Our Team

GFI has a team of scientists, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and lobbyists, all of whom are laser focused on using markets and food technology to transform our food system away from factory farmed animal products and toward clean meat and plant-based alternatives. If you are a member of the media and would like to connect with one of our experts, please contact Emily Byrd at

Bruce Friedrich

Executive Director

Bruce graduated magna cum laude from the Georgetown University Law Center and Phi Beta Kappa from Grinnell College, and also holds degrees from Johns Hopkins University and the London School of Economics. Bruce has held leadership roles for the past two decades at top nonprofit organizations working to reform animal agriculture. Bruce is co-founder of New Crop Capital, a venture capital fund that invests in plant-based and "clean" (i.e., cultured) alternatives to animal agriculture, as well as tech platforms that advance plant-based eating.

Chris Kerr

Entrepreneur in Residence

Chris has more than two decades of leadership experience in financial and venture capital management. Chris is investment manager of New Crop Capital and serves as director of Anark Corporation, director at Pitcairn Financial Group, and managing partner at Abele Kerr Investments. Chris mentors startups in the good food space, provides market-level due diligence for potential investors, and connects the most innovative and disruptive good food companies with an array of potential funders.

Nicole Negowetti

Policy Director

Nicole served as an Associate Professor of Law at the Valparaiso University School of Law from 2011-2016. As a law professor, her teaching and research focused on food law and policy, agricultural law, and sustainability. Nicole serves on the Food & Drug Law Journal Editorial Advisory Board and is a founding member of the Academy of Food Law & Policy. She is also a co-founder and Vice-Chair of the Northwest Indiana Food Council, whose mission is to build a just, sustainable, and thriving locally-oriented food system. Nicole graduated magna cum laude from the University of New Hampshire Law School and earned a master’s degree in Peace and Development Studies from the University of Limerick, Ireland.

Christie Lagally

Senior Scientist

Christie holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and a bachelor’s in organizational psychology. She has worked as a mechanical engineer on diverse projects, including space- and ground-based telescopes, natural gas engines, roller coasters, and commercial aircraft. She joined The Good Food Institute from Boeing, where she worked as a mechanical engineer and technical project manager on the 777 and 777X programs. Christie is a Washington state council member for The Humane Society of the United States, a co-founder of the Humane Voters of Washington, and a columnist for City Living Seattle newspaper.

Liz Specht

Senior Scientist

Liz holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Johns Hopkins University, a doctorate in biological sciences from the University of California, San Diego, and postdoctoral research experience from the University of Colorado Boulder. She has a decade of academic research experience in synthetic biology, recombinant protein expression, and development of genetic engineering tools. Liz firmly believes in the potential of bioengineering and synthetic biology to solve many of the planet’s most pressing concerns, starting with animal agriculture. She works to identify and address areas of need for plant-based and cultured scientific innovation and encourages funding agencies to prioritize research that moves this field forward.

Milena Esherick

Senior Advisor

After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in economics, Milena went on to earn a doctorate in psychology from the Wright Institute, where she developed expertise in dietary behavior change. Milena currently holds an academic position as director of counseling psychology at the Wright Institute. She has also partnered with a number of nonprofit organizations to promote the wide-ranging benefits of a plant-strong diet. Milena is a California state councilmember for The Humane Society of the United States and speaks nationally on the psychology of dietary and social change.

Jaime Surenkamp

Senior Advisor

Jaime graduated with honors from Longwood University in Virginia. Shortly thereafter she moved to California and began a career in corporate sales. Jaime’s experience is focused in the restaurant and hospitality industry, having worked with industry leaders such as OpenTable, Daiya Foods and HotSchedules. She is encouraged by the growing focus of putting plants at the center of the plate, and as an advisor to GFI, she helps to connect chefs and restaurant operators with leading innovators and innovations in plant-based and “clean” (i.e., cultured) meat, dairy, and eggs.

Emily Byrd

Communications Manager

Emily grew up in hog country, North Carolina, sailing and swimming in one of the most endangered rivers in the United States. Consequently, she developed a keen interest in the links between animal agriculture, environmental destruction, nutritional choices, and social change. After graduating from UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism, she worked as a writer and editor for Food News Media, reporting on the food industry and the structures that govern it. Emily has also volunteered with a number of organizations seeking to connect low-income families with sustainable plant-based foods and nutritional education. As communications manager, Emily is dedicated to discovering the misconceptions that keep the food system from functioning sustainably and remedying them with accurate information.

