E3: Brewing a solution to save our rainforests - C16 Biosciences

Spotify Stitcher Overcast

Not So Fun FACT

Up to 300 football fields of forest are cleared every HOUR to make room for palm plantations.


Shara Ticku


Synthetic palm oil




$4M from Y Combinator, Soma Capital


New York, NY


The Problem

Palm oil is everywhere: it’s in our food, clothes, shampoo, and even the fuel that powers our cars. But this $61 billion industry has drastic environmental and societal costs: rainforests from Costa Rica to Indonesia are destroyed to make way for oil palm tree plantations, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and destroying habitats for people and endangered wildlife along the way.

The Solution

Technology that can brew a sustainable alternative to palm oil from microbes.

Fermentation is a well-proven commercial process that has been used for centuries to convert raw materials into consumable commercial products consumed by billions of people every day. C16 believes brewing palm oil like beer is the best and most likely path to developing a truly sustainable palm oil alternative.

Episode Brief

Shara Ticku, Founder and CEO of C16 Biosciences, joins Peter on this week’s episode to discuss:

  • The palm oil trade and its toll on entire ecosystems, local towns, and the planet

  • How Shara discovered the problem and her “eureka moment”

  • How a sustainable alternative can be made through fermentation (the same process used to brew beer)

  • Where palm oil is used and which industry they’ve decided to focus on initially

  • Early partnerships and how C16 will integrate into the supply chain of big industry

  • Why “clean tech” is succeeding today vs the boom/bust several years ago

  •  What’s next from here

  • The moonshot and potential sum total impact

  • Lightning Round questions:

    • Life advice 101: as Harvard MBA alum, curious - when do you think it makes sense for someone to pursue MBA vs alternatives? (ie. joining or starting a co)

    • Interesting transition from finance @ Goldman Sachs to the Clinton Health Access Initiative. What inspired the career shift + what learnings from your time @ GS transferred to the Clinton Initiative?

    • Worked with UN’s Special Envoy for Health and Malaria. What moment(s) are you most proud of from this experience?

    • What’s the most interesting bio or tech breakthrough you’ve seen recently?

    • Who has had the greatest impact on your learning and why?


This episode is brought to you by Bite Toothpaste Bits, the only all-natural, plastic-free way to replace the paste we’ve used our whole life. If you’re looking to cut single-use plastic from your life, go to BiteToothPasteBits.com and use code INGOODHANDS for $5 off their flagship 4-month subscription (incl. free shipping)!


Peter Levin


Dan Mahoney and Lucas Arndt


Eddie Knuckles

Peter Levin