UAE-based Switch Foods founder Edward Hamod story unfolds as a symphony of familial heritage, global insights, and a steadfast commitment to sustainability, painting a vivid portrait of an entrepreneur fueled by impact.
Born into a world of entrepreneurship, Edward Hamod's narrative was woven with threads of innovation from the start. Hailing from Syria, a lineage of entrepreneurs surrounded him. "I grew up in a family business environment," Hamod reflects, tracing the roots of his entrepreneurial spirit. This familial tapestry kindled the spark that would guide him through a lifelong journey and fostered a fascination with creating value, steering one's destiny, and leaving an indelible mark.
Hamod’s experiences took him from the heart of Syria to the expanse of corporate America and Europe. However, his compass always pointed towards his family's entrepreneurial endeavours. This led to the establishment of AlManal in 2006—a food processing conglomerate that burgeoned into one of Syria's largest. This chapter marked a pivotal juncture where Hamod's entrepreneurial spirit found new dimensions. "The idea was always to take it back to Syria and continue to grow and expand the family business," he explains.
However, as political events unfolded Hamod had to adapt and reshape his vision in the UAE. The genesis of Switch was a culmination of myriad experiences. "Switch is an accumulation of my life," Hamod states, highlighting the pivotal role played by every facet of his journey. This revelation arrived hand in hand with his comprehension of the environmental toll of the food industry. His tone shifts to one of urgency as he reveals, "This is one of the only industries in the world that is currently sustaining 30% waste at origin and 30% waste at destination. So overall, 60%, which is crazy. It is the second biggest waste emitting industry after oil and gas”.
For Hamod, this endeavour went beyond replacing meat—it was about reshaping perceptions. "No mother in this region makes nuggets for lunch for her kids," he explains, highlighting the lack of relatable alternatives for Arab families other than burger patties and nuggets. Switch's proposition centred on bridging this gap and providing accessible, culturally familiar options.
Like many entrepreneurs, Hamod faced the daunting task of securing funding for his vision. Drawing on his credibility, experience, and a network of advisors, he navigated the complexities of fundraising. Funding, a perennial challenge for entrepreneurs, was no exception for Edward. His counsel to aspiring entrepreneurs underscores his career trajectory so far: "Bring money from mature VC markets, like the US and Europe, then the money from the MENA region will follow." He accentuates the value of credibility and a founder's track record in building investor trust. Hamod adds, “They said to me - we like your business model that's 5% into your company, but 85% of our investment is in you as a founder.”
With the investment in place, Edward felt an immense responsibility towards his investors, team, and customers. The weight of this responsibility pushed him to work relentlessly, leaving no room for work-life separation. Edward believed in leading by example and felt the pressure of being entrusted with people's livelihoods and financial resources.
Switch rests on three pillars: rectifying the fractured food system, mitigating environmental impact, and forging a strong product-market fit. "I couldn't sleep the day I received my first check," he confides, revealing the profound responsibility entwined with securing funding.
The journey to architect Switch was fraught with hurdles. Navigating the intricacies of product development, technology, equipment, and regulatory landscapes was a test. Hamod embarked on an exploration of technology, ingredients, and culinary expertise. He delved into consultations with food scientists, engineers, and culinary experts, drawing from the wellspring of knowledge he had built over the years. The result? A line of plant-based products so convincing that even in blind tests, consumers were unable to distinguish them from meat. "People today, when we do blind testing, aren't able to know that this is not meat," Hamod proudly states.
Time, a finite resource, is an entrepreneur's constant companion. "For the founders of any new business, you're running against time. Time is your biggest enemy," Hamod acknowledges.
The pressure to navigate hurdles, develop a product, secure funding, and launch it into the market creates an environment where each day is a race against the clock. However, Hamod's journey also reveals that time can be a friend, shaping an entrepreneur's evolution and strengthening their resolve. Through the twists and turns of Switch's development, Hamod found himself honing his skills, learning from setbacks, and refining his vision. His words offer solace to fellow entrepreneurs: "You're going to have to go through these cycles."
Hamod’s dedication bore fruit as Switch's products hit the shelves a year later, marking a milestone achieved through persistence and taste. "I was on the supermarket shelf, 12 months later, the impact was palpable. Not only did Switch offer consumers a local, affordable, and appealing alternative to meat, but it also catalysed a shift in perception.” Hamod reveals. He noted that consumers are now making the conscious choice to opt for plant-based options when making basic Arab dishes like Kafta and Soujouk, transforming the way they think about food.
The environmental benefits could also be manifold—reduced environmental impact, improved health outcomes, and a pioneering leap towards sustainable eating habits.