Brian Kateman

Innovation Manager

A graduate of Columbia University, Brian previously worked as assistant director of education programs for the Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability at Columbia University. He is also the co-founder and president of the Reducetarian Foundation. Brian carries out The Good Food Institute’s programmatic work to support early-stage companies and to connect students, scientists, and entrepreneurs with opportunities in the good food space.

Reannon Branchesi

Executive Assistant

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Reannon has more than a decade of nonprofit management experience working primarily to reform animal agriculture. She is also the founder and executive director of Generation Veggie, an online community that supports plant-based families by providing resources on how to raise plant-based kids. Reannon supports The Good Food Institute's mission to create a healthy, humane, and sustainable food supply by keeping our work organized and efficient and providing programmatic support across the organization.


Khaled bin Alwaleed

HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, an advocate of animal rights and a proponent of healthy living, believes in a bevy of clean and green methodologies. Khaled, having enthusiastically adopted a vegan lifestyle and energy efficient alternatives, is an avid healthpreneur. As a business figure, a technology enthusiast, and the founding chairman of KBW Investments, Khaled has holdings on five continents. He invests in diverse global businesses and early-stage ventures, including those in advanced technology and clean energy, at the intersection of innovation and economic stability. A member of the Saudi Arabian royal family, Khaled is a motivated spokesperson for entrepreneurs in the Middle East and endeavors to educate on animal rights while advocating the benefits of sustainability and going green. In his capacity as chairman of the elected Saudi Green Building Forum Trustee Board, he works to advance Saudi Arabia’s green building targets.

Josh Balk

Josh Balk is co-founder of Hampton Creek, one of the fastest-growing food technology companies in the marketplace today. Josh works full time at The Humane Society of the United States where he helps build start-up companies in the food tech arena. He also works with the world’s largest food companies, such as Walmart, McDonald’s, and Starbucks, to create more humane, sustainable purchasing policies. The New York Times, Fortune magazine, and CNN are among the many media outlets to spotlight his work.

Ryan Bethencourt

Since Ryan Bethencourt co-founded Indie Bio in 2014, he and his team have funded 42 biotech startups, including companies building the post-animal bioeconomy: Clara Foods, Memphis Meats, Gelzen, New Wave, and Pembient. Previously, Ryan headed the Life Sciences Prize Group at the XPRIZE Foundation and co-founded Berkeley Biolabs in addition to serving as its CEO. He is co-founder of Sudo Room, Counter Culture Labs, Lab Launch, and The Open Source Insulin Project as well. Ryan also helped catalyze the early biohacker movement starting in 2008.

Kevin Boylan

Kevin Boylan is co-founder and co-chairman of Veggie Grill, the largest plant-based restaurant company in the United States. He is also a founding partner of Powerplant Ventures, which invests in emerging growth companies that deliver better nutrition in more sustainable and ethical ways by making it easier and more enjoyable to consume plant-based products. Kevin spent the first 10 of his more than 25 years in finance at investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert as senior vice president and the subsequent 15 years at his own firm, Standard Capital Group. 

Asheem Chandna

Asheem Chandna is a partner at Greylock Partners where he assists entrepreneurs in creating and building the next generation of enterprise companies. He has helped establish and grow multiple businesses to market-leading positions. Asheem has appeared on the Forbes Midas list of top technology investors for the past several years.  

Liz Dee

Liz Dee is changing the conversation about food production and sustainable business through her dynamic experiential base as a company executive, ethical vegan, and angel investor. As co-owner and executive vice president of Smarties Candy Company and CEO of Baleine & Bjorn Capital LLC, Liz provides unique insights into the future of food production, agro-business safety, and the shifting trajectory toward conscious business models. Liz has been featured on CNN Money and in The New York TimesThe Globe and Mail, and the Toronto Star, among other publications. She shares updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Brad Goldberg

Brad Goldberg spent 35 years in investment management as an executive vice president, portfolio manager, and head of the value and balanced account segment of Jennison Associates, a subsidiary of Prudential Financial. He is a certified financial analyst. Brad founded Animal Welfare Trust in 2001, which provides grants to students and organizations, and is chair of HEART, a humane education organization. Brad helped establish the Animal Studies Initiative at NYU and the Animal Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School.

