Student Profiles

Startup Profile: Kelped

Meet the Blackstone LaunchPad founder tackling greenhouse emissions at the source.

Joyance Liao Mendoza was working on a school project when he came across research touting the benefits of seaweed and its ability to reduce methane emissions in cattle. While the study was promising, Mendoza noticed that the livestock industry had not yet incorporated seaweed into cattle diets. After discussing the idea with some like-minded friends and deciding it was an endeavor worth pursuing, Mendoza co-founded Kelped, a startup creating a seaweed-based feed supplement to help cattle farmers reduce methane production and lessen their environmental impact.

Mendoza, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, has been interested in entrepreneurship throughout his collegiate career. Originally drawn to an entrepreneurship as a path that would allow him to make an impact by doing something he was passionate about, he credits his ongoing interest in entrepreneurship to opportunities he finds through his campus Blackstone LaunchPad. Through events and talks with other entrepreneurs, he’s developed a better understanding of what it takes to start and grow a business.

Kelped is still in the product development stage, but the team hopes to bring their seaweed-based feed supplement to market soon. As a B2B startup, much of their success is dependent on industry-wide adoption. Their goal is to convince cattle farmers of the many benefits that seaweed can provide when added to their feed.

“The largest challenge we’re facing is that livestock farmers are most interested in seeing immediate results in their cattle, such as improved meat or dairy quality,” says Mendoza. “Fortunately, in our research we’ve seen that this is also something that seaweed can accomplish.”

Generating the research needed to convince cattle farmers of seaweed’s benefits has been a challenge. To help keep the business on track, Mendoza joined the Summer 2021 Blackstone LaunchPad Fellowship powered by Future Founders. The fellowship has offered Mendoza accessible, hands-on learning experiences on a variety of topics, including leadership, validation, product-market fit, marketing, fundraising, and pitching.

Mendoza feels that he will be able to employ the skills learned from each of the workshops throughout his professional career, whether it be running his own company or working on a project. He believes the interactive nature of the program is most beneficial to startup founders because it keeps them engaged. He is especially grateful for the mentorship he has received as part of the Blackstone LaunchPad Fellowship.

One of his mentors, Nina Ho, Director of the Blackstone LaunchPad network at the University of Texas at Austin, says, “Joyance is a well-spoken young man who asks thoughtful questions, and we’re excited to support him on his entrepreneurial journey.”

Mendoza hopes to scale Kelped to the point where they are producing their own seaweed supply. Currently he and his team have been cold calling different municipalities to coordinate collection of their unused seaweed so they can use it as raw material for their products, though seaweed blooms are seasonal and not all cities are interested in getting rid of them. If they cannot collect enough from municipalities, Kelped plans to buy the seaweed supply, but that can be expensive, especially for a startup. The largest challenge is finding enough seaweed supply for the entire year. Mendoza thinks creating the supply chain needed to provide ample seaweed for their product will be a challenge, but it’s a challenge the team is ready to solve.

Ultimately, Mendoza hopes Kelped will help create a new future for the livestock industry, one in which methane emissions can be controlled with a simple solution. He thinks that the future is closer than most think and is determined to make his vision a reality. He will work hard to grow Kelped in order to make a meaningful impact in the fight against climate change, remaining hopeful that their future success can convince companies across all industries to start doing their part to address this growing global crisis.