In the U.S., we waste approximately 30 to 40 percent of the food supply, which translates to more than 130 billion pounds and close to $200 billion every year. But not for long. Ben Deda is the CEO of FoodMaven, a Denver company that diverts food bound for the landfill to restaurants and other food service providers.
In this episode of The SuccessLab Podcast, Ben shares how FoodMaven is bringing agility and flexibility to the food system and how the company plans to expand. Ben, who previously held executive, also talks about how his time in the Marine Corps prepared him for business leadership and how he made the switch to the world of technology.
Read on for a selection of questions, and listen to the entire interview by clicking the player above.
What led you to FoodMaven?
I got connected with the folks at FoodMaven through one of the board members I previously worked with at Galvanize. I was drawn to the fact that they were doing good and in a way that helps people on the planet. It was an opportunity too good to pass up.
What’s your approach to making genuine connections in your career?
Every single step in my career has been through connections I’ve made. There’s a concept about increasing your surface area for collisions –– the more collisions you can have with the right targeted folks, the better that can be for everyone. It’s those chance encounters that are the ones that pay off both personally and professionally. That was a big part of why we came up with a Startup Week –– to help increase those chances of collisions.
What was your biggest challenge stepping into the role of CEO at FoodMaven?
How to maintain culture when you scale. When it’s a small group, it’s really easy. As you start to add folks, there will be different reasons they join the company. You want to make sure that throughout the recruiting process you’re getting folks who share important values, whether they’re a warehouse worker, a developer, a driver, or a salesperson.
Does FoodMaven have a set of core values?
We have our vision of, “All food used in good purpose.” We always talk about our mission, and about capturing and creating a market for food otherwise lost in the food system with positive givebacks to profits, people and planet. We broke that down into values and our core culture and we try to live those every day. During our monthly all-hands meetings, we walk through one of our core values and a scenario that came up in the previous month we thought was a great example of that. If there’s misalignment between the core values of your company and how your folks see people acting, then those values start to lose importance.
What’s your advice for entrepreneurs looking to build quality relationships?
The biggest thing is being deliberate in what surface area you’re building. When you base this off what’s important to you, then those collisions will be the most valuable. It doesn’t have to be transactional. When you both share a passion about a subject, you can build that deeper connection overall. Then once you have that connection, learn to listen. Listening will help you develop that deeper relationship more quickly.
What’s next for FoodMaven?
We’re focused on a couple of key things. One is continuing to prove this model works here in Colorado. From there, we’re looking to expand. Once we’ve shown we can take this and replicate it in another market, that’s the point where we become really interesting to investors. The ability to take this to 10, 20 or 30 markets is absolutely in the cards.
Are you a coffee drinker? Always.
What is one business tool you’re geeking out over right now? I continue to geek out on Excel every day. I find some new little trick that I hadn’t known the day before.
Do you have a favorite piece of technology? Probably my iPhone. It continues to amaze me how much you can get done from a business standpoint.
What’s one book you’d pass along to a fellow entrepreneur? I still go back to Ben Horwitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things. It’s a great book to get yourself in the right mindset for the hard decisions you have to make as a leader.
Who’s one person you’d like to make a connection with? I would like to make a connection with whoever we could help the most with what we do here at FoodMaven.
What’s your favorite icebreaker when introducing yourself to someone? I always just say, “Tell me about yourself”. You never know what you’re going to hear.
How many hours of sleep do you get each night on average? According to my phone, I sit right at about six. I try to get seven. I’ve got a three year old who makes sure I’m up pretty early.
How can people connect with you and FoodMaven? Visit foodmaven.com. We’ve got some great content up there where you can see stories about our suppliers and our buyers. There’s also the ability to sign up to become either those. To connect with me, reach out on LinkedIn or Twitter at @Ben_Deda.