Lejjy Gafour, CEO, CULT Food Science Corp. Lejjy is a self-taught entrepreneur and experienced company operator who made his start creating opportunities at the young age of 14, and he has been working, leading, and building businesses ever since.
Lejjy is the former co-founder and CEO of a YCombinator-backed biotechnology company and one of Canada’s first operating cellular agriculture companies. He has over 15 years of experience in public and private enterprises executing strategy, technology, and product development for everything from financial institutions, manufacturing, and public health to world-class universities. He was also a founding member of Cellular Agriculture Canada and currently serves on the board of New Harvest Canada.
Lejjy believes that cellular agriculture, and other advanced food technologies, will become a pillar of how we create food over the next decade.
He believes food is a fundamental aspect of life and that humans are gazing upon a new horizon of food technologies that will allow people to tackle the systemic problems they face as a society. “I am one of only a handful of cell ag venture and product development individuals with experience as a cellular agriculture founder. I was fortunate enough to be an early pioneer in space,” says Lejjy. “I try to be as generous to the innovators as possible. Since it is a new industry, you have to take an ecosystem-minded, person first approach. You never know who will ultimately have the next billion dollar breakthrough, and CULT is designed to be the group that generates and supports that happening.”
Lejjy has become an inspiration and mentor for many. He tries to teach important lessons throughout his life, participate in early-stage events as much as possible, and interface with local startup groups. “While it is of course something that must be time managed, I try to provide time for even simple things like calls with new grads or new founders without any pretense. Being a founder is hard work, and it can often be difficult to get help without strings attached,” explains Lejjy. “I did not come from a privileged background. I have starved for weeks at a time in my past. I have been working full time from the age of 14. People who are in a similar situation to what I was are usually the first to be overlooked. Especially if it is a person of color or another marginalized group. I do my best to support people who do not fit the classic shape of an entrepreneur who came from a random ivy league university, as those who have not had the traditional founder profile can even be great at executing the complex work when it comes to grinding it out in an early startup. There isn’t a course you can take that can prepare you for the feeling of risk and responsibility of gambling it all on a strong idea.”
The pioneering leader gives his most to anyone who asks without trying to expect something in return, which he terms as the best way to support new founders and forge a strong network. “My advice is that no one’s first pitch is perfect – it is insane that there are leaders out there that will write off entire entrepreneurs off their first pitch,” elucidates Lejjy. “When in reality the best ideas can come from anywhere – you just have to help people bring that forward. Not to compromise on vision, if you focus on trying to do something, vs just trying to be something, you will always make progress bigger on your way.”
Success for Lejjy is achieving real change towards a better world – more sustainable, equitable, and abundant. The work is just a vehicle for achieving that bigger goal. There are all kinds of small successes along the way, but that’s the beginning and end of the journey! “It is never a straight line and what must be done is never finished – you always have to keep going. Taking a cross disciplinary approach is useful no matter what line of work you are in,” says Lejjy. “I have often borrowed tools from design to solve problems in biotechnology. It is very easy to get tunnel vision within an industry and keeping a wider perspective on tools, ideas, technologies, and people no matter what work you do will help you do a better job.”
Building A Movement
CULT Food Science Corp. is a food technology company pioneering the commercialization of cellular agriculture products. The first-of-its-kind in North America, CULT Food Science aims to provide individual investors with unprecedented exposure to the world’s first cellular agriculture consumer brands and its portfolio of an innovative startup, private or early-stage cultivated meat, cell-based dairy and other cultured food companies.
“We are an asynchronous company. We have employees across North America in different time zones with related companies across 4 continents. Processes designed to support this style of management are really important,” adds Lejjy. “Sometimes it can be contrary to how you classically might want to approach management when the goal is always to promote decentralized leadership. Having worked in many different organizations over the years, the most important innovations are how you shape the team and how they work together.” For Lejjy the biggest achievement for the company has been to be able to work for a cause that is making a difference.
CULT is the first-of-its-kind platform for everyday people to get involved in cellular agriculture products. It is the future of food and materials. They are making many world-first announcements. World-first platform, world-first products, all with the vision of forging a better future for food through cellular agriculture. For the future, CULT is launching new products incorporating cellular agriculture ingredients for the first time. This, combined with what they will be revealing coming out of their venture studio efforts, will provide investors and customers access to some of the most novel opportunities in biotechnology on the horizon. “CULT Food Science is making cell-based products and businesses an everyday reality. But we are going beyond just working on the future of food, we are seeking to define it,” says Lejjy.