Nick Hazell is an international entrepreneur who made the leap from a corporate job to a highly impactful startup, in one of the biggest industries worldwide.
On the DealMakers podcast, Nick Hazell and I talked about his journey halfway around the world, from engineer to founder, innovation, raising $100M in equity, growing dangerously fast, and the future of what you will eat.
What Happened To Lego?
Nick Hazell was born in the UK and ended up in boarding school at a young age. Between this experience of being out on his own and having to fend for himself, and doing a lot of traveling early on in life, and getting great exposure to different ways of thinking, he started out with some great cornerstones of entrepreneurship.
He also had an early love for engineering and creating things. Some of his first engineering experiences were with Lego bricks. Not these modern kits with fancy pieces and detailed instructions to create Harry Potter or Star Wars scenes. Just boxes of bricks and your imagination. The opportunity to create something from nothing.
Hazell got into Cambridge University in the UK where he continued to pursue his passion for engineering.
A big aerospace firm sponsored him through college and gave him a role in manufacturing James Bond-like electronic devices, like bugs.
Then he had the chance to dive into a whole new form of engineering and embrace another of his passions in joining a big UK chocolate company, Mars.
Food & Innovation
Nick swiftly moved from shift manager to production manager, and then over to Holland where he was moved up to R&D within Mars. This gave him the freedom to make a real difference, and go beyond the basics of just figuring out how to make things run cheaper or produce better quality, and be able to think about things differently. He did so well that they moved him to Australia to head up their R&D there.
Ready for a new challenge he was hired by Pepsi. This followed by moving into consulting with Australia’s big partially government-funded science institute, CSIRO.
He was even asked to begin teaching at the University of Technology Sydney. They had launched a new degree program for Creative Intelligence and Innovation. He was tasked with teaching students following many different professions how to think differently and appreciate the disciplines used in other fields and roles.
This was all despite the fact that he had never done a startup of his own yet. Though he did have experience with big companies, and internal entrepreneurship, even if that was often encountering that “big companies actually resist innovation with a fierceness that is really quite insane. It’s like innovation is some sort of disease that the immune system has to try and kill.”
Rethinking What We Eat
Before becoming a chief scientist at v2food, Martin Cole was head of Food and Agriculture for CSIRO. One day he called up Nick and asked him what he knew about plant-based meat.
Martin had met with Jack Cowen, the owner of Burger King’s brand in Australia, Hungry Jack’s, as well as the VC guy for CSIRO. They concluded that CSIRO had the technology to do something in this space, which was virtually untouched in Australia, but they needed someone to step up and start a company for it.
On January 17th he found himself at the alternative protein conference in San Francisco. The same day the seed money came through for his company v2food, and the EAT-Lancet report came out. A notable environmental sustainability report that addressed our nutrition and the huge problem meat has presented from a sustainability perspective.
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