Alinta Hawkins

Alinta Hawkins is co-founder of the ARK Foundation, which donates to and invests in environmental projects, animal welfare charities, and other compassionate causes. She also co-owns a plant-based restaurant in Bahrain, helps create and sustain animal shelters around the world, and serves as the voice of animals across the Middle East. Alinta is passionate about natural health, well-being, animals, and the environment.

Winnie Lam

Winnie is the "Water Captain and Air Pilot" at Google. She is responsible for environmental initiatives, with a focus on data centers' environmental footprint. Since joining Google in 2004, Winnie has won several Founder's Award and Executive Management Awards, recognizing her contributions to Google's top achievements. Winnie is also an avid champion for animals.  She successfully advocated for the ban of elephant ivory products to be sold through Google. She advises several charities on using technology to further conservation, including World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy. For three years, she recruited Google employees to volunteer on a turtle conservation project in Belize, with scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Chuck Laue

Chuck Laue is vice chairman of Asurion, responsible for global underwriting and insurance operations as well as key client executive relationships. Chuck is on the board of the Great Plains SPCA and The Humane Society of the United States, and is a co-founder and board director of The Quinn Foundation and Ringo's Fund, private foundations focused on animal welfare. Chuck sits on the board of IRL Holdings in Mexico City and is also managing partner of Quinn Capital, a private investment firm focused on insurance assets. He and his wife, Jennifer, co-founded Stray Dog Capital, which focuses on mission-centric direct investment in food and technology companies with vegan and animal advocacy business models.

Craig Phillips

Craig Phillips has held leadership positions in foodservice for decades. These include director of purchasing and corporate director of strategic planning at U.S. Foodservice Inc., and vice president of purchasing for Metz Culinary Management, a top 20 management company running foodservice operations in college, hospital, K–12, and other segments, as well as franchisee restaurants and hotels. Craig is especially interested in helping plant-based companies better understand the needs of foodservice companies.

Mark Post

Professor Mark Post has taught for the KNAW Interuniversity Cardiology Institute of the Netherlands, Harvard Medical School, and Dartmouth Medical School. Since 2002, he has served as professor of vascular physiology at Maastricht University and professor of angiogenesis in tissue engineering at the Technical University Eindhoven. Since 2008, he has worked on creating "clean" meat (i.e., cultured meat), including a highly publicized project to produce a clean meat hamburger, which was funded by Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Matt Prescott

Matthew Prescott is Senior Food Policy Director for The Humane Society of the United States. For over a decade and a half, Prescott has spearheaded efforts to reform our food system and global diet. His work has led to sweeping changes in the supply chains of over 100 major food companies and impacted countless individuals' diets. Prescott is a leading figure in the global movement to reform the way we farm and eat-he's a sought-after speaker, published writer and thought leader on the topic, having lectured and spoken at Ivy League universities, Fortune 500 food companies, and more.

Alicia Robb

Alicia Robb is a senior fellow with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. She is also founder and CEO of Next Wave Ventures, which has launched two angel funds and training programs focused on bringing more women into angel investing. Alicia is a visiting scholar with the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is founder and former executive director and board chair of the Foundation for Sustainable Development, an international development organization. Alicia currently serves on the board of the National Advisory Council for Minority Business Enterprise, the Advisory Board for Global Entrepreneurship Week, and the Deming Center Venture Fund. She is also a guest contributor to outlets such as The Huffington Post and Forbes.

Chris Roth

Chris Roth has more than 14 years of finance experience and more than nine years of experience as a financial advisor to wealthy families. He is currently a senior advisor and founding partner at Delegate Advisors, an independent wealth advisory firm based in San Francisco, California, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. As a senior advisor, Chris works directly with families to provide them investment advice and family office services. Previously, Chris worked directly with the former COO and president of a very successful Silicon Valley company as a consultant to his family office on a portfolio of direct investments. Prior to that, Chris was a manager at Brownson, Rehmus, and Foxworth (BRF), a multi-family office based for wealthy families. He has also worked in Strategic Planning for Accenture and Equity Research for JP Morgan Asset Management. Chris holds a bachelor of science cum laude with a double concentration in finance and accounting from Georgetown University. He is also a CFA® charterholder.

