Spotlight on: GreenChoice, StartHub's Startup to Watch

October 2, 2019

Each month as part of StartHub's Startups to Watch Program, we connect with the winning company to learn more about them. We had the pleasure of interviewing Galen Karlan-Mason, CEO & Founder at GreenChoice. Here’s what we learned:

Tell us about your company. What is GreenChoice?

GreenChoice empowers consumers to make informed food choices and leads the industry to supply food that’s good for us and the planet. Our team analyzes data on diet, health, and sustainability to evaluate how food products match users’ values and dietary goals. We think of ourselves as “your digital food assistant,” supporting you with personalized guidance that simplifies making healthy, values-based food choices.

GreenChoice mobile app users can scan, search, or browse products to see their GreenScores® and insights which break down the food safety, processing concerns, nutritional value, and environmental impact of over 80,000 food and beverage products. Users set their values and dietary preferences to see individualized “better for you” product suggestions, and can compare prices across retailers to make the best choices within their budget. The app lets users upload grocery receipts to get tips on how to improve, track their GreenScore®, and earn rewards. The GreenChoice app is free to download: Play Store, App Store.

What is your background?

I grew up close to nature in rural southern Vermont, where I saw firsthand that behind the food we eat are stories of farmers, communities, soil, animals, water, biodiversity, and more. My parents raised me on a pretty clean diet consisting primarily of organic whole foods, but because of my allergies, grocery shopping was far from easy. School lunches were always a point of contention in our house, with my brother and I unsuccessfully begging for the “better food” (i.e. processed snacks, sugary cereals, red meat) that our friends ate. It was not until years later that I realized how lucky I was that my mom understood diet’s role in mental and physical health.

Inspired by my parents who are both purpose-driven educators, I’ve always believed that our individual choices can collectively create profound societal and environmental impact. I took time off from college to live in Lima, Peru where I co-founded a non-profit focused on youth empowerment through soccer. This was my first taste of entrepreneurship and the experience that taught me a hard truth - even great ideas with meaningful impact live and die by their funding. It was this understanding that pushed me back to business school, where I decided to make it my mission to prove that for-profit business can be ethical, environmentally conscious, and financially sustainable.

How did you come up with the idea for GreenChoice? Who is your target customer?

Since my childhood, it has only gotten harder to find trustworthy information to guide our food choices. Deciphering label claims, avoiding artificial ingredients, making sustainable choices, and harnessing the power of food as medicine, all while managing a budget - it’s too much for any one person.

I got fed up with leaving the grocery store feeling like I had just compromised my health or my values without knowing what I could do differently. I quickly realized that many other people felt just as overwhelmed by their food choices as I did, and I started to see our shared problem as a big data problem - one that our minds wouldn’t solve without some help and inspiration.

Our target user is anyone who wants to engage with their food choices, be it for personal health, values, or out of necessity. Our target customer is any grocery retailer or food brand that wants to serve the rapidly growing number of conscious consumers and recognizes they can only do so if they understand how our values and dietary goals, as well as the information we consume, guide our food choices.

What is the ultimate vision for the company?

We envision a day when regardless of where you grow up, what your education is, what color you are, or how much money you make, you can eat food that is healthy for you and the planet. GreenChoice is the go-to source for food data and insights related to diet, health, and sustainability. We make the information you’re looking for readily available and digestible so that you can easily make informed food choices, and we facilitate a community that motivates you through shared purpose. In the world of food systems, GreenChoice makes the unseen seen, the complex simple, the mundane interesting, the inconvenient easy, and the overwhelming inspiring.

Who are your main investors?

Our first funding came from the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps Sites program, and our current investors include the founder and CEO of CustomInk, a former EVP of Stop & Shop, and a former SVP from AECOM Environment. We are now raising a seed round with a strong preference towards value-added investors.

Why did you decide to start your business in Boston? How long has your company been around?

I started GreenChoice as a graduate student at Brandeis International Business School. When we incorporated as a Public Benefit Corporation in Spring 2018, we were still working out of a closet-like office that Brandeis had graciously given our team.

I’ve always believed in riding the wave so long as it’s carrying you in the right direction. Greater Boston birthed us, provided access to fantastic young talent, and has been home to most of my mentors. Plus, you can’t beat New Englanders - we love food, we’re practical, and we don’t take BS; it’s a great match with the user GreenChoice is targeting. We figure if we can create value for an engaged community in New England than we can take GreenChoice anywhere.

What resources in the startup community have contributed to the success of your company?

GreenChoice has been really lucky to have had early support from the Brandeis Innovation Center and Brandeis International Business School. Last summer, we were selected to participate in the Cleantech Open Northeast Accelerator, and more recently we’ve become members of Greentown Labs (the largest cleantech incubator in North America), and Branchfood. We are also very fortunate to be current finalists in the MassChallenge Rhode Island Accelerator.

GreenChoice Leadership Team: Varun Srivastava, Lead Data Scientist & Co-Founder, Eliza Mellion, Chief of Health & Operations, and Galen Karlan-Mason, CEO & Founder

How do you use StartHub professionally?

StartHub is my go-to resource when it comes to learning about new startups in the area and keeping a pulse on the innovation ecosystem here in Boston.

What are the next steps for your company?

We just released the GreenChoice mobile application for iOS and Android (Play Store, App Store), so it’s been really exciting to see our early users discover GreenChoice and share their appreciation and enthusiasm for what we’ve created. Our next step is to foster a highly-engaged community through caring for our users and ensuring all development within the GreenChoice platform serves to empower our community to eat with their values. We also have plans to make all of our aggregated data and insights searchable and accessible online.

What is the most important thing our readers should know about GreenChoice?

We’re here for you. Whether you need to figure out what snacks to buy, want to eat more sustainably, or want to begin using food as medicine - we want to help you. We take a personalized, values-driven, holistic, and playful approach to empowering people to make the right dietary choices and food purchases for themselves, their families, and the planet. If you have any requests or suggestions you can reach out to us directly. I give my personal email to every new user of GreenChoice because I want to hear from you, and we need your help to achieve our mission “to empower people to create a healthy, just, and sustainable world.”

Read Complete Article