Ethan Brown is on a mission to redefine the word “meat”, says Anne Cassidy on the BBC. The 40-something’s Los Angeles-based business makes vegan burger patties, chicken strips and sausages from plant proteins. They are formulated to mimic the taste, texture and look of beef, chicken and pork. “There’s no mystery to meat. It’s amino acids, lipids, trace minerals and water,” Brown says. “And if you can deliver those four things in the same blueprint or architecture as muscle, why can’t that be called meat?”
Brown launched Beyond Meat in 2009 after researching how to use plant materials to replicate the composition of proteins and fats, working with scientists at the University of Missouri. He spent all his life savings, and “begged” friends and family for money. “It’s amazing what you’ll do to make it work,” he says. After phoning grocery chain Whole Foods “almost to the point of indecent behaviour”, he got it to stock his first product in 2013 – Beyond Chicken Strips. But it is the Beyond Burgers that are proving popular. The patties “bleed” beetroot juice, and contain pea protein, coconut oil and potato starch. More than 25 million have been sold, and the launch of the range in Tesco had to be delayed last month due to demand. “We’re trying as hard as we can to catch up,” says Brown. A new production facility has just opened in America, in addition to a new research laboratory in Los Angeles funded by $72m of outside investment.
An AI boon for small businesses
The late payment of invoices is a serious and growing problem for Britain’s smaller businesses, says Joe Wallen for Forbes. On the continent, companies are typically paid after nine days; British firms wait twice that long.
Enter Paul Christensen (pictured), a former managing director at Goldman Sachs, and entrepreneur David Brown, co-founders of Previse. Launched in 2016, Previse uses artificial intelligence to enable buyers to pay their suppliers instantly. Previse’s algorithms predict how likely buyers are to pay. If the buyer has been reliable in the past, a third-party funder, often a major bank, pays the invoice immediately on the buyer’s behalf. For this service, the supplier pays 1% of the total invoice as a fee, which is split between the buyer, the funder and Previse. The buyer then transfers the money to cover the original invoice at a later date.
“Slow payments are a global challenge with massive human and social costs,“ says Christensen. Previse will transform global business-to-business commerce to “cash on invoice so all suppliers can get paid instantly rather than having to wait months“.
Need an apprentice? There’s an app for that
Two years ago Euan Blair, the 34-year-old son of former prime minister Tony Blair, and Sophie Adelman, a former banker, co-founded WhiteHat, a tech start-up that aims to match apprentices with employers, say Aliya Ram and Henry Mance in the FT. Adelman and Blair (pictured) have now raised $4m through a funding round led by Silicon Valley investor Lightspeed Venture Partners.
The firm has already put 500 apprentices through its training – 65% from minority ethnic backgrounds, 50% who have claimed free school meals, and 7% who are refugees or asylum seekers. WhiteHat aims to have 10,000 apprentices on its books by 2023. The investment should boost the credentials of the start-up, which has faced scrutiny because of Blair’s high-profile parents, say Ram and Mance. Adelman said WhiteHat had been “put through the wringer” by Lightspeed to demonstrate its financial viability.
The blogger who went viral
Every morning, nearly half a million people wake up to an email from Imran Amed, says Tim Lewis in The Observer. Amed (pictured), 43, is the British-Canadian founder of the Business of Fashion (BoF), which, for the fashion industry, is the go-to place for listings, news and interviews.
Amed studied at McGill University and at Harvard Business School in the US, but settled in London, where he worked as a management consultant. His current job is not dissimilar, he says – it’s just that his “client” is now the whole fashion industry.
The BoF began life as a blog in 2007 that Amed wrote at night from his flat in Notting Hill. Some articles are still free, but in October 2016 it launched a subscription service, costing £216 annually or £18 a month. Amed won’t reveal the number of subscribers he has – only that the numbers have exceeded his wildest expectations. “It was a risk,” he says. “But it turns out people find they can’t get content like ours anywhere else. They trust what we have to say.” The site also has a job listings section and a section offering online courses, alongside a biannual print magazine – the last issue had a double cover featuring reality television star Kim Kardashian and the activist Sinéad Burke.
Every September the media company releases its BoF 500, a power list for the fashion industry. The company has no one competitor, says Amed. “We live in the attention economy,” he says. “You have a limited amount of time in the day, you have a limited real estate on someone’s phone.”