Hampton Creek’s board of directors made a big, and very unusual, change recently: they all left.
All, that is, except for the CEO of the Silicon Valley startup best known for its egg-less mayo and some of the controversies that have clung to it.
The company confirmed the board change to Business Insider on Monday. Josh Tetrick, the CEO and now sole board member of Hampton Creek, said in an emailed statement that the board changes would give more freedom to the startup’s staff.
“Ensuring our employees maintain their ability to direct our mission is as critical as the technologies we deploy and the products we launch. We will always protect this principle,” he said.
According to a report in Bloomberg earlier on Monday, the board members left because of conflicts with Tetrick.
We will advise Josh
The company provided a separate statement to Business Insider on behalf of the outgoing directors, which said they would still “advise” Hampton Creek.
“We continue to fully support Hampton Creek and its CEO Josh in their exciting and important mission to change the food industry for the better of all people. We will advise Josh and the team on strategies across all areas of its business moving forward,” they said in a joint statement, provided by a Hampton Creek spokesperson.
The exodus includes Bon Appétit Management Co. cofounder and CEO Fedele Bauccio, former US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Google DeepMind cofounder Mustafa Suleyman and Khosla Ventures partner Samir Kaul. Bart Swanson, who represented Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures, also stepped down.
Founded in 2011, Hampton Creek produces a variety of vegan products, like mixes, dressings, cookies, pasta, and cookie dough. In June, the San Francisco-based company also announced that its scientists are working on meat grown in a lab. The company has raised more than $US120 million to date, and in 2016, it closed a funding round that valued the startup at $US1.1 billion, giving it unicorn status.
But it also hasn’t been without controversy. In 2015, former employees told Business Insider that Hampton Creek used shoddy science, stretched the truth when labelling samples, and created an uncomfortable work environment, partly in an effort to meet production deadlines.
There were also allegations that, leading up to a venture capital funding round in 2014, the startup paid contractors to buy its vegan mayo to appear like there was more interest from shoppers, Bloomberg reported in 2016. Hampton Creek claimed that the buyout program was for quality control purposes. In June 2017, Target also started removing Hampton Creek products from its shelves, citing food safety concerns.
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