Meet The Disruptors: Timothy Childs & Derk Hendriksen of Treasure8 On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry
Be Guided by Your Purpose — When the going gets tough, it is important to remember why you’re in your business and stay true to your vision and purpose. For us, this means taking every decision through the lens of our Purpose: ‘Deploying Nutrition for Humanity’ and our triple-bottom-line strategy. Of course, the business needs to be financially sustainable, but we have many more stakeholders needs to respond to, in particular the less affluent and the environment.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Timothy Childs & Derk Hendriksen of Treasure8.
Timothy Childs and Derk Hendriksen are the Co-CEO’s of Treasure8. Based in SF, it’s a mission-driven food tech group that’s developed disruptive ways of creating more affordable, accessible, disease-fighting, nutrition. It’s even able to up-cycle from food waste streams using some of the world’s most powerful dehydration technologies, thus improving planetary health — another urgent global concern.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Sure. I, Timothy, was one of the first food technology innovators of the modern era. At my last company, TCHO Chocolate, I created a disruptive, technology-driven approach to chocolate making called TCHOSource, one of the world’s first vertically integrated flavor-driven supply chains engineered for sustainability, cost-effective supply premiumization of chocolate. This model has been used to improve the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of cacao producers around the world to date. In fact, it was while I was still working at TCHO that I got the idea for Treasure8. I realized that there was the potential to apply my tech-driven, regenerative and systems-based approach to a massive, inefficient current food system and how some of these could be bridged to lower the cost and availability of nutrition within the current distribution system… Prior to TCHO, I was deeply engaged in both the real time computer graphic and internet business. I founded a company that developed machine vision and machine learning solutions for NASA’s Space Shuttle program, co-founded virtual reality companies, including the nonprofit community building organization VeRGe (Virtual Reality Education Foundation) in 1991, as well as the famed Web3D RoundUP at SIGGRAPH.
Hi, I’m Derk Hendriksen and I have been in the food and beverage space for well over twenty years. Before joining Treasure8, I ran my own Purpose-driven Business consultancy, Hendriksen Ventures, and previously, spent the better part of my career (over two decades), with The Coca Cola Company where I served in many commercial roles around the world, and most recently as SVP of Business Integration in the Office of Sustainability. In parallel to that role I was entrepreneur in-residence and started EKOCOMPANY, Coke’s Social Enterprise unit. With a network of partners, we launched the EKOCENTER program geared towards improving the wellbeing of underserved communities, including improving health, reducing environmental impact, and increasing prosperity. I’m originally from the Netherlands, now based in Atlanta and San Francisco, and am extremely driven by industry transformation (I am kind of impatient, just like Timothy) and purpose-driven businesses, especially ours here at Treasure8.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
We have a complex puzzle of solving multiple world dilemmas, and we all know there are many. In fact, we are experiencing what we call the “quadric-crises” of health, economic, climate and social justice challenges, to put it mildly. We truly feel that with our strategy, technology, and partnerships we’re designing disruptive, systemic solutions to these challenges. And we’ve summarized this mission as a Resource Revolution®.
As an example, DEHYDR8, one of our subsidiaries, is enabling us to create affordable, whole food nutrition with our superior dehydration technology called SAUNA™, that we’ve exclusively licensed from the USDA. It captures higher levels of nutrients which we’re excited to supply to those who need it most as an affordable source of “food as medicine” — especially as malnutrition & hunger is now the leading cause of death worldwide. Food and ingredients from DEHYDR8 are also better tasting, safer, long-lasting, shelf-stable, affordable, AND far more efficient to transport. When you remove the water from produce, it becomes lighter and with the technologies we possess, we can buy up to a year more in terms of its lifespan. And through partnerships we have the ability to upcycle fruits and vegetables (and more!) from waste streams. An example of this would be how we have recently worked with CA kale farmers that had extra kale in the fields. Our farmer partner brought us the kale directly from the farm and dehydrated it with our SAUNA technologies at our Treasure Island pilot plant. We were able to transform it into healthy powders and chips to provide to local soup kitchens. But this is just one small example. We’re also working with some of the world’s largest food companies to improve their current products and develop new ones that utilize these unique technologies we have here at Treasure8. The whole purpose is to make quality nutrition more affordable, as well as more accessible to more people. That is why our purpose is to Deploy Nutrition for Humanity.