Chad Sarno

Chad Sarno is vice president of Plant-Based Wellness at Rouxbe online culinary school. Previously, Chad launched a boutique plant-based restaurant brand throughout Europe, developed innovative health and wellness initiatives as culinary media spokesperson for Whole Foods Market’s global healthy eating program, and partnered with numerous physicians to bring culinary education into the forefront of the wellness and prevention conversation. Chad is co-author of Crazy Sexy Kitchen: 150 Plant-Empowered Recipes to Ignite a Mouthwatering Revolution and co-creator with his brother of, an online community sharing simple recipes and food inspiration.  

Derek Sarno

Derek Sarno is Whole Foods Market’s senior global executive chef, overseeing national recipe and product development, training team members on healthy eating initiatives, and catering all of the company’s leadership dinners and major executive board events. Derek is founder of a sustainable farm and learning center and former owner of several critically acclaimed restaurants and catering businesses. Derek is also co-founder with his brother of, a thriving plant-based community with a large social media following that inspires increased plant consumption.

Kurt Schmidinger

Kurt Schmidinger is a geophysicist and earned a doctorate in food science in Vienna, focusing his dissertation on "clean" (i.e., cultured) and plant-based alternatives to animal products. In 2005, he founded the project Future Food, which gathers and presents a worldwide portfolio of alternatives to animal products for human nutrition, as well as possible future technologies for food production, such as biofermentation and clean meat.

Ajit Singh

Ajit Singh is a partner at Artiman Ventures, an early-stage Silicon Valley-based venture fund that invests in white space companies that create or disrupt multibillion-dollar markets. Ajit focuses on early-stage technology and life science investments. He is also a consulting professor in the School of Medicine at Stanford University and serves on the board of directors of Max Healthcare based in New Delhi, India.

Shen Tong

Shen Tong is a serial entrepreneur and impact investor. He has more than 30 food innovation investments in addition to media tech and other high-tech investments. Shen is founder and managing partner of Food Future. One of Newsweek’s 1989 People of the Year, he was an organizer of the democracy movement that occupied Tiananmen Square while he was at Beijing University. After his exile to the U.S., he finished his undergraduate degree at Brandeis University and went on to doctoral programs at Boston University and Harvard University. Shen became an entrepreneur in the 1990s, founding B&B Media and VFinity and serving on directorial and advisory boards, including those for Food Tank, Change Food, and Poets & Writers. He founded FOOD-X in 2014 and is also a venture partner of SOSV, the accelerator VC and a global multi-stage venture capital fund.

Uma Valeti

Uma Valeti, M.D., is CEO of the "clean" (i.e., cultured) meat company Memphis Meats and is laser focused on advancing the commercial viability of meat farmed directly from real meat cells. A cardiologist by training, Uma believes that meat that is safe and sustainable should be good for the body and the soul. Uma has extensive business experience and is an investor in a variety of food and tech companies. In addition to his many contributions in health sciences, he wants his biggest contribution to be leading the development of a profitable and a world positive future food system. Fun fact: Uma has rescued several people in cardiac arrest.

Susan Vitka

Susan Vitka brings more than three decades of experience as a strategic financial adviser to clients in the private and social benefit sectors. Her clients have consisted of startups, Fortune 100 companies, and sovereign wealth funds, among others. She is an active early stage investor and adviser, with particular interest in life sciences, nutrition and agriculture, and the environment. Susan has served on numerous boards in the U.S. and abroad, including those of Women for Women International, Women for Women International UK (as founding chair), Physicians for Human Rights, the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, and several family foundations. 

Suzy Welch

Suzy Welch is co-author, with husband, Jack Welch, of international best sellers The Real Life MBA and Winning. She is also author of New York Times best seller 10-10-10: A Life Transforming Idea. Her career expertise and perceptive commentary have made her a regular contributor on The TODAY Show and Bulls & Bears. Suzy, a vegan and longtime animal rights supporter, currently serves on the board of directors of The Humane Society of the United States and is a mother of four. 

Eron Zehavi

Eron Zehavi is the founder and CEO of WellNest, an on-demand platform that provides in-home health and wellness services with trained professionals. Prior to WellNest, he was the co-founder and chief rewards officer of Swagbucks, the web's largest and most engaged rewards and loyalty community, with more than $100 million in distributed rewards upon his departure. Eron is also a socially conscious consultant and investor with a focus on food education and reform, having worked with the Food Revolution Network and Thrive Market. He is committed to his family and friends and creating a happy, healthy, harmonious, and compassionate world.

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