First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ms. Florence Leong: Adapting well. The WFH arrangement enables the family members to spend more time together. It also gives a better understanding of each other’s work nature & challenges.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded KosmodeHealth.
Ms. Florence Leong: I am a National University of Singapore Business School alumni who spent almost two decades in the big pharma’s. I discovered the world of small startups when I joined a venture capital fund after leaving big pharma’s. I have since been actively involved in the startup ecosystem as a startup entrepreneur, mentor, industry advisor, and bio/Medtech track instructor in the Leam Launchpad program. I met my co-founder, A/P Huang Dejian from Food Science Technology Department in NUS as a mentor. We co-founded KosmodeHealth Singapore Pte Ltd after almost two years as a mentor & mentee.
How does KosmodeHealth innovate?
Ms. Florence Leong: KosmodeHealth’s mission is to expand access to health from nature by impacting 2 industries (agrifood and biomedical) with 3 technologies. Our core technology is an efficient plant bioactive extraction technology that is sustainable & halal certifiable. The extraction technology has been applied in the up-valuing of food processing by-products (e.g., spent barley grains and distilled dried grains) for formulation into a sustainable source of functional food. One such product is the world’s only Starchless Protein Fibre noodles. Each serving of the noodles has no glycemic index, with protein contents equivalent to 100% buckwheat noodles and high fiber of 15g. It is sustainable as its based ingredients are protein & fiber ‘reclaimed’ from spent barley grains. This Starchless Protein fiber noodle is specially formulated to provide a source of protein & fiber for the aging population, and yet without the glycemic issues associated with starchy noodles. Protein extracted has also been formulated into Plant Protein Composite (PPCTM) bio-ink, which can be printed into PPCTM bioscaffolds by our proprietary precision 3D bioprinting technology. PPC bioscaffold printed has enhanced cytoaffinity and tunable scaffold properties that can be customized to the growing needs of different cell types and into Plant Protein Composite =(PPC) bioscaffold for 3D cell cultures. In short, we provide plant proteins to meet the nutritional & growth needs of both humans and cells.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ms. Florence Leong: in a way, the pandemic has been a blessing. During the ‘lockdown’ at home, I managed to optimize the formulation of the Starchless Protein Fibre noodles. The pandemic has also heightened awareness of food security and increase consumers’ health consciousness. KosmodeHealth is addressing both factors by upvaluing by-products that are currently used as plant fertilizer and animal feed to meet the nutritional needs of Singaporeans. The greatest negative impact on our business is the seeming risk aversion amongst investors. Many prospective investors who have expressed interest before the pandemic have reverted that they need to ‘conserve gun powder’ for their portfolio companies.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ms. Florence Leong: Difficult choices and tradeoffs are what startups are faced with day in and day out, with or without the Covid-19 pandemic. The difficult raising environment and the fact that KosmodeHealth has 2 business verticals means that we need to focus our limited resources to grow mainly the agrifood vertical. We have decided to invest our effort in the introduction of the Starchless Protein Fibre noodle, to ride the wave of zero-waste and demand for sustainable plant based ingredients and food.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Ms. Florence Leong: Stress and anxiety are part and parcel of a startup entrepreneur journey. In fact, it is a necessary part as it is like the adrenalin and endorphins that drive an athlete to push themselves. When you believe in what you are doing, everything is manageable with a good night’s sleep. I am fortunate that while there are times when I have disturbed sleep, I have not had a sleepless night ( as yet).
Your final thoughts?
Ms. Florence Leong: I am excited about the imminent launch of the Starchless Protein Fibre noodle. There are currently no noodles that have no GI and yet have protein & fiber. Thus far, consumer feedback, especially amongst current consumers of either no-carb or plant protein noodles, has been extremely encouraging. Comments such as ‘best tasting,’ ‘mouthfeel are amazing,’ ‘start selling’ have been received. This has all encouraged us to step on the accelerator to satisfy the many purchase inquiries made.
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