All this is equally important when you look at it from a sustainability perspective. Why? For one, food waste is a $2.6T/year crisis that is responsible for 6% of greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, traditional food production methods are generally resource intensive, requiring massive amounts of energy, water, gasoline, etc. However, because we remove the water efficiently through our breakthrough low-energy SAUNA technology and create much more lightweight products that are shelf stable and don’t require refrigeration, simultaneously reducing the need for electricity drastically increasing “freight efficiencies”. And we have even created biochar with the output from our food production — allowing us to, overtime, operate a full regenerative economy model. Combine all this with our global technology and partnership platform and it’s truly a systemic solution to many urgent challenges in the Food System.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
DERK: Not sure if it is funny but when I first started at Treasure8 one of the immediate goals was to set up the company to partner effectively with large CPG companies to accelerate growth and scale. Based on my CPG experience I pulled together frameworks and plans which made sense in my previous company, but I quickly realized how different the start-up environment is, and would require a more unique and specialized approach. A company simply can’t scale overnight and so together, Timothy and I have developed a global, scale-up strategy. One example is our partnership with one of the world’s top consulting firms, PA Consulting, which has allowed us to tap into their experience and long-time relationships, and frankly, grow and move faster than we could have by ourselves. This is the pairing of technology and a global partnership platform we have envisioned and now have in motion that is allowing us to do our part in transforming the food system.
Timothy: One of the humorous events in our journey involved figuring out some of the challenges we had here having in our first scaled up hot air dryer we had manufactured for us. (It’s about 15 ft high). There was a dead spot of hot air in the dryer and it was an interesting problem to solve. I sent through 360 video cameras through it to see if we could find it. It boiled down to me getting a broom stick with a number of Teflon tape ribbons on it, putting on loads protective gear and getting into the dryer going at full tilt, with winds going about 70 MPH and to locate the exact spot. It worked and we were able to apply the findings back into the computation fluid dynamics software and to make the fix. The lesson? Sometimes you just have to stick your head (actually our whole body) into a problem to figure it out.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
TIMOTHY: One of our biggest inspirations at Treasure8 is a brilliant food innovator and waste stream upcycling pioneer Ed Hirschberg. In terms of food waste, he became my patron saint, years ago when he was already 95, and with 55 years of experience in food processing innovations under his belt already! He was an encyclopedia when it came to knowledge of upcycling and technology issues related to food processing, and actually co-invented our main technology for dehydration (SAUNA™). I miss him terribly since his retirement — he really showed me how to apply these concepts to larger systems which is part of how we plan to inflict systemic change.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Well, you might say that some of the industries we’re looking to disrupt today were initially disruptive in a negative way (although at the time, they may have been viewed as positive). For example, TESLA and other electric cars are trying to disrupt the automobile industry to create cars that are more sustainable. If we look back a hundred plus years ago, you could say that the Model T disrupted horses…. but of course, we all know eventually cars became a negative disruption to the planet and environment. The same might be said about large scale food processing that was introduced in the 50s, companies viewed it as a very “efficient” and cost-effective way to produce food. We now, of course, know that this also is a terrible strain on the environment as well as humanity at large with cheap, low-quality, and empty calories leading to many modern diseases. We think that sustainable disruption happens when the needs of all stakeholders are met, including the environment and society. This will create a regenerative value circle, rather than just a value chain that is profitable for the happy few. To do that, we need to get better at measuring impact, not just measuring dollars. We are what we measure in the end!
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- Hire Slow, Fire Fast.
