Startups, Accelerators & Incubators

Matt Feldman of Moku Foods: How to Create an Investible Plant-Based Brand

Matt Feldman is the CEO and co-founder of Moku Foods, a meat alternative brand turning clean label, plant-based ingredients into products that emulate the taste and texture of meat. Moku launched its first product, a plant-based jerky, in December 2020.

Moku is backed by the founders of Thrive Market, Casper, Soylent, and Mendocino Farms as well as VC heavyweights, Siddhi Capital and Vanterra Capital. Additional investors include Mana Ventures, Barrel Ventures and KBW Ventures. 

In 2020, Moku earned a coveted spot in Amazon’s invitation-only Emerging Brands Program and Matt was listed on Forbes 30 Under 30. Here Matt offers insight into how up-and-coming product founders can create a brand designed to attract investors.

Matt Feldman Headshot
Matt Feldman ©Moku Foods

How I Created an Investable Food Brand – and How You Can, Too

Like with many founders, the idea for Moku Foods arose from a desire to add something to the market that I felt was missing. For me, it was a replacement for my go-to snack: beef jerky, which I gave up after fully transitioning to a plant-based diet. I was inspired to create my own after struggling to find a minimally processed, allergen-free alternative at the grocery store. 

After more than two years in product development and building strategic partnerships, Moku officially launched in December 2020 online and on Amazon in February 2021. While I was fortunate to meet people along the way who later became advisors, investors and a co-founder, Moku’s humble beginning was in my home kitchen with zero outside funding. 

Here’s what we did…

Don’t Be Afraid to Stand Out. In Fact, You Need To.

When I set out to create Moku Foods, plant-based jerky was a relatively crowded space; so, I made it my mission to be better than what was currently available. I focused on a clean, allergen-free ingredient list using less-common, but still accessible, ingredients (which is key when thinking about future scalability). In my case, I went with the meaty mushroom as our primary ingredient to separate from soy and gluten-based options. In addition, I focused on nutritional aspects that my competitors didn’t have which included higher fiber along with lower sugar and sodium per serving.

I made it my mission to be better than what was currently available

The most important differentiation was making a better product, and to do this I saved up and hired former Head of Product Development at Eat Just, Thomas Bowman, to take my kitchen recipe and turn it into the best jerky in the world.

For the packaging, I wanted something that was visually vibrant and stood out on store shelves. Jerky products tend to be more muted in their branding, so I went in the opposite direction. I chose bright colors and bold lettering to quickly capture the eyes of potential future customers. 

Moku Foods plant-based jerky
© Moku Foods

Food is an experiential product. It’s not just about getting the taste and texture right (although, that is very important), it’s about capturing an emotion, and getting consumers excited to bring your product into their homes and feed it to themselves and their families. 

Tap into Your Network – and Grow It

One of the most impactful things I did early on was leverage my network. I made a concerted effort to connect with people in industry who were creating brands I wanted to emulate and sent them messages asking if they had ten minutes for a quick phone call or could meet for coffee. You’d be surprised at how many people out there – even complete strangers – are willing to chat. Aside from learning from their experience in the industry, these conversations also give you the opportunity to find potential advisors who may be willing to take a portion of equity in exchange for helping grow your business. They can be direct connections to future investors simply based on their own relationships, and also add immense credibility to your brand – which increases the likelihood of getting capital. 

Investors aren’t just contributing capital to your brand; they’re investing in you – and there is nothing more valuable.

You Don’t Have to (and Shouldn’t) Do It Alone

Being a ‘solopreneur’ can be lonely, and the risk of burnout is incredibly high. Plus, it’s not possible for one person to be skilled at every level of creating a business from R&D to operations, branding and marketing – there’s only so much that you can do on your own. This is why it’s important to have a partner or small team who shares in your vision and can offer different, yet complementary, skills to you. It also goes back to helping secure potential capital, because investors want to see that you’re serious about your brand and have a team to back it up. When I was first working on Moku, I still had a full-time job in tech – and my first team members had full time jobs as well. What made it work was the ‘sweat equity’ everyone was putting into bringing Moku to life and sharing the belief that one day it would all pay off. 

Moku Foods
© Moku Foods

Sell Your Vision

At the end of the day, the number one thing you need to do to get your brand to an investable standpoint is a strong vision and a clearly defined roadmap to how your brand will disrupt the industry. Even more than a delicious product, fancy packaging and a strong team, investors want to see a compelling case as to why your idea is the next $100M+ product. You need to be able to sell them on that vision and give them no choice but to invest – because not doing so would mean missing out on a huge opportunity. 

Investors aren’t just contributing capital to your brand; they’re investing in you – and there is nothing more valuable.

ClosePlease login
See all bookmarks