How This Entrepreneur Went From Lawyer To Cricket Farmer
By 2050, the global population is projected to reach close to 10 billion—making our current methods of animal farming unsustainable. If we don't change course, food shortages could soon become be the new reality.
Serial entrepreneur Kevin Wu is aiming to boost food production in an eco-conscious manner through his alternative protein startup, Ento. The 28-year-old lawyer started his entrepreneurial journey shortly after he left his job at a corporate law firm in 2018. While travelling around the world during his hiatus he visited Mexico City, where he tried cricket tacos. The tasty, unusual street snack caught Wu’s attention, sparking his interest in the alternative protein market, which was starting to pick up steam.
Upon returning from his travels, Wu spent months researching alternative proteins and launched Ento. His goal was to remove the stigma of eating insects, or entomophagy, and normalise it for the general population. Ento opened its first farm and started producing its product in 2019.
Looking Beyond Meat
Wu understood that alternative protein was a challenging industry. “Going into this business, I expected it to be tough because of the negative stigma attached to eating insects. That being said, I know the value proposition of insects as an alternative protein source is solid, some are a better source of protein compared to beef, pork or chicken, and are highly sustainable to farm,” he says.
Wu says he always wanted to push himself to take on something difficult early on in life. “Alternative proteins using insects is a niche market and remains so to this day, but it is big enough for a small startup to sustain itself and build up its expertise over time. I figure if we can capture the market, we can eventually branch out and expand to other areas."
Ento originally started selling whole roasted crickets, but to make it more appealing to the masses they have explored alternative methods of presenting the product. This includes the introduction of cricket powder, made of milled crickets, that can be used in a variety of different methods, such as mixing it with salad dressing, smoothies, baking flour and more. The firm has also started making burger patties, which it calls Ento Meat.
According to Wu, this is all part of Ento’s process to turn the powdered ingredient into something more familiar. “We combine a range of different ingredients to make it into something familiar not just in terms of shape but texture, how it is cooked, nutrition, taste, smell and the way it looks after it is cooked,” he explains.
After he founded Ento, Wu saw another opportunity, this time to launch a furniture manufacturer. He partnered with a seasoned furniture retailer and started a second business, Furniture Outlet Centre (FOC).
“I thought it was a compelling opportunity to dabble in the furniture retail market and disrupt,” he says. The opportunity, which came through a family connection, allowed him to diversify his business.
In the years since its founding, FOC has opened three large outlets, up to 15,000 sq ft per store. The idea, Wu says, is to appeal to customers who don’t want a standardised piece of furniture that you can get off the shelf. "We offer customised furniture, allowing customers choice, right down the colour of the fabric and materials."
Having cut his teeth as an entrepreneur, Wu wanted to bring that same approach and thinking to a law practice. In late 2020, he decided to go back to his roots as a lawyer, founding his own firm, Kevin Wu & Associates. “I did not want to lose my skills as a lawyer, and after two years being away from the legal profession, I felt it was time to go back into practice,” he says. He has since grown the firm to a full-service law firm consisting of 10 lawyers, offering expertise in corporate mergers and acquisitions, litigation and criminal law.
So how does Wu manage his time with three businesses? He says it all comes down to delegating work to the right people to free himself up to think and strategise. “I’m very blessed to have a dedicated team in each of my ventures where everyone knows their roles,” he says. “I try to distance myself from the day-to-day operations. After all, you want to work on your business and not in your business.”
See more honourees from Malaysia on the Gen.T List 2021.