Going Beyond

Obvious has a goal to build systems that help people work together to make the world a better place. There are many different kinds of systems.

The assumption has been that we focus exclusively on software—specifically, Internet software, more specifically, consumer web applications. This makes a lot of sense because it’s where we come from, it’s where we're strong, it’s what we gravitate towards, and it’s usually the most effective way to reach millions of people and provoke positive, global change. The web is still our primary area of focus.

However, in addition to the project our team is focused on, Obvious helps others with whom we are philosophically aligned. We contribute resources to a small portfolio of companies that share similarly ambitious goals to make the world a better place—companies that will thrive with access to the skills, network, and enthusiasm we can provide in combination with their own. One of these companies to which we have dedicated considerable resources and are personally committed to, is called Beyond Meat. The product is amazing.

Beyond Meat will become the market leader in the development and introduction of new plant protein products. Together, we are focused on perfectly replacing animal protein with plant protein where doing so creates nutritional value at lower cost. Aside from the fact that the products are healthy, sustainable, kind, and delicious, we are involved because with one company, we have an impact on climate change, resource scarcity, human health, animal welfare, and more. With this company, we can move into new territory while staying true to Obvious’ mission.

Without getting into too many details, we see the future of food and how it can lead in the area of climate change. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports that livestock’s “long–shadow” contributes 18% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. More recently, researchers at the World Bank and Worldwatch Institute put this figure at 51% because they count emissions and sources differently. Examples of contributing factors in the incumbent meat industry include deforestation and methane gas. Beyond Meat requires only a few vegetable and grain based ingredients—no livestock.

In China, red meat and poultry consumption is increasing at a rate of nearly 5% per year. The numbers and expense won’t work. The energy, water, land, and atmosphere to support a given unit of livestock provides dismal yield. For example, less than 1/3rd of the weight of a live bird results in cooked poultry. Across the board, the land, water, and energy requirements to produce our superior product are orders of magnitude more efficient.

Healthier humans is a trend we’d like to amplify in our lifetime. There are increasingly well established links between the consumption of animal protein and major disease epidemics. The number one mortality driver in the US is cancer and people are 16% more likely to get cancer due to the consumption of certain animal meats. Similarly, heart disease increases by 21% and diabetes increases by 27%. A diet based more on plants is widely recognized to increase overall health and wellness. We like the idea of an increasingly healthy humanity.

When we talk about humanity we also think about being humane. We share this planet with other animals that have central nervous systems—they too experience pain and suffering. 19 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cattle, 1 billion sheep and pigs. Animal cruelty laws preventing people from doing horrible things to our beloved household companions don’t apply to farm animals. As a result, there is an incomprehensible amount of cruelty and pain that can all be avoided. As Gandhi famously said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

There are many different reasons why people can get enthusiastic about the transformative nature of a product like Beyond Meat especially considering that it is superior—high in protein, lower in fat, healthier, and most importantly it’s absolutely delicious. At scale, this product also becomes immensely less expensive and can be produced anywhere which points toward a solution to world hunger. We don’t expect popular food culture to change overnight but we do see a future brightened by people like our friends at Beyond Meat.