January 27, 2023

Everything’s Different on the Ground: Alex Brown of Alga Biosciences | Episode 19 of Twist of Fate 

Everything’s Different on the Ground: Alex Brown of Alga Biosciences | Episode 19 of Twist of Fate 

Alex Brown of Alga Biosciences originally hails from the tech industry, but he didn’t stay for too long before deciding to save the planet. That’s not hyperbole either. He literally has the chance to stop global warming as we know it. It starts and ends with methane emissions. On Episode 19 of Twist of Fate, Brown talks to host Douglas Younger III about his business, values, and why it’s so important to get out of the lab if you want your business to truly thrive. 

Methane Vs. Carbon: A Myth in the Making 

Before getting into what Brown does, it’s important to know a few things first. You likely already know that methane and carbon are both warming gasses. You may even know that one pound of methane is the same as 25 pounds of carbon. But Brown says that most people think about the two destructive forces all wrong. 

Carbon warms the Earth and stays there. Methane leaves the Earth after 15 years. This leaves an incredible opportunity to eliminate methane all across the planet and that means changing how cows eat. Ruminants (largely cattle) produce 27% of all methane emissions, and the effects are brutal. There’s a reason why Alga Biosciences won the WeWork Changemakers: Sustainability pitch competition. This is an issue that affects us all, and we only need look out the window at the weather to realize it. 

Eliminating Methane from Cows 

Alga Biosciences started with a problem, as most successful startups do. There’s a certain kind of red kelp that stops cows from emitting methane after eating, but it’s both difficult to grow and it’s extremely expensive for farmers. Alex Brown became interested in solving the scalability problem. How could they make a product that was affordable, easy to access, and still just as capable at curbing methane emissions? 

The answer came from developing an algae additive that was both renewable and inexpensive. It doesn’t impact the cow in any way (or the taste of its meat), nor is it harmful to us. It’s also backed by multiple VCs who see the potential of a product like this. 

Boots on the Ground

On the surface, an idea like this can’t lose. There seem to be literally no drawbacks to anyone — not the farmers, the consumers, the planet, the business. Everyone wins. But Brown is smarter than that. He knows that there’s a difference between lab success and real-world success. This is an undeniable lesson for all entrepreneurs. If you can’t execute your ideas with real people, then you’re going to hit a lot of unnecessary stumbling blocks along the way. 

Brown has solved the problem by going out and meeting the people who will use his product. He asks detailed questions. How do farmers feed their cows? What’s their budget? Who do they sell to and what are their profit margins? There are certainly some farmers who will claim that they can’t afford even a fraction of a penny increase on their feed budget, but Brown has more than finances on his side. Everyday, more consumers are looking for ways to be more responsible with their money. They’re driven not just by statistics, but by the ever-more violent weather happening right outside their door. 

Brown’s idea has untold potential for climate change, but his story has takeaways for every entrepreneur. You can’t make assumptions, no matter how incredible your business seems on paper. You need to be able to ask the bigger questions and address the more complex challenges that might stand in the way of success. Younger agrees. As he’s often said, great ideas need to be more than that. They need to connect on a deeper level with your audience to stand a chance. 


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