The story of Entobel
December 18, 2023
The Entobel journey had its origins in 2012 when we, Alex and Gaetan, were still studying our master’s program at Belgian Solvay Business School. We were passionate about finding solutions to the challenges of feeding a growing global population sustainably. Our master’s thesis became the foundation for a project that would eventually become our company.
Recognizing insect protein as a promising solution to the global protein shortage, we embarked on a journey to turn it into a reality. However, we encountered a significant obstacle – producing tropical insects in a European climate would require extensive resources and climate control facilities. Pursuing this path didn’t make financial or sustainable sense.
Therefore, we made the decision to travel to Southeast Asia, specifically Vietnam, where the climate provided ideal conditions for insect production. In September 2013, armed with determination and a vision, we arrived in Vietnam, despite having limited knowledge of the country or its business culture.
In our industry, which was relatively new, there weren’t many benchmarks to rely on. We had to start from scratch and create everything ourselves. While we did have access to scientific and academic papers, we had to conduct our own tests and experiments. This meant that the process took longer compared to Europe, where we had an established network, access to support, and potential financial assistance from various sources.
Starting with the basics, we have come to realize that even today, it always comes back to simple questions. Questions like how to improve productivity and how to achieve the vision we had. This way of questioning guided us during our research phase and continues to drive the entire team today, as we consider factors such as cost production to enhance productivity. Although it may have taken longer without the established network and support we would have had in Europe, this experience has allowed us to gain a comprehensive understanding of our operations and develop gradually.
However, now we have the network, which has played a crucial role in our journey. Over the course of the past 10 years, we have not only gained immense experience but have also been fortunate enough to receive unwavering support from various stakeholders, including Mekong Capital. This support has been instrumental in propelling our project forward, allowing it to evolve and adapt to the changing landscape. As a result, we find ourselves at the cusp of a new and exciting phase in our journey, brimming with possibilities and opportunities.
Our 10-year journey has been filled with moments of doubt and contemplation, where giving up seemed like a tempting option in the face of relentless challenges. There were times when we lived in remote parts of the Vietnamese countryside, studying black soldier flies, with no social activities. The local people there could not speak English and could not understand what we were doing. There were times when questions like, “What if we failed in this strange land, wasting all these efforts?” emerged and daunted us.
It was during these trying times that the power of having two founders became truly evident. We supported and uplifted each other, drawing strength from our unwavering belief in the vision of Entobel.
This vision, to produce sustainable protein and tackle the absurdity of relying on overfishing in one part of the world to sustain other marine life in distant corners, remained steadfast throughout our journey. We witnessed firsthand the senselessness of this practice, as South American coasts suffered from overfishing to feed shrimp and fish in Asia and various other regions across the globe. It was a wake-up call that propelled us forward, determined to make a difference.
Today, we are proud to stand in one of the largest insect facilities globally. We’re extremely proud of that because we know it’s a competitive industry, so we need to keep costs low. And we put a very strong focus on that, and now we have been able to re-demonstrate with this factory that we are a cost leader worldwide. I think this is one of the greatest achievements for the whole Entobel, and it’s the translation of 10 years of work, from the engineering team, and the R&D (Research & Development) team, from all the team of Entobel who have put all the efforts into finally building this world-class factory in Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Vietnam.
What continues to drive us every day is the core mission of making the food supply chain sustainable. We are committed to fighting for a more sustainable future in the food industry.
Our journey as founders of Entobel has been challenging, but our clear vision and unwavering mission have guided us through the years. Our focus is on sustainability and making the food chain sustainable. We are motivated to create a positive impact and revolutionize the way we feed the planet.
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Mekong Capital makes investments in consumer-driven businesses and adds substantial value to those companies based on its proven framework called Vision Driven Investing. Our investee companies are typically among the fastest-growing companies in Vietnam’s consumer sectors.
In January 2022, Mekong Capital founder Chris Freund published Crab Hotpot, a story about a bunch of crabs who found themselves stuck in a boiling pot. The colorful cover of “Crab Hot Pot,” complete with expressive cartoon crustaceans, looks like a children’s tale at first glance. But as one continues reading, it becomes clear that the work has an important message about organizational transformation, leadership and focusing on a clear vision for the future.