Bringing Ideas to Life with Matt Tullman

August 20, 2020

Matt has started, invested in, and advised companies in the education, personal tech, and health industries. He is now focused on ending preventable diseases through plant-based nutrition and lifestyle medicine. To this end, Matt co-founded and currently serves as CEO of No Meat Brands, which owns a growing portfolio of wellness companies, including No Meat Athlete, Complement, 80/20 Plants, and Plant Bites.

Before starting to focus on the plant-based movement, Matt founded The Digital Education Company, also known as “digedu,” which provided proprietary technologies to K-12 schools. Serving as the Company’s President, Mr. Tullman oversaw the growth from the first classroom deployment to serving