of my good friends challenged me on this and said like why don’t you have ah out of all people. Why don’t you have alternative proteins on the menu. And I told him what I told you and then he introduced me to his cousin who’s just finishing up the ph d in food science at eta here in Switzerland it’s one of the top 5 food schools I’d say globally and so yeah, taking taking it then from there really. Product ground up and trying some of the samples they had and being really blown away by the product quality but more than about the vision. We started developing rather fast at the same at the time there was everything was about it needs to be the same as animal meat very comparative and I think we really started with this hey we want to be better.
Christoph Jenny: If we want people to switch the experience needs to be better and we define for us very quickly. What still holds us for us true today. It’s taste the environment Consumer health and price where we want to be better at.
Alejandro Cremades: So I guess for the people that are listening to get it. What ended up being planted. How do you guys make money.
Christoph Jenny: We make money by selling products to consumers through Retail we directly deliver into food service. Food. Service is a large part of our business and we do have a D Two C business for the loyalists and and enthusiasts.
Alejandro Cremades: Nice now.
Christoph Jenny: So we believe really about increasing the maximum of touch points we have with consumers and we want to be there where animal meat is consumed.
Alejandro Cremades: And what about the the journey of getting started with production How how did that look like.
Christoph Jenny: Yes I think this was rather special. We do need a lot of equipment so we would be like as or we are a capex business and I think if you don’t have a product or if you don’t have a market yet or a proof of product market fit. It’s very difficult to fundraise. And so we had the privilege of using pilot plant at et the school we were spun out of officially and really yeahs scaling production in a very and d-driven environment. We proved the plant built it up there and shipped literally out of this. City center of Zurich and if you know the city center of s circuit. Don’t want to do that from a logistical point of view. It was a nightmare. Every truck was delayed because they were standing in traffic but it was ah gave us the opportunity. The capexs would have been probably 5 or 6000000 at the time to start and we had this. And a facility ready to go. There’s a huge privilege and I think we wouldn’t be here if not for that.
Alejandro Cremades: So then how was also they they when you guys thought about like engineering the operation like how did you think about product versus technology For example, yeah.
Christoph Jenny: Yeah I think already back then and I think it hasn’t stopped yet people talk a lot about technology so they talk about the features of the technology and the benefits and why technology 1 technology is better than the other think from like what I’ve seen and. I think what’s very sure that it’s going to be about the product. So ultimately with consumers buy its not technology. They buy a product I think it’s this famous. Ah Steve jobs speech I love and I think a lot of people love this megahertz discussion versus a product a computer and so this always stuck with me and I was sure like. Have amazing cofounders on the technical side. Um, but let’s not get carried away on technology and there’s very likely. It’s not going to be 1 technology that’s going to be right? But there’s going to be a combination of technologies that is right for our product so we focused very much on what we believe that product should be and going back to these 4 pillars taste. Um, health environment and price and looking at the technologies that best fit that and so we chose a technology stack getting a little bit technical but we structured the proteins and we then transform therein through biotechnology or fermentation if you want into. Amazing, juicy and delicious cuts of meat. Be that small pieces or full steaks and really finding this sweet spot of pure efficiency which you have on this structuring side with let’s say added capabilities you get from biotech and sort of really the intersection of.
Christoph Jenny: Where product cost can be with what the maximum consumer benefit is and I believe many companies ah especially in this sort of hype cycle missed this totally where they just built amazing products but they didn’t scale and we said from a beginning like we want to scale, we want to like food. It’s brutal scale. It’s about the last cent. Once like we had an early negotiation with a retailer and we said oh finally we discussed about one cent they laughed and said we typically discussed the fourth cent after the comma so or the fourth decimal after the comma so and to that extent food is a lot about efficiency and um I think. You really need to know what your product should be so that you can drive that efficiency because if you don’t know what your product is but you have a technology It’s really difficult to optimize for efficiency. So I think this product first approach I think. Companies like I said admire? What? ah Apple did with the Apple two I think they put it all together and it it led to this massive spike I admire what elon musk did with Tesla I think they also were the first ones to put it together. It’s not the first car and not the first electric car. It’s not the second electric car but I don’t know maybe the tenth the twentieth but they got it right? They understood what they need from a battery pack. They knew what they understood what they need from a consumer experience from the for the driver. It was a lot about the acceleration because before every car was boring and they made a car which accelerated much faster than most gasoline powered vehicles. So I think it’s really understanding what this consumer benefit is.
Christoph Jenny: You can deliver better than the other products out there and I think that’s why I believe we do not often enough talk about product and it’s very simple to compare technologies but understanding what the product Usp is and what you deliver to consumers is.