- Your company is only as good as the team that comprises it. As such, it’s important to take your time with each and every hire to make sure that not only will they really bring to the role what you need in terms of moving the business forward, but they also will need to advance and strengthen your culture. Likewise, if you make a mistake along the way in this arena, it’s important to address it immediately before the tendrils of your error wreak havoc on your organization. At Treasure8 we always start with cultural fit and avoid hiring, as inspired by Netflix, ‘brilliant jerks’.
- First Things First
- A big vision mobilizes the troops but the road to it often requires hard work. The entire team must share the strategic clarity on the ‘must win battles’ and they’re sequencing to win in the long term is critical. At Treasure8 this means that our subsidiary Dehydr8 is the first out of the gate as part of our broader mission to create the Resource Revolution®.
- Be Guided by Your Purpose
- When the going gets tough, it is important to remember why you’re in your business and stay true to your vision and purpose. For us, this means taking every decision through the lens of our Purpose: ‘Deploying Nutrition for Humanity’ and our triple-bottom-line strategy. Of course, the business needs to be financially sustainable, but we have many more stakeholders needs to respond to, in particular the less affluent and the environment.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
We are a B2B company and initially focused on working with a select group strategic partners so our list is fairly short. For us, most of our leads come from word of mouth or from asking those in our network for direct connections to the decision makers. The earned media also helps put a spotlight on some of our efforts, which is often helpful.
Unlike many businesses, we’re more about quality over quantity when it comes to business leads. However, we do have some ways in which we are focused in making sure we do get those targeted folks coming to our door. One is strategic earned media. Another
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
We’re never done! Currently, as we mentioned, we’re working on closing a Series B financing round and are integrating our strategic partnerships to scale up. This is important for a number of reasons, but especially for the fact that we’re very eager to scale our operations internationally as quickly as possible. We call our work the Resource Revolution® and for it to truly be global, we need to close this round and get more distribution and facilities set up in more countries as soon as possible.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
DERK: Must Win Battles by Peter Killing and Thomas Malnight and Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim have both been incredibly helpful for me over the course of my career. While not necessarily purpose-based, they really help to focus strategic decision making, which, in today’s context, has everything to do with creating value for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.
TC: Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Choinard, the founder of Patagonia. There are many responsibilities that come with running a large company and the honesty and raw truths that he shares in this book have inspired me time and time again. Highly moving and inspiring for anyone that wants to lead with more than just a perspective of profits. I patterned both TCHO Chocolate and Treasure8 around some of their key principles. Also, Carol Sanford’s book (and her coursework) The Regenerative Business has been revolutionary not only to Treasure8 but too many of the other companies in OSC2.org.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
DERK: Mohammad Ali: “I want to be remembered”. The causes we embrace and the choices we make in (business) life — particularly those against the odds — often have the most lasting impact on our legacy. Making the case for purpose-driven, enlightened capitalism and demonstrating its value to business, society and the planet is what I aspire to be remembered for.
TC: “Running a start-up is like chewing glass and staring into the abyss. After a while, you stop staring, but the glass chewing never ends”. -Elon Musk
Starting a company is like eating glass and staring into the abyss. Starting a company isn’t for everyone. You need to have a very high pain threshold.”
There is a quote by Nikola Tesla that goes, “All that was great in the past was ridiculed, condemned, combated, suppressed — only to emerge all the more powerfully, all the more triumphantly from the struggle.” And this is very inspirational as a founder of multiple companies. It’s hard to remember sometimes that others who have changed the way the world works didn’t always have an easy road on their path to doing so, and that some days are harder than others, but the end goal will be worth it.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
DERK & TC: I think we would both say that we would want others to join our movement that we call the Resource Revolution®. Making quality nutrition affordable is our goal. Meanwhile, $2.6T of food is wasted every year and it is going to take many smart and passionate entrepreneurs, as well as NGOs and government entities to work together, chip away at, and truly make an impact on the global issues of nutrition security and climate change. We must come together and truly realize the assets we have to change these crises before it’s too late.
How can our readers follow you online?
Best is by following us and Treasure8 on LinkedIn!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!