Nick Stamatiou is an Australian entrepreneur and the visionary founder of Whole., a revolutionary Food-Tech company based in Perth, Western Australia. With a background in engineering and standing as one of the top intellectual property strategists in the world, Nick combines technological innovation with commercial nous and sustainable practices to reshape the food industry.
It is this singular vision and purpose that continues to inspire him and attract likeminded investors. His contributions to the field have not gone unnoticed, and in 2022, he was a semi-finalist in the Entrepreneurship World Cup (EWC).
As a prominent figure in entrepreneurship and innovation, what aspects of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) have you found most valuable for fostering international collaboration and building a unified global ecosystem?
This will be my first time attending the GEC but in 2022 I was lucky enough to be part of the Entrepreneurship World Cup in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and had the pleasure of meeting many of the team in the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN). It’s a truly unique network that has given me direct exposure to some of world’s greatest entrepreneurial talent – including some incredible founders throughout the developing world.
Through my involvement in the GEN Starters Club (the top 100 finalists in the Entrepreneurship World Cup), I have made lifelong friends and been granted access to a network of committed start-up founders that I can call on for assistance in almost every country of the world. None of this would have been possible without the commitment and professionalism of the GEN team, which ensures that the network building continues well beyond the event.
With your extensive experience, could you share an example of a challenge you’ve faced in your entrepreneurial journey that required innovative thinking to overcome? What lessons did you learn from that experience?
Once we completed the initial development of the technology for Whole., our Food-Tech venture, we had the difficult task of deciding on a business model that would enable us to scale rapidly without the need for huge amounts of capital. While many people (including investors) were telling us to pursue B2C models for our products, we understood that these would require enormous amounts of capital to pour into ongoing marketing campaigns necessary to build brand awareness. Drawing on our experiences as founders in software and intellectual property dealmaking, we developed a unique model in the food industry for licensing our technology to ingredient manufacturers. While we are still on this journey, it is proving to be a highly effective method of scaling the business, and a testament to doing things in an innovative way.
The GEC emphasises actionable intelligence and collective action. In your view, what role do shared knowledge and collaborative initiatives play in accelerating innovation and business growth on a global scale?
For a purpose-led business like ours, nothing is more important than actionable intelligence and collective action. It will take more than just our technology to make a dent in food security and the production of sustainable ingredients globally. Over the course of my career, I have done extensive work building open innovation systems for Fortune 500 companies, and it has taught me that collaboration (even better competitors) yields faster growth, better solutions, and more sustainable outcomes. I put this down to the diversity of opinions and experiences that are invariably fostered when you bring together people from different countries, industries, and social-economic conditions. It is exactly this diversity that the GEC embodies and motivates entrepreneurs to travel around the world every year to participate in these important discussions.
Entrepreneurship often involves navigating uncertainty and taking calculated risks. Can you highlight a situation where you had to make a pivotal decision for your venture amidst uncertainty? How did you approach it, and what factors guided your choice?
We started the journey building our Food-Tech venture, Whole., over five years ago and there have been more challenges than I care to remember - from equipment exploding, through to difficulties finding staff that were truly aligned with our purpose. From the outset we knew that our technology was special and had the ability to deliver massive impact within the food production value chain, but as a disruptive technology there was always going to be an element of resistance. We needed a unique value proposition that would make our technology immediately attractive to food and ingredient manufacturers. After completing around 400 experiments on different ingredients, we forced ourselves into the ‘uncomfortable focus’ of picking one – oats – and I am very pleased that we did. We now produce the only zero-waste functional oat concentrate in the world and work with some of the biggest and best global ingredient manufacturers.
The GEC brings together diverse voices from over 200 countries. How important is cultural intelligence and adaptability when it comes to creating an inclusive global ecosystem for entrepreneurship? Could you share an experience that highlights the significance of understanding different cultural perspectives in business?
Cultural intelligence and adaptability are fundamental to any business that has global ambitions. At the heart of it lies a deep respect and curiosity of other cultures, and the recognition that what works in one market is not guaranteed to work in another – and this can be true of pricing, value proposition, business development, sales-style and cycle, and negotiation techniques. This disparity is immediately apparent when working in teams with cross-cultural diversity and realising that ‘norms’ are clearly not the same across all cultures. It is something that I experienced firsthand when I was building a global team of specialists focused on delivering intellectual property strategy and commercialisation services based out of Seattle. We were able to build a culture across our international offices that focused on respect and shared experiences, rather than judgment, and fostered an environment of ongoing appreciation for domain expertise.