Alejandro Cremades: And and as you’re talking about that at what point did you guys achieve product Market fit that moment where you like my God you know I think we got a right.
Christoph Jenny: Incredibly important.
Christoph Jenny: Hey, always and never or very early and never um so I think from the beginning and so we did ah we wanted to prove out that we found the product and we were like surprised because we started taking home very early on we we decided or we took home development samples. And we cooked them at home and our families loved them and we were really surprised. We did this I think like after a couple of weeks of working um with the product and then we went to the middle of the train station in Zurich it’s a large hall and you get to demo product and you need a technical feature to demo product. So we had this voting button which was the technical feature and we had consumers vote and we had 160 people try the product 157 um voted that they would buy it and 3 didn’t and so we thought we listened to the 157 and just go with it so we took a very simple approach. Kind of a craft beer approach. We went restaurant to restaurant and we just sold it. We just looked at what the restaurant said um, what the feedback was and funny enough like with a really good success quota of like just selling the product in to chefs. Who loved working with the product as it was um, we did not have like any any flavoring component in there so we did not add any aroma. So so it was a very well-to-work with product that truly reacted to how chefs prepared it and they just loved it. So within a couple of weeks even before we so had officially set up the company.
Christoph Jenny: Solve the first product and yeah, we took it from there.
Alejandro Cremades: And and when it comes to also ramping things up and and getting the right people here to help you guys. How did you think about to building a mission driven culture.
Christoph Jenny: Yeah I think ultimately I think we I think mission-driven culture for us is very simple because people see the cause immediately when they walk in through the door There’s people that are very motivated by the climate There are people very motivated for animal welfare people who care for both and so I think this is very simple I think. What is actually more challenging or what the big challenge is to have like a performance driven team and that like delivers um beyond the mission alignment because I think the mission and the alignment is rather easy and so we always say come come for the mission stay for the team stay for the culture and I think it’s. Achieving this part of like very diverse background so we have a factory production employees on the one side and on the other side we have a ph d so who work all day in a lab and work on maybe like a lab ah sample or experiment for I don’t know a month and so it’s very very culturally, extremely different people. We’re also expanding in Europe so we have very different geographies very different cultures and so it’s finding these common denominators of how we work actually together and having fun in the dayto day because I think if you don’t have fun in the day-to-day and you’re just align for mission. And don’t think you have enough fuel to go for I think mission gets you somewhere and it gets you through maybe the tough times but on a daily basis I think you need to have fun in what you do and so I think it’s rather like building a performance- driven culture where we have fun in on the on a daily basis in what we do.
Alejandro Cremades: Now when it comes to people to how do you guys go about investors how much capital have you guys raised today first and foremost.
Christoph Jenny: A we raised a total of about the 15000000 to date.
Alejandro Cremades: And what has been the journey of raising that money and how did you make sure that you got the right people for the right reasons.
Christoph Jenny: I think we we always believed like look. We’re here for the vision. So we we need to deliver the vision but we need to have ah investors who truly buy into the vision and so when we first said we believe that we need to invest into our own factory like I’d say but um for the seed round. But 95% of all institutional investors were out as they said like it’s crazy and we we showed like ah the use of funds and I think we showed about 2 wo-thirds is going to go to capexs and 1 thirdd is going right? 20% and it’s going to Rd in the. Ah, business development. We do a little bit with the gross margin we have on the product and so this wasn’t um, let’s say the most popular message but we really believe that it’s the right thing and so I think we had quite the strong selection from the beginning and a lot of family offices backing us in the beginning. Or smaller niche funds that believed in us and we look very closely that there is nobody on the cap table who like has a fixed exit date because we believed if we do true innovation. True tech. It can go very fast very wrong if you have like a fund that needs out in 5 years um, or even less if they’re like maybe maybe more mature in their investment cycle. So we really focused that people like don’t have any constraint whatsoever when they need to get out group.
Alejandro Cremades: And and then also what were some of the other things that you learn around the fundraising process because you know one thing was very interesting. How you you know before you were on the other side of the table you were on the investment side and now you are on the other side of the table on the operator side. So How do you think that having now. Both perspectives you know, really helped you in navigating the process and how did you go about it.
Christoph Jenny: I think it helped a little bit on to know what to expect like especially like into terms of like due diligence etc. I think we were always prepared quite decently and so we we never started to have like an official like ah we first of all, we never ran ran a process so that’s maybe like my number 1 thing so like. You’re raising all the time and I think this is true and so that’s something I taken away. We never did like a particular fundraising round so whenever somebody was like oh I guess you’re not raising. We’re like hey we’re always ah getting to know people and we rather get to know the people before the round than during the round. And so I think we always were almost like sort of preempted or had somebody invest and before we actually like needed to do do around and I think to create that atmosphere of hey we do have options and we do look for the best fit on investors I think was. Very important and so I think we never raised like on a particular moment where we went out. We made a structured process but we always had like leads. We talked with people and then leveraged getting 1 term sheet to get a couple of other term sheets. So I think as a founder that is like a good thing to do and I think think of it like you’re like. Recruiting your most important employees. Why would you do it like in a very hectic environment everybody at once and all of that you want to get to know people and so I think we were always chose I think a good level of honesty and transparency and getting to know people and getting to see how they react or typically brought the challenge or something I was thinking about with and just looked how they reacted.
Christoph Jenny: So There were like people who who who I could see kind of like I like the way they think about the problem I Like the way they discuss with me a problem that somebody I think that could bring value to me and so I think we always focused on that I think else what else it took with yeah, never. Never start any sign any term sheet or whatsoever that gives exclusivity if you don’t have to so try to keep it competitive because especially I think in the current Market Environment. You never know what to expect? So I think having a good.. It’s a reasonable competition gives you also a bit of protection. And then yeah, never start to like go out and talk to people without having like a data room and everything prepared because you don’t want in the last minute to prepare a Bait data room. So Essentially I think we almost keep a more or less life data room at all times we just file things in the data room. As we go and I think this makes it so much easier. It’s like ah if you need to search all the tax receipts in the last moment.. It’s also like a pain. So if you continually work on that I think that helps a lot.
Alejandro Cremades: That’s amazing now. A vision is obviously a big one. You know whether you know it comes to employees to customers to investors. So if you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where.
Christoph Jenny: No.
Alejandro Cremades: The vision of planted is fully realized what does that world look like.
Christoph Jenny: Um, it’s ah it’s a world where alternative proteins have gone mainstream so we see our job in the markets we are and we focus rather on less than more markets that we have truly a mainstream product. Can reach. Let’s say thirty forty fifty percent of the consumer base and so I think that’s the world I want to be in like alternative proteins adoption rates by country vary. It’s between 1 to maybe 3% on the high end for the whole category. So I want this at ten fifteen percent so that’s the world I want to wake up where like it really starts to get mainstream I think that’s what where I think I said like in the beginning like yes product market fit. We had it quite early but also I think we still haven’t found it fully yet because we’re not yet the mainstream product so we need to keep working on becoming fully mainstream.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing now we’re talking about the future here I want to talk about the past but with a length of reflection if I was to put you into a time machine and let’s say I bring you back to 2018 2019 where you’re starting to look into you know this and let’s say you had the opportunity of having a sit down with your younger self. And you’re able to share with that younger self one piece of advice before launching the business. What would that be and why given what you know now.
Christoph Jenny: Hey I probably would prevent myself to go back because I probably would tell myself I don’t do it and no I think it’s ah like I think the best thing is you don’t know so I think you always think like I’m just about to figure it out and if we’re just about to get into cruising mode. But I think if you truly push. Until you reach a cruising mode I think it takes some time. So I think the best thing is probably not knowing what I would say I tell myself I think like it’s taking time to write things down. So I think what I started. Maybe a little bit too late. It’s like writing down like the vision into like a memo style kind of thing I think it’s worked more of pitch decks and stuff. But I think especially internally for the board. Maybe but more for the leadership team like writing down really like step-by-step what do we do? I think is really really valuable because as a founder I think you tend to. Like just see the end. You’re just like let’s just do it. But the steps that it takes in between if you write it down you kind of noticed like hey missing maybe 1 or 2 steps in between and so I think the most valuable thing I started is really writing down and. Very close tight second I think it’s really really take time for key hires. So ah, really challenge these people and make sure you have like very consistent interviewing with very consistent questions.
Christoph Jenny: Ah, where you really flush out why they want to join what are their capabilities. What have they delivered in the past. Do they fit the culture etc. So I think it’s these 2 things probably which have both to do a little bit with taking time.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing! Well hey, well thank you so much for being on the Dealmaker show I Guess the last question is for the people that team are listening and that are really inspired and that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.
Christoph Jenny: Hey I always love if you interact with us as a brand so we eat planted on Instagram and if they want to say hi. We have an open and ah transparent production facility. So my office is right by the production just come on a come and knock and we’ll show you.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing, well easy, no way hey thank you so much Christ for being on the deal maker show. It has been an absolute honor to have you with us.
Christoph Jenny: Around with what we do.
Christoph Jenny: Thanks likewise.
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