As an entrepreneur, I understand the need to innovate. My 20+ years in the nutrition industry have taught me that market leaders must innovate or be consumed by the global marketplace. I’ve also learned that innovation is not the result of chance; it is the result of action.
Creating an Innovation Engine
In 2001 I partnered with Dr. Alfredo Galvez to expand his work with the lunasin peptide he discovered in 1996. In 2005 I founded Soy Labs, LLC and assembled a team which included Dr. Galvez to focus on commercializing lunasin-based ingredients. Collaboration is key to long-term business success, so I sought out business and research partners that allowed Soy Labs to leverage creativity, experience and resources and innovate more quickly.
Adopting the open innovation model allowed Soy Labs to draw on the knowledge of outside researchers and move forward with lunasin technology. This access to external resources inspired us to partner with the University of Missouri, the state of Missouri and federal government to create the Missouri Plant Science Center in 2010. The MPSC was a critical component to further our research, refine our processes and firmly establish Soy Labs as an “innovation engine.”
Finding the Right Partner
To execute the commercialization of lunasin and complete the innovation cycle, we needed another
partner — a “performance engine” with established operational processes and controls to bring the
new technology to market. While there were many potential partners that could meet our technical
needs, we also identified some unique qualifications:
• access to the human nutrition market
• a culture of entrepreneurship and open innovation
• established distribution network
• direct access to consumers to communicate a complex message
• ability to provide feedback to direct future research and product development
Having run companies that distributed nutritional products through health food, drug, mass, and grocery classes of trade, I knew we had to find a more affordable, albeit less conventional, method of distribution. We also needed to be able to maintain a degree of control over the growth of the business in order to assure the product efficacy and quality.
The Reliv Difference
I had worked with Dr. Carl Hastings for many years and was familiar with Reliv’s reputation for integrity and quality. I recognized that Reliv and the direct selling model might be the best way to get this technology into the hands of consumers. Reliv’s business model provides direct access to entrepreneur Distributors, thus facilitating education in this emerging science (epigenetics) and the new technology (lunasin). The direct selling model also reduces barriers to market entry by minimizing overhead expenses and keeping the cost of the final product affordable.
After working with the management team and getting to know the corporate culture at Reliv, we knew we found the perfect partner. Reliv launched a company through innovation 25 years ago, and in the meantime, had built a highly efficient performance engine. Reliv’s commitment to fostering the innovation process, especially from the second generation executive team now assuming leadership, was absolutely critical to the creation of this partnership.
On July 18, 2013, Reliv obtained exclusive licensing rights to Soy Labs’ lunasin technology. Additionally, they formed a new company called SL Technology, Inc., a fully-owned subsidiary of Reliv International. They appointed me as President and CEO and brought over the entire Soy Labs innovation team, including Dr. Galvez as Chief Scientific Officer. Integrating the innovations of SL Tech into the innovation capabilities of Dr. Carl and his team opens the way for expansion into a whole array of exciting, new technologies.
So what have we created? The first and currently only Nutritional Epigenetics Company.
The ‘Perfect Storm’
Experts agree that nutritional epigenetics has the potential to change the status of the current health care crisis and initiate the biggest economic boom since the dot-com era. Lunasin, the first dietary ingredient with a known epigenetic mechanism of action, is driving the nutritional epigenetics platform. This new partnership has created perhaps the biggest opportunity the direct sales industry has ever seen!
Ryan Montgomery realized that if you want to be a billion-dollar company, you have put the tools in place that will take you there. Open innovation is one of those tools. This opportunity puts Reliv on a level playing field with Fortune 500 companies, like General Mills and Proctor & Gamble, who have launched strategic open innovation initiatives. Through open innovation, Reliv has the means to direct the nutritional epigenetics industry and stay ahead of the competition. In the words of Steve Jobs, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
With this partnership, Reliv is strategically positioned as the industry leader in nutritional epigenetics.
Functions of an Innovation Engine:
• Generate new ways to do new things
• Connect to resources/networking
• Transform ideas into novel products and services
• Scale for value creation appropriate to market
Looking for a big opportunity? Welcome to the perfect storm!