Vegan Nation: Israeli Startup Builds 1st Global Ecosystem For Plant-Based Living, Powered By Own Digital Currency
The movement has come a long way from a maligned and rather fringe minority to a global phenomenon that has converted celebrities, athletes, and companies to veganism and its merits. (Famous vegans include Beyonce, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Natalie Portman, and Madonna).
“If vegans were all living in one country, that country would likely have the strongest economy in the world,” says Isaac Thomas, an Israeli-American entrepreneur. Thomas is the CEO and co-founder of VeganNation, an Israel-headquartered startup that claims to be building the world’s first global marketplace for vegans, promoting “cruelty-free trade and sustainability.” And it comes complete with its own digital currency, the VeganCoin (VCN).
Founded in 2017 by Thomas, Nati Giat, CTO, Yossi Rayby, COO, and Shneor Shapira, Business Development, VeganNation combines an e-commerce platform for vegan businesses, service providers and consumers and a vast social network for messaging and sharing content, traveling, eating out, hosting, sharing meals, and tracking food.
“It’s like a vegan version of WeChat,” Thomas tells NoCamels in a phone interview in reference to the popular Chinese multi-purpose platform which now boasts over a billion active users monthly.
“VeganNation is a platform for the shared economy; we want to take veganism to the next level and unite the global vegan community,” Thomas says.
Veganism and its eschewal of meat, dairy, eggs, honey, silk, leather (and so on) “is the future in terms of climate change, sustainability, animal welfare as well as human welfare,” he explains.
And the proof is in the (vegan) pudding. VeganNation recently raised $10 million in funding by private investors and added celebrity vegan activists Jerome Flynn, of Game of Thrones, and actor and dancer Jenna Dewan, to its advisory board.
In its pitch deck to investors, seen by NoCamels, VeganNation argued that with some 300 million vegans globally (not including in India) and a growth rate over the past three years of 360 percent in interest in veganism, the world was ready for a united vegan community that would be empowered to make a global impact.
VeganNation, the startup told investors, would provide a decentralized vegan ecosystem based on a global community, with its own economy, and – importantly – its own currency.
Based on the Ethereum Blockchain, the purpose of the coin is to “become the official currency of the vegan community, allowing a direct trade between consumers leading a vegan lifestyle and providers of cruelty-free commodities and services,” the startup writes in the pitch deck. “Vegans’ purchasing power is dispersed among many small communities. Unity and sharing is power,” VeganNation says.
“Buying VeganCoin is betting on the future of veganism,” Thomas tells NoCamels. “The world is going digital and digital currencies are the future.”
Another reason is transparency. “Transacting in VeganCoin, you can see what the currency is doing through purchases,” he says.
“Vegans need to be able to authenticate each product by ensuring that each link in its supply chain, from source to consumer, is tracked and monitored and addresses all the vegan issues, the startup writes in the pitch deck.
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And, finally, there’s belief and mindset. “As a vegan, many currencies are made with animal fat and that doesn’t fit the mindest and vision [of veganism]. The bills you use could have been used to buy a meal at McDonald’s, for example, and that holds bad energy. Like a blood diamond,” Thomas explains in reference to diamonds mined in warzones and traded to finance conflicts and civil wars. (Also the title of the popular 2006 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, an investor – incidentally – in the plant-based food tech startup Beyond Meat, which has been all the rage this year).
Thomas said the $10 million investment in VeganNation was “major milestone in uniting all environmentally conscious consumers worldwide into a nation founded on sustainable development, generosity, and kindness towards all living beings.”
It is “another huge step toward successfully establishing the year of the vegan,” Thomas added in a statement announcing the investment earlier this month, as declared by The Economist.
Now, VeganNation is readying for the global debut of its platform on web app, iOS, and Android, and the launch of the VeganCoin in November. (VeganCoin cannot be purchased in the US, Canada, or Israel for regulatory reasons.)
Thomas tells NoCamels that some 15,000 users currently interact and engage with VeganNation’s platform and over 3,000 vegan businesses worldwide has signed on to accept the VeganCoin, the only currency accepted in the marketplace. VeganNation also currently has over 60,000 followers on its vibrant Facebook page.
“Our goal is to strengthen veganism and show people that veganism is a strong financial power,” Thomas says. This way, “more people will want to join, and take part.”
VeganNation hopes to answer a lot of daily challenges for vegans, he explains, and bring more people into the world of veganism. “We want to make veganism easier, more accessible, and more affordable,” he tells NoCamels, through awareness and greater purchasing power.
VeganNation is based in Ramat Gan, just outside Tel Aviv, with an office in London. Thomas says the startup employs approximately 20 people and works with 30 “ambassadors” across the world in places like Argentina, Brazil, India, and beyond, to spread its message.
Thomas exalts Tel Aviv as “number one in the world for vegan food,” having earned its title as the “vegan capital of the world.” Tel Aviv recently held the world’s largest vegan festival at the Sarona complex in June, attracting over 50,000 attendees. The city is home to some 400 vegan and vegan-friendly kitchens.
The Mediterranean diet, Thomas explains, “is naturally based on plants; there are salad bars everywhere in Israel. The basic Med diet is very complimentary to a plant-based lifestyle.”
Thomas says he became vegan himself just over three years ago but met his now co-founder Yossi Rayby while in Yeshiva (Jewish seminary) in Jerusalem years ago. Rayby brought in Giat and Shapira. All of them have a religious background and some have maintained an Orthodox lifestyle.
“Judaism has a strong message that drives me toward making the world a better place, where we live in peace and harmony,” Thomas says.