Welcome Eshan!

Simon Newstead
Simon Newstead
min read
May 16, 2024

We're happy to welcome Eshan Samaranayake to the team as our first analyst, based in Hong Kong!

With the first couple of weeks with us behind him, I took the chance to ask him a few questions to help us all get to know him better-

Hi Eshan!

You have an interesting journey and background, can you share a bit of your story to date? 

Sure! I was born and raised in Sri Lanka, and I moved to Hong Kong to pursue my bachelor’s degree at the University of Hong Kong (HKU). There, I majored in molecular biology and biotechnology and studied a minor in food and nutritional science. 

My time at HKU was marked by explorations across various fields through internships in biotech, accounting, and healthcare private equity, ultimately deciding to go into food technology after graduation. Outside of studies, I was on the varsity dragon boat team for 3 years (shout out to HKUDB!). 

After graduating in 2021, I joined a food biotech company specialising in cultivating microalgae as a sustainable food ingredient. There, I took on diverse roles spanning production, R&D, external communications, organising school workshops, and more. My growing passion for food biotech inspired me to start a newsletter in 2023 called Better Bioeconomy, where I write about key industry developments. 

Fast forward to May 2024, I’m now with Better Bite Ventures! 

What inspired you to join the bio / food tech industry in the first place? 

My fascination with biotech began when I was around 11 or 12. My science teacher told us a short story about how we could transfer a gene from a firefly into a carrot to make glow-in-the-dark carrots. As a kid, this idea sounded like the coolest thing in the world, and it sparked my interest in biotech. (For the record, I think glow-in-the-dark carrots are still pretty cool!). 

As I grew older, I became more immersed in the field, eventually studying biotech at HKU. I learned how biotech could revolutionise food, pharmaceuticals, environmental management, and even materials science, influencing everything from how we develop medicines to how we eat and clean up pollutants. 

My interest in food technology developed when I graduated during the pandemic. During that time, there were lots of discussions about food insecurity. I got curious and started reading more about our food system and realised how inefficient and unsustainable our current food system was. 

Food is at the centre of many of the world’s most pressing challenges, including climate change, pandemics, and public health crises. I realised that biotech could play a key role in transforming our food systems into something more sustainable and efficient. 

What appealed to you about Better Bite and why make the jump from an applied science role to one more on impact investing?

Better Bite Ventures caught my attention for a couple of main reasons. Firstly, their focus on the Asia-Pacific region resonated with me. As a Sri Lankan living in Hong Kong, I have deep ties to the area, and I'm excited about contributing to food tech innovations close to home. 

More importantly, the chance to work alongside the BBV team—Michal, Simon, and Sonalie—was a huge draw. As a food tech geek, I have followed their work closely and having interacted with them previously, I have come to see some of them as role models. Their vision for the future of food aligned closely with my own, and the prospect of working with them was the biggest factor in my decision. 

Transitioning into impact investing aligned closely with my skills and interests. Having worked in a small food biotech company previously, I learned about various aspects of the food value chain and gained a good understanding of how small companies operate. 

While I love biotech, I've never considered myself a hardcore scientist. I’d say roughly I’m 60% into science and 40% into non-science areas. Most of that 40% is my fascination with the business side of things—like learning about the stories behind founders and what sets companies apart. 

Writing the Better Bioeconomy newsletter further fueled my interest, as it connected me with various industry innovations and stakeholders like founders, scientists, and investors. This role at BBV is a great fit, allowing me to use my scientific insights and market analysis skills. It brings together my passion and expertise, allowing me to (hopefully) support startups that are building a better food system. 

We're excited you're on board, can you talk a bit about what types of things you've been up to in these first couple of weeks? 

Absolutely! I’ve hit the ground running, conducting due diligence for some promising companies using biotech to tackle climate issues. Much of my time has gone into market research and spotting startups that meet our investment criteria and have the potential to make a big environmental impact. 

I’m also getting ready to lead some team study sessions. These sessions will improve our industry knowledge and sharpen our decision-making skills. 

It’s been a super exciting start—I’ve learned a ton already, and I'm looking forward to contributing more. 

What's your take on the role of biotech and early stage innovation in general to address the climate crisis?

Biotech is really shaking things up when it comes to solving the climate crisis. It lets us get creative with how we handle key challenges like food production, waste management, and energy use. 

By tweaking biological processes, we can modify crops to need fewer resources, grow microalgae in bioreactors to grab carbon out of the air while making high-protein biomass, or tweak yeast or plants to produce dairy proteins without cows. Plus, advances in microbial engineering are helping us cut down on fossil fuels. 

Since biotech touches everything from agriculture to manufacturing, I strongly believe it's a key solution that will help us move towards a more sustainable future. 

You've run your own newsletter, can you share a bit about it? 

Sure, I started a newsletter called Better Bioeconomy back in February last year. In the newsletter, I cover the latest developments in biotech shaping the future of food. I’m really into biotech, food tech, and alt proteins, and I try to soak up everything I can find on these topics—articles, podcasts, reports, you name it. 

The idea was to distil the information I gathered into accessible summaries and share them online every week, hoping to reach like-minded folks. The inspiration came from two of my favourite newsletters, Green Queen and FoodHack. 

Writing Better Bioeconomy has been awesome. Because of the newsletter, I’ve had the privilege of engaging with and meeting some incredible industry people. It’s super rewarding to feed my curiosity and build connections with others who are as excited about the future of food as I am. 

Finally, outside of work, what do you enjoy getting up to? 

I like to hit the gym and go on spontaneous, relaxing walks. I enjoy listening to audiobooks, podcasts, and music (mostly hip-hop) and, of course, writing Better Bioeconomy!

Thanks for sharing Eshan, we're glad to have you onboard!