Hampton Creek rises again with new directors and patents for a new direction

Jonathan Shieber
After what were likely several months of very one-sided board meetings, Hampton Creek has filled the empty seats that chief executive Josh Tetrick may have been talking to.

After what were likely several months of very one-sided board meetings, Hampton Creek has filled the empty seats that chief executive Josh Tetrick may have been talking to.

No longer monologuing, Tetrick has added an assortment of impressive-seeming new directors to the company's board and announced the company's acquisition of patents related to lab grown meat.

Without addressing any of the reasons why the old members of the board left, Tetrick announced new directors with "a powerful mix of experience in international business, agriculture and sustainability who could work alongside our talented team to tackle some of the most pressing problems facing the global food system."

The new members are...

  • Jim Borel, a former executive vice president at Dupont, who oversaw the company's Pioneer, Crop Protection and Nutrition and Health businesses until his retirement in 2016.
  • Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, has invested in a number of different industries through early and late stage investment vehicles. He's an investor in Square Inc through KBW Investments (a firm he founded) and has made angel investments in companies like Zeel and Memebox.
  • Larry Kopald founded The Carbon Underground, which looks to reverse climate change by restoring farmland, after a long career in advertising as a way to directly pursue his passion for sustainable development. Kopald is a senior fellow at the Marshall School of Business and served on the Obama Administration's Panel on Social Innovation.
  • Cliff Coles serves as president of California Microbiological Consulting, after a 50 year career in food safety working for companies like Heinz, Del Monte, and R.J. Reynolds/Nabisco.

In addition to the new board, Hampton Creek is touting some wins on the patent front. The company received a patent for its machine learning-based analysis of plant parts for potential products. Tetrick wrote that the technology could help food companies find ingredients for products.

Through corporate partnerships, Hampton Creek has managed to land some sweet deals that have the company's products served in comissaries from Tesla to Texas A&M, according to a company statement.

And it's still in good shape from a capital perspective. "The company has solid strategic and financial support from major investors across the world, including Khosla Ventures, Mitsui, Nan Fung Group, and Temasek Holdings. We're fortunate to have the capital to grow today and access to additional capital, if required, in the years to come," a spokesperson said in an email.

Through a "relationship" with Jon Vein, a new advisor to the company, Hampton Creek also picked up some patents around "clean meat" technology for producing the meat and making it at industrial scale.Hampton Creek has had a rollercoaster year. in March, the Justice Department and the SEC concluded an investigation into the company. That good news was followed by the blockbuster report that three executives had been fired from the company.

That news was quickly followed by the resignation of the entire board, which issued the following statement after reports of the departures came to light.

“We continue to fully support Hampton Creek and its CEO Josh in their exciting and important mission to change the food industry for the better of all people. We will advise Josh and the team on strategies across all areas of its business moving forward."

This announcement marks the latest turn on the rollercoaster ride for a company whose destination has always seemed to outshine the business decisions its executive team has used to get there. 

Perhaps with the board issue now settled, Hampton Creek can get back on track in its (admittedly laudable) goal of making the food business more sustainable.