How A Dinner At A Billionaire's House Led To A Massive Hire For A Startup That's Trying To Make Eggs Obsolete

A little less than a year ago, Josh Tetrick was at a dinner in the home of billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer. Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, were hosting the dinner for a non-profit that was trying to raise money.

Tetrick is the founder of Hampton Creek, a San Francisco startup that’s exploring plant species to create alternatives to eggs. It currently sells an egg-less mayo, egg-less cookie dough, and it’s working on egg-less scrambled eggs.

During the dinner, someone from the non-profit was making a presentation. Another attendee, Ali Partovi, was peppering the speaker with interesting questions about sustainable food. Tetrick was impressed with Partovi’s questions. It seemed like he really cared about topics that are important to Tetrick and Hampton Creek.

Tetrick quickly Googled Partovi to figure out who he was. It turns out Partovi is one of the the top angel investors in Silicon Valley. He’s built and sold LinkExchange for $US265 million in 1998, according to Crunchbase. He also co-founded and sold iLike to MySpace. He’s an advisor to Dropbox, and an early investor in Facebook and Zappos.

When the dinner was over Tetrick introduced himself to Partovi.

Josh Tetrick HeadshotHampton CreekJosh Tetrick

Partovi didn’t need to Google Tetrick. He knew who he was, and he knew about Hampton Creek. While Partovi’s background is in technology, he has become passionate about food and sustainability. In addition to his tech investing, he’s invested in farm land, a few other food startups.

Talking to Tetrick, Partovi says he felt, “this guy is different than the average entrepreneur.” He thought Tetrick had “incredible charisma.” Shortly after that meeting, he visited Hampton Creek, and he says he felt even stronger about Tetrick and the company.

Earlier this year, Partovi participated in Hampton Creek’s $US23 million series B funding. Today, he’s joining the company as the Chief Strategy Officer. He’ll help guide the company as it expands globally.

“Is a pretty awesome addition for us,” says Tetrick. “He’s built and sold companies for a lot of money in the past. He’s a tenacious person.”

After Partovi invested, he spent more and more time around the company. He helped introduce Hampton Creek to Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook. Hampton Creek then set up an ad campaign on Facebook that Partovi says increased brand awareness, and drove sales of its mayo product.

Hampton Creek pitch deckHampton CreekFrom Hampton Creek’s pitch deck

While Hampton Creek is a food company, Tetrick says he thinks of it as a technology company, which makes hiring someone with a tech background a logical decision. Either way, he says the most important thing is that Partovi has “the fundamental skills, like can you recruit smart people? Do you understand how to market an idea? How to sell an idea? Do you understand logic and reason?”

Partovi for his part says, “My career has always been at the intersection of computers and marketing.”
In college, he ran an ad agency part time. He studied computer science, but his senior thesis was on yellow pages advertising. “Marketing has always been something as important to me as computers and the internet,” he says.

Tetrick spent months trying to get Partovi to join Hampton Creek. As a top angel investor, who is already wealthy, Partovi doesn’t really need to take on a full-time job. And he has lots of people trying to get him to work for them.

Hampton Creek Office 09Business InsiderInside Hampton Creek’s offices

He says he joined Hampton Creek for two reasons.

“As an investor, my number one criteria, the single most important thing, is the calibre of the people. How smart are they, how hard working? How much do I enjoy spending time with them?” says Partovi. “Starting with Josh, I’ve really grown to admire Josh, there’s so much I can learn form him as well as being a mentor.”

His second reason for joining: “The company’s mission is well aligned with things that I am passionate about. I feel leveraged. A relatively small team can accomplish world wide change.”

For now, Hampton Creek is a startup trying to chip away at the multi-billion dollar market for food based on eggs. In the long run, Partovi thinks it could be the next major brand: “We have the opportunity to create the next Proctor & Gamble, the new worldwide food brand.”

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