Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Babson Entrepreneurs

2020 Summer Catalyst Startup Profile: MATR

MATR Co-founder Padraig Duna MBA’21 believes that the food industry can be better and do better: “We don’t have a good enough way to grow food and make food, without breaking the planet.” This perspective comes from his many years working in the industry and his growing realization that food production was flawed.

Padraig was looking for ways to get involved in environmentalism when he met his co-founder Tom Coughlan at a food tech meetup in Brooklyn. They bonded over their shared background in the hospitality industry and saw eye-to-eye on what the industry could be doing differently – and how. The two began kicking around an idea. What if they could use food waste to grow food, like mushrooms?

Why mushrooms? Well, they are packed full of nutrients and offer health benefits. They are trendy and “having a moment” in food culture. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, they are food-source agnostic, meaning they can “feed” from many different types of organic matter, like coffee grounds, and successfully grow.

In Babson’s MBA program, Padraig was able to access new resources and opportunities and quickly realized that the idea could work: “The more work I put in, the more it seemed like a viable idea.” He pitched at Rocket Pitch, joined the Butler Launch Pad Fast Track Cohort, checked off milestones like a competition analysis, and decided to put MATR through its paces in the Summer Catalyst program.

In Summer Catalyst, Padraig and Tom have made connections, had “earth-shattering” conversations, and built relationships. As the team seeks to understand its customer and the value MATR can deliver, speaking with experts and entrepreneurs in Summer Catalyst office hours and expanding its network have been particularly meaningful. Padraig explains why: “Every conversation we have jumps our understanding of the ecosystem.”

How are the co-founders navigating the new Zoom reality? For one, it helps to bring Tom and Padraig together. They are in different cities, but the virtual Summer Catalyst program means that they both can participate and access the same content. Within their own team, they have adopted routines like Zoom stand up meetings so they can communicate and stay on track. And virtual networking has been a game changer. Reflecting on the limitations of in-person events and networking, Padraig says, “Let’s never go back.”

Padraig and Tom are planning for testing with a supplier partner in September and a soft launch in February, with a full launch planned for May 2021. They are focusing on fresh produce for now and they have an expansive vision for what they hope to accomplish in the future, like expanding into CPG. Ultimately, they have a core environmental mission and care passionately about fixing the system behind food production: “The goal is to prove out that making better food in a better way is possible.”­