I made a prediction that Soylent will hit a billion dollar valuation within 10 years – I’m now revising that to 3 years. That’s because Soylent is one of the only scalable and sustainable solutions to the enormous strain we are putting on the food & energy chain that feeds the growing human population.
“Ok. Hold up Nathan, WTF is Soylent?”
Let me start from the beginning.
On February 13th of 2013, a young man named Rob Rhineheart posted an audacious blog post titled ‘How I Stopped Eating Food’. Since then this post has garnered 812+ comments and can probably credited as the blog post that birthed the company (that is now assumably worth north of $100M).
In this post he details an experiment in which he attempted to stop eating ‘normal’ food and instead subsist exclusively off a single powdered recipe that he could consume a couple of times per day.
Miraculously, he didn’t die. Instead Rob thrived on his new liquid diet and discovered the benefits of saved time, improved health and more money.
Fast forward a few years and Soylent is crushing it with their powdered and pre-bottled versions of the product. It’s one of the few companies in the world that I would stop being an entrepreneur for and like to go work for, because I believe in their vision.
Whilst it’s certainly cool, I’m not really excited about the saved time and money that comes from using Soylent for the bulk of your meals. What gets me excited, is how your impact on the environment changes when you shift to a ‘soylent-like’ diet. I’ve been having this powdered diet for about a year now, on and off.
Because I live in Australia, I’ve been unable to get the real deal as they don’t yet ship here. Instead, I’ve been experimenting with a mixture of DIY recipes and a locally produced version. Interestingly, this has been my best year yet from a physical perspective, I even ran my first marathon two months back.
In any case, the environmental positives that come from Soylent are many.
Here’s how you save the world by being a Soylent eater:
- Less need to use your stove or microwave to cook anything
- Save water on food preparation
- No need for a dishwasher
- No need for a large fridge
- Don’t use fuel to do your grocery shopping – maybe don’t even get a car?
- Stop being a meat eater
- Less packaging going into landfill
If we were to add up the total net impact of each of these behaviour changes, you’d be looking at a reality in which our food system no longer impacts the environment in a harmful way. Suddenly, we could sustainably feed our growing population.
So, Soylent is great for the planet. But, let’s be honest, it’s not going to become ubiquitous anytime soon. I have zero desire or temptation to get rid of my fridge or stove. I still love eating home cooked meals in the evening and enjoying dinner parties with my friends. Rather, Soylent has been perfect for those meals that I just need to eat ‘something’ and be able to keep going.
Here’s what’s still holding Soylent back from saving the world:
- Soylent quickly gets boring for every single meal.
- Food is an important part of our culture and happiness that soylent can’t replace.
- Agriculture is the world’s biggest employer by industry. If we all shifted to Soylent, that would probably be very bad for the global economy.
- Long term effects of a Soylent diet are still unknown.
So, whilst I’m bullish on the company being incredibly well placed to grow, it probably won’t reach mainstream potential until it fixes the flavour/culture problem. I would also like to see someone do an analysis of changes to the job market if 90% of the population were to have a Soylent product for 1/3 of all their meals.