Olivia Fox Cabane

Co-Founder at KindEarth.Tech, USA

Born in Paris, Olivia Fox Cabane has two nationalities, three master’s degrees, and is fluent in four languages: English, French, Spanish, and German. Over the course of her career, she has taught (and written books about) leadership, innovation, genius, and charisma at Harvard, Yale, MIT, and the United Nations. Before she became known in the food industry for her landscapes mapping out food technology’s most innovative companies with KindEarth.Tech (KET), focusing on climate and environmental sustainability, alternative protein, and impact investing, Olivia served as Former Director of Innovative Leadership at Stanford StartX. She’s been a best-selling author, columnist for Forbes and The Huffington Post, and at this moment, she’s writing The Genius Myth: How Anyone Can Learn To Access Their Inner Einstein. She’s always been about books:

“Books have very much formed the person I am today: my head is Isaac Asimov, my heart is Jane Austen, my soul is Terry Pratchett.”

Inspirations, go-to’s and lifehacks: 

  • Pandemic lifehack that helped you survive 2021: Moving halfway up a mountain, with mountain lions and bears for neighbors. 
  • A person that inspires you: Willem Van Eelen, known as “the godfather of cultivated meat”, who came up with the idea in a prisoners-of-war (POW) camp and wrote the first patents. Thanks to him, cell-based meat is a reality today.
  • Last series/movie that kept you awake: Don’t Look Up, it was a brilliantly funny and incisive apocalypse movie, the metaphor is just simply perfect for what’s happening today 
  • Favorite books: Books have influenced me more than anything else, and have very much formed the person I am today: my head is Isaac Asimov, my heart is Jane Austen, my soul is Terry Pratchett
  • Favorite podcast: Wittertainement aka Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review, the BBC’s flagship film program
  • App you find most valuable: Centered.app is a crucial part of my productivity: it keeps me focused and I get through my work so much faster. When I turn it on, it blocks my notifications, plays custom focus music that gets me into a flow state, and there’s a virtual coach named Noah who nudges me when I get distracted and congratulates me on a job well done. I’d recommend it to anyone struggling with distractions and wanting more focus. It’s free.
  • Favorite vegan treat: Violife cheese! It’s one of the best vegan brands on the market. 

Now what drove her into founding KET? “Perhaps because I’m on the Autism spectrum, I’ve always been obsessed with reducing suffering. For most of my life, my drive has been the greatest reduction in suffering for the greatest number of living beings, whatever their species. As a child, animal testing was the worst suffering I knew. As a teenager, I focused on genocide. As an adult, I learned about factory farming, and everything else paled in comparison.” This quest became even more personal once she became a parent to a flock of chickens

“Few people know that chickens can recognize up to 100 faces, have complex social structures, can solve simple math problems, and can learn to ski, surf, swim, and sail (yes, really).” As if this was not fascinating enough, Olivia could go on: “They have a fascinating language, of which I can manage about half a dozen words/sounds. They love watching documentaries and movies. And check out the Flockstars, the Internet’s most famous chicken music band.” What started with pets evolved into a much greater mission: “When I told one of my dearest friends, visionary entrepreneur Barney Pell, that I was planning to take a few years off to work pro bono for several animal welfare organizations, he made me realize that the only way we’d get major systemic change is by changing the food system at its source.” For Olivia, this is where alternative protein comes in: “As of today, there are already alt-products that can match their traditional counterparts for taste and texture. The day we beat them on price, it’s game over.

Follow Olivia’s story

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Here are the best illustrations I can give of the alt-protein industry’s incredible growth:” 

“Bet on cheese.”

“I think the greatest revolution we’ll see in the coming years is in the dairy industry, because of microflora & fermentation. Many people will tell you they’d “love to go vegan, but can’t give up cheese.” This process produces real dairy proteins, so of course it really does taste like dairy— it is dairy, just without the animal. The dairy industry has been so focused on plant-based milks, they’ve completely missed what’s happening in cheese, which is where the biggest revolution is happening right now. From just a handful of brands just a few years ago, we now have a myriad.”

She centers building KET and its events around a couple of key principles: “Find smart people who are deeply motivated, and give them free rein. Ask people where they think they can have the biggest impact, and let them build their job around that.  When I last posted a request for volunteers on LinkedIn, within 3 days we had a team of 34 people around the world organized. It’s thanks to these volunteers that the maps are now live online. It’s also thanks to them that the events happened,” Olivia says, adding that “KindEarth.Tech always welcomes volunteers from anywhere around the world, for the maps or the events, so reach out if you want to help!”

Olivia is one of the Food Heroes for 2022. See more inspiring and world-changing stories from Food Heroes here.