Ben Pasternak just raised $50 million for his food-tech company. His products are carried by Target and Sam’s Club. This is his third startup. He is 21 years old. Raised in Sydney, Australia, he has been living on his own in Manhattan since he turned 16.
Way to make the rest of us look bad, Mr. Pasternak.
His mother, Anna Pasternak, who still lives in Sydney, says that when she was 21, she was in college and working as a waitress. “I can’t decide what to have for breakfast, and he’s running this huge team in New York,” she says. “I don’t understand where it comes from.”
When I met the entrepreneur for coffee last week, I expected an absolute maniac or weird genius. But he was sunny and relaxed, dressed in his “uniform” of a long-sleeve navy T-shirt, black athletic pants, and sneakers. He was happy to tell his story.
It started when he was 14. A geek with average grades, Mr. Pasternak was astounded when Impossible Rush, a game he invented while sitting in science class, hit the app charts with more than 2 million downloads. “It was a tiny little game, but addictive,” he says.
Mom inspired him to name the native paper with the story. He quickly had the world’s consideration and curiosity from a New York filmmaker who supplied to attach him with buyers within the U.S.
On his final day of eighth grade in 2015, he put a be aware in his locker that stated, “If you’re reading this, you really f—ed up.”
“My goal was to never go to school again,” he says. And he didn’t.
SIMULATE’s workplace is situated on this construction within the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.
His dad took him to San Francisco that summertime for a sequence of enterprise capital conferences organized by the filmmaker, adopted by a visit to Disneyland. To the household’s shock, he landed almost $500,000 from 4 backers, and the filmmaker recommended he transfer to New York to launch his startup.
In August, his mom took him to Manhattan and located him a small condominium in a Hell’s Kitchen doorman constructing the place a household buddy additionally had a condominium.
Ms. Pasternak says agreeing to let her son dwell alone in New York was among the many hardest selections she’s ever made, and did so solely as a result of she believed it was momentary: “I thought Ben would last maybe a month,” she says.
She stayed with him for a number of weeks, till his sixteenth birthday, and remembers a teary goodbye. Mr. Pasternak says he spent his first night time alone experimenting with a brand new watermelon carving method he noticed on YouTube.
The first few months in Manhattan have been unusual, enjoyable, and a bit lonely, says Mr. Pasternak. He noticed his mentor and household pals once in a while however was principally dwelling alone, sitting on the sofa together with his laptop computer, constructing his subsequent app with a web-based crew of hacker sorts.
He purchased steam-table rice and peas from the bodega for lunch and ordered quick meals from Seamless for dinner. He drew his targets on the partitions. He slept on the ground—a teen’s concept of self-discipline—and watched the startup competitors present “Shark Tank” when he felt lonely.
He launched his new app in Spring 2016. Flogg was a buying and social-media platform for teenagers. It flopped. “No one liked it,” he says.
Washed up and broke at 16, Mr. Pasternak did what any good serial entrepreneur does: He persuaded extra individuals to present him extra money.
This second try was more durable—he pitched greater than 100 buyers, principally by cold-calling—and raised simply $200,000. But it was sufficient to design and launch one other social-media app. Monkey was successful. He constructed an organization across the new enterprise. It was acquired by a Chinese agency for an undisclosed sum in 2018.
There was loads of investor curiosity when he launched his third startup, SIMULATE, a “tech optimistic” vitamin firm. Joe Medved, an accomplice with Lerer Hippeau, an early-stage venture capital fund based mostly in New York with greater than $1 billion beneath administration, says he was impressed with Mr. Pasternak. “A lot of kids have crazy ideas. He has the ability to convince people to bet their careers on it. Or bet significant investments,” he says.
Mr. Medved considers Mr. Pasternak’s youth a plus. “You need to have some level of naiveté to create something that is truly disruptive,” he says.
Mr. Pasternak says he acquired excitement about meals as a result of the business has been shunning new expertise similar to GMO crops and manufacturing unit processing in favor of manufacturing strategies from the 1800s. Starting with NUGGS, a vegan who tackles the traditional hen nugget, he’s making use of a software program framework for meals.
He launched NUGGS in beta mode, promoting direct to prospects focused on Facebook and Instagram and soliciting suggestions. Everyone agreed the nuggets have been horrible. NUGGS 1.0, launched in June 2018, was the primary design to hit grocery store freezers. Each model contains launch notes. Version 1.6, launched June 2020, states: “Includes fixes and improvements. This update has an improved, chicken-like flavor.”
I lately visited the SIMULATE lab within the firm’s oversize SoHo loft the place scientists are busy constructing a greater fake nugget out of substances that embrace textured wheat protein. I sampled the soon-to-be-released NUGGS 2.1. Tastes like a hen!
The better part is the product tagline: “Kills you slower.”
“One of our company’s core values is non-preachiness,” says Mr. Pasternak, who got here up with the slogan.
Mr. Pasternak says the startup will invent new meals classes and alter the best way we eat.
Mr. Pasternak says SIMULATE will spend the $50 million to triple distribution to greater than 15,000 shops, and triple its employees of 20. Half the brand new hires will likely be scientists and engineers.
His imagination and prescient goes past pretend hen. SIMULATE will invent new meals classes and alter the best way we eat, Mr. Pasternak says.
I reported this again to Mr. Pasternak’s mom. “Why can’t he just be a failure and come home?” she quipped.
But she’s betting he follows via. “I’ve learned not to write him off,” she says. “He seems to be able to have a vision and realize it. So watch this space!”
Write to Anne Kadet at [email protected]