Exploring Food Tech with Chiara Cecchini
Entrepreneur Stories is a weHustle column devoted to those who don’t make the best employees.
Future Food Insitute joined us at TECOM Conf on March 23rd. The Future Food Institute is an Italian-based non-profit with global horizons that aims to build a more equitable world through enlightening a world-class breed of innovators, boosting entrepreneurial potential and improving agri-food expertise and tradition. We had a chance to talk to Chiara Cecchini, US Director and Co-Founder at Future Food Institute.
US Director and Co-Founder at Future Food Institute
What is your background?
I studied international management at ICN Business School in France and then Management at MGIMO University in Moscow. My passion has always been about taking an idea to a profitable business: I donʼt come from an entrepreneurial family but this dream obsessed me since I was a child. Wellness and food industry had an appeal to me since they touched parts of my daily life.
When, where and why did you start your first venture?
I was in Moscow when I founded Feat. It was 2013 and I was personally struggling with my personal physical wellness. I did some studies in behavior change and nudging techniques and I got fascinated in how to apply them to foster healthy eating and physical activity behaviors. Feat is a software tracking vital physical metrics and rewarding people for healthy behaviors with discounts on healthy foods. The platform has been used by thousands of people from Russia to Italy to the US, having employees adopting it from companies like Barilla and Airbnb.
6 years later, you are now an expert in Food and Innovation: can you briefly describe your journey?
Feat was deeply focused on food. I got the support and recognition of many organizations thanks to it. BCFN Foundation supported Feat, nominated me for the Young Earth Solution and then made me a research fellow. Consequently, Future Food Institute gave me a scholarship for the Food Innovation Program, and then gave me a Fellowship. With them, I also did the Food Innovation Global Mission, I published a 4-book collection called “Food Shapers” and a Documentary. Then UC Davis “dragged me” to California, where I have been covering a Research position in its Food Science and Technology Dept. In the next 6 years, every opportunity taken opened at least another 3. I did a lot of research, I opened Future Food Institute chapter in the US, sharing knowledge and opportunities for food innovators, I supported Maker Faire for the Food Makers program. I started then writing on several magazines with the goal of sharing what I was learning. Consequently, the World Economic Forum nominated me as part of their Expert Network, the Institute For The Future nominated me as a research affiliate in food, Food Tank nominated me as one of the Food and Ag leaders to watch in 2019. Then 3 weeks ago I found my self to speak at the United Nations for Industrial Development Organization in Shanghai to share disruptive innovation in the food industry worldwide.
How was your experience in Shanghai?
I believe China is a crucial market when it comes to food and innovation. The pace here is incredibly fast: people truly want to “make it happen” and the food industry is growing exponentially. Technology is disrupting the industry in a unique way. As much as I love San Francisco and Silicon Valley, their pace is quite slow compared to what you find here in Asia. And I think we are going to see that in the next 10 years. Frictionless payment systems, extremely efficient delivery, plant-based food, innovation in biotechnology andclimate-smart agriculture: these trends and more are growing really fast.