Green Monday Founder David Yeung On Vision, Community And The Value Of Failure
Twenty years ago, David Yeung became a vegetarian. He was mocked; his family asked him why. He had no idea it would change his life forever.
In 2012, he founded Green Monday, a social venture and advocacy organisation, to tackle the looming issues around climate change, food insecurity and public health. Even his closest friends doubted his business model.
A few years later, he created Green Common, a plant-based grocery store that now has 15 outlets across Asia, following it with the launch of OmniPork, now OmniFoods, which produces plant-based meat alternatives that focus on the tastes and demands of the Asian market.
Today, Green Monday is the leader in Asia’s rapidly growing alternative protein industry. In 2020, it raised US$70 million in its fourth fundraising round, the largest raise for an alt-protein startup in Asia to date, with celebrity investors including James Cameron, Mary McCartney and Susan Rockefeller.
Above all, the company is making good on David’s promise of tackling some of the biggest challenges facing the planet today. Needless to say, they’re not mocking now.
In a breathless conversation that covered so much ground, we discussed the difficult early days, the future of the alt-protein industry, and how he went from running a chain of grocery stores to creating a global food tech giant.
Taking a leap
“Thinking back, I find it to be very surreal. Just how did I come up with that courage? Now, people call it vision, right? ‘Oh, David, Green Monday—you guys are such visionaries.’ I mean, really, back then we were just stupid. And crazy, just like the name of your show.”
On plants being cool
“When people say that plant-based is cool, I just can’t help but have a smile on my face. Not that long ago, we were still absolutely mocked. People considered us weird. The transformation of the industry globally, it’s unbelievable and, of course, very encouraging. So I’m very optimistic about the next five or 10 years, because breaking ground is always the hardest. And collectively, as an industry, we broke ground the last five years. In Asia this is still only the beginning.”
The importance of talent
“Nothing matters more to any company, not to mention an IP-driven company, than talent. To blaze new trails, the one common thing is always how to attract top talents and how to build a vision that they can resonate with. We need to always reiterate what our ultimate mission is, and what it takes to get there.”
See also: Peggy Chan And David Yeung On The Rise Of The Meat-Free Movement
The hard early days
“The early days were the hardest. No one knew what we were doing, honestly. It was a very lonely process. For the first three, four years, when we weren't even selling stuff, people were like, ‘David, you call yourself a social venture, but where's the venture?’”
Timing is key
“The ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky has a famous quote: “Don't skate to where the puck is, skate to where the puck will be. If right now the hot space is here and then you come here, chances are you may already be too late. Remember, the so-called overnight success usually took 10 years to build.”
See also: 5 Tips For Becoming Flexitarian
The value of failure
“Don't confuse failing at a certain task, or even failing at, let's say, starting a company, with you yourself as a failure. Never mix those two things up. Failing is actually a requirement for any business.
“Around 10 years ago, someone very close to me said, ‘David, have you realised that everything you have tried to do has failed?’ That really hurt. Even recalling the memory is still painful. So if you ask me now what it takes to put a dent in the world and make an impact? Continue to fight and continue to fail. And then eventually you fail forward. Green Monday is the accumulation of a lot of learning and mistakes before we finally started to make some impact.”
Quotes are edited for clarity and brevity.
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