Someone once told me that working at a startup is like jumping off a cliff and building the plane on the way down. For those of you that know me well, you will know I love an analogy – and this one has resonated with me for the last 18 months. I’ve been working for Goterra, a fast-moving company that uses technology and maggots to convert organic waste into high quality sustainable protein. We’ve literally been building the plane and flying it at the same time, which has been an exhilarating ride. I’ve loved it – and I’ve grown SO much.
Sadly, that time is coming to an end. Goterra is based in Australia, and for the past few months I have been doing it from the UK. It turns out that working an 11 hour time difference alongside managing family life is simply exhausting. Not just the time difference, more the balancing of two time zones with important work in each. One a job, the other my family. Family wins, every time. But this is not a sob story, it’s a story of growth and good times.
One thing we ask our people when they leave Goterra is to share three things they have learnt in their time with us. So, here’s three things I’ve loved about the journey, supported by three of my favourite quotes.
1. “The only constant is change” Heraclitus
We are in the decisive decade, and we need to make a radical change in direction. Insects offer a 97% reduction on the impact of waste going to landfill, and a 96% reduction on the impact of producing protein compared with beef. What we are doing at Goterra is transformational, and I have loved being part of the journey. It’s urgent, purposeful work.
There’s a personal reflection here too. I have changed. I have learnt how to start something I have never done before, and how to push through when it’s hard. I have understood business in a different way. I am more resilient and see adversity through a different lens.
2. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…” Theodore Roosevelt
If you don’t know Roosevelt’s quote about the man in the arena look it up, it’s powerful stuff. It’s relevant here because doing something transformational is hard work and not for the faint hearted. And the only way to get it done is to throw yourself into the arena.
Insects will play a huge role in both waste management and protein production in the future economy. Goterra is on a rapid path to growth, blazing trails and changing the system. In October 2020 we installed a MIB at Barangaroo, central Sydney. It was the first time insects had ever been used to manage waste onsite. We installed one at the Albury landfill site in January (another world first) and have more planned for later in the year. Systems are big, and they are not easy to change. That’s why it’s hard, and that’s why it matters.
3. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”. Margaret Mead
Goterra is the epitome of a small group of committed individuals, dedicating themselves to overcome extremely challenging work. The extent of the challenge cannot be overstated, but neither can the team’s ability to rise to meet it. It’s people like these, with such strong vision, commitment and dedication, that will change the world. I’m proud to call myself one of those individuals – and even more so following my time at Goterra. I am hugely grateful to Olympia and the team for equipping me with the tools and experience to have greater impact in my next endeavour (more details to follow soon).