Follow your dreams: An interview with Eran Gronich, CEO of Flying SpArk
Finding inspirational entrepreneurs is not a difficult task to do, especially in Israel. But finding entrepreneurs who are not only inspirational but also people who are changing the world to make it better, becomes less diurnal. In the spirit of sharing with you the life, story and legacy of highly inspiring characters from the Israeli startup scene, we decided to turn on our flashlights and find them.
Today, we bring you the story of Eran Gronich, founder and CEO of Flying SpArk, one of the greatest, most innovative Israeli startups from the last decades. Flying SpArk is a company working in the food-tech world. They are producing high quality protein powders from fruit fly larvae for human consumption as a healthier and sustainable alternative to animal protein.
Currently, and thanks to the help of Noga, and their involvement in programs such as Mass Challenge, and The Kitchen, they are working with the biggest players of the industry locating Israel, once again, on the headlines for something positive, innovative, inspiring and praiseworthy.
In this interesting interview, Mr. Gronich shares with us a little bit more about their journey from a small startup and until their IPO, and takes the time to give powerful advice to all entrepreneurs working in an early stage of their projects. Are you ready to be inspired?
“We did not pivot. We evolved. (...) Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams.”
Besides being a phenomenal entrepreneur, Eran is a great person. He opened the doors of Flying SpArk to our team to share with us, and with all our readers, their magical story of hard, smart work.
Their journey is full of lessons learned, interesting anecdotes and incredible collaborations with some of the most important companies in the food tech industry.
Take a look at this interview and let yourself be surprised...
1. How was your journey from the very beginning and early stages of your company, until it’s IPO? Can you share some of the most fundamental lessons you learned?
We had a very plastic route as a startup. We had all the ups and downs that you can imagine. We started back in 2015 bootstrapping with some friends and family money and then we got selected to a very prestigious accelerator program in Boston called Mass Challenge. We spent a few months in Boston where we raised some Angel Investment. This was a critical stage in the startup that allows me to recommend to any startup at an early age to go through an accelerator program experience.
We came back to Israel and we got into The Kitchen incubator. The Kitchen incubator is a food tech incubator owned by the Strauss group together with the Israeli Innovation Authority. Becoming part of The Kitchen comes with investment from both The Strauss Group and the Israeli Innovation Authority; and during that period we raised more money from other investors.
In the middle we got selected to another accelerator program that was organized by IKEA, the furniture company that also has a very big food business. Over 1300 companies from all over the world applied and they chose only 10, and we were one of them. We spent 3 months in this program, back and forth in Sweden, and this was a great collaboration that we will continue soon.
During our period in The Kitchen Accelerator we raised money from Thai Union, one of the largest producers of seafood in the world. They invested in Flying SpArk, and after that the IPO came.
My most valuable lessons learned are: Work hard. Work smart. I am a big believer in collaboration. Collaboration with big, well-known, major players is a very important step and for small teams is a must. Another advice would be telling entrepreneurs to don’t think they know everything. You have to get knowledge, buy knowledge, and gather knowledge. Finally, sharing that an accelerator and incubator are a great place for startups.
2. What is “The Kitchen” to you and how did this program impact your company’s development?
In Israel there are over 20 tech incubators. The Kitchen, specifically, is a long program that lasts between 18 to 24 months, and you have to go through regular due diligence. In the end either you get accepted or not, but if you do, it comes with money. That money comes from both the company behind the incubator and the Israel Innovation Authority.
They are investing in high risk projects. For me it was, first of all, a unique opportunity to succeed together with the platform. In my personal case it was a very smart move because I didn’t come from the food industry, so all of the sudden you are getting plugged-in into a company like Strauss, so on top of the funds you are getting all kind of support and a fast-growing network within the food industry in Israel and abroad.
I got to know a lot of major players in that industry, such as Nestlé, Pepsico, etc. We met a lot of companies, investors, service providers, etc… It is a serious validation to be connected to conservative, big, and serious organizations like Strauss; this connection and having that kind of partnership opens a lot of doors.
3. When raising capital, which are the most important battles you had to fight? What are the most important things you struggled with?
Personally, it is the source of protein that brings a lot of investors; because this is a new source of protein. The protein one is a very new industry that is just a few years old. To persuade an investor with the idea that a consumer will adopt what we do, it is a very big challenge. We are building a factory now, but when the commercialization begins we will still need to persuade. It is a new industry, and the challenge will still be there.
4. In order to adapt your own vision to both investors and real ecosystems, how many times you had to pivot your original idea? What did you learn from this process?
We did not pivot. We evolved. The goal from day one was to develop and produce this protein and give it to the food industry for user consumption. The product is amazing, it is a great product in terms of nutritional values, sustainability, in terms of costs and efficiency of production. The only obstacle is the mindset, but we insisted on remaining on this route, but we understood that we also have to go to other industries that do not have this mindset barrier, so we went into pet food, for example.
5. What can you say about your experience with Noga, and therefore, with Grupo Bimbo?
My experience is very good. The first step with Noga was the introduction to Grupo Bimbo. Bimbo liked our product and they tested it to compare it with other sources of proteins, and they decided that they wanted to work with us. Therefore, we made a pilot, created all kinds of products, incorporated the protein in all kinds of baked goods. The products are done, they tested them and even did some kind of commercial test in Mexico.
Now, basically they are waiting for us to be able to provide them on a commercial scale. Bimbo is giant and we are very small, but Rina was there all along the way. She was our companion to help us build our relationship with Bimbo.
Eventually, after a lot of ups and downs in the company we are being able to build a factory, and at the end of the year we are going to be ready to start commercial sales.
6. Would you like to share some last words before we say goodbye?
Of course. Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. If something is burning inside you and you think you can do something to do good for the world, go for it! Try to do it!
The time is now. Build something of your own and make the world a better place!
If you would like to hear more about Flying SpArk’s story, or if instead, this story inspired you to create something of your own, get in touch with us. As Mr. Gronich shared, collaboration with big players is extremely important when creating something meaningful.
We can be the bridge between your startup and those big, important, and essential players that might take your startup or entrepreneurial project to the next level.
In case you want to hear more about this, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be delighted to guide you through the process.
Don’t worry, we are going to hold your hand and join you in this discovery process to turn it into something both enjoyable and fruitful.