Our oceans are some of the most diverse ecosystems on our planet offering untapped potential for innovation. Jellatech is a B2B biotech business based in Raleigh, NC and with R&D in Wageningen, Netherlands that taps into the ocean’s potential to produce high quality, pure, animal-free collagen and gelatin. Stephanie, the CEO and Co-founder of the company, recently spoke at the TFF x Synbiobeta Food & Agriculture conference about the science and technology behind their product. She now shares about founding a company remotely and across continents, how the time differences allow them to be more productive and available, and about the power of discipline. Jellatech is a company that turns obstacles into advantages, and we hope you will be inspired by their brilliant approach to making an impact.
Hi Stephanie! Could you introduce yourself and your startup Jellatech?
Sure! Jellatech was founded by a group of innovators, dreamers, entrepreneurs and scientists, eliminating the dependency on animals, to make better ingredient products—starting with collagen and gelatin. Currently we depend on animals for collagen. There are no great vegan substitutes. At Jellatech we want to change this. We want to make an effort to better the planet, for all of its inhabitants. I’m one of the co-founders of Jellatech. I was born in Denmark, grew up in Sweden and then moved to the Bay Area in California. My co-founder Kylie is based in Wageningen, a city in the Dutch Food Valley which is regarded as the largest food and nutrition R&D cluster in the world.
How did you meet your co-founder Kylie and decide to found a company together?
I knew the company and technology I wanted to build, I also knew that I was not the one to be in the lab and lead it, so, I needed an expert in the field. In June 2020, I started studying a lot of papers, research and articles and came across a super interesting breakthrough science paper, and as I dug deeper I found Kylie’s profile. She was about to wrap up her PhD and I just got the feeling that this was going to be my co-founder. We jumped on a Zoom call and immediately both knew that we wanted to work and build this company together. The fact that we are based on different continents didn’t bother us at all. We officially launched Jellatech in early November, 2020.
What does your remote workday look like?
I am leading the business and Kylie is leading the science and R&D so in that sense, we have quite cut-out tasks for us, and we don’t need to sit next to each other all day every day (we also wouldn’t as Kylie spends most of her time in the lab). But we do make sure to work together virtually as much as we can. We don’t think of it as a challenge, and due to COVID restrictions, we would most likely be working together virtually anyway, no matter where the company was located.
Can you share how being based in multiple locations benefits your team?
We cover more hours in a day. Because there is that six hours time difference we can piggy-back off any tasks that overlap and thereby get more work done each day, we aren’t waiting around for things from each other. We can hand tasks off to each other and wake up to the task being done, it’s almost like working in a multidimensional way. We can also engage with stakeholders, customers, partners etc. in an easier way, across more continents and time zones and have a bigger outreach. We are just closer to more people as we cover more ground, being spread across continents. I believe more and more companies will work this way as it allows employees to live in a location they love, while working for a company they love.
What advice would you give other remote teams?
Discipline is important, and making sure that meetings are efficient. Meetings are there to get to the next thing, the next steps, make decisions and take actions, they can’t all be cozy coffee talks—then we get nowhere. Be disciplined and efficient.
How do you stay organised as a remote team?
We use various cloud-based organizational tools, management tools and communication tools. As we are still a young company we continuously evaluate how things are working and whether we need to switch a tool or process or tweak it to be more efficient and proactive. We are agile and try to make sure that the way in which we are operating works and is as smooth as possible.
How has COVID shaped your business?
We are a COVID baby company, we haven’t operated outside COVID. I think everyone is staying agile while living and operating in the “new normal” as that continues to change. I think one thing that COVID has illustrated for us excellently is that being dependent on animals for food and other products is not a reliable way. We need to transition away from this, there are negative effects on the climate, health and others that are just more likely to happen when you are cultivating animals. The global pandemic validates our mission to support the transition away from animal-sourced/ based foods and products now more than ever.
Photographs by Jellatech, Captured by Camilo F. Muñoz Segovia
More from the Covid Collaboration Collective
Our Covid Collaboration Collective (Co3) collects and shares the solutions that TFFers around the world are developing so that they can be deployed more quickly in other places.