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Join host Paul Shapiro as he talks with some of the leading start-up entrepreneurs and titans of industry alike using their businesses to help solve the world’s most pressing problems.

Oct 15, 2022

As we continue to empty the oceans, our species’ demand for fish only seems to increase. But what if we could eat all the bluefin tuna and salmon we wanted without having to harm fish and other aquatic animals?

That’s the vision that companies like Wildtype are working toward. Founded in 2016, this cultivated fish startup has raised $120 million so far and now has 60 employees who are growing real fish meat without the fish. I’ve enjoyed their product now twice, both pre-pandemic and recently, and enjoyed it both times. 

Wild Type salmon that I recently enjoyed while in their San Francisco HQ.

Today, Wildtype is building serious cultivation capacity to help turn the tide for the oceans, and in this episode, we discuss the company’s origins, the role bird poop played, and what the company’s up to today. We even discuss the co-founders’ first company idea which they abandoned in favor of Wildtype: a redesigned Neti pot that would’ve been called The Schnozel. (They never trademarked this, so maybe one day you’ll be able to buy that Schnozel of your dreams.)

In addition to chatting about whether it’s faster and cheaper to grow fish cells compared to mammalian and avian cells, co-founders Justin and Arye open up about what impact it’s had on their personal lives to have gone from normal jobs to running their own company. We also talk about the perennial question in this industry: If the FDA gave them approval today, how soon would it be before we see Wildtype fish on restaurant menus?

Discussed in this episode

  • Our past episode with BlueNalu
  • New Harvest founder Jason Matheny recently became CEO of the Rand Corporation
  • The 2018 book Clean Meat (still highly relevant!)
  • Bored Cow’s great chocolate milk made with Perfect Day’s animal-free whey protein

More about Justin Kolbeck and Aryé Elfenbein

Justin Kolbeck is co-founder and CEO of Wildtype, which is on a mission to create the cleanest, most sustainable seafood on the planet. Before Wildtype, he spent nearly five years as a consultant at Strategy& (not a typo!) helping companies develop and launch products, grow into new markets, and operate efficiently. Justin started his career as a Foreign Service Officer, serving in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Australia, and Washington DC.  He is a graduate of the Yale School of Management, L’Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, and UC Berkeley.

Aryé Elfenbein is co-founder of Wildtype, where he directs the company’s scientific research. Aryé completed his MD and PhD at Dartmouth and Kyoto University; he completed his clinical training in internal medicine and cardiology at Yale. Prior to Wildtype, he completed a fellowship in regenerative cardiovascular medicine research at the Gladstone Institutes / UCSF. He currently practices cardiology in the critical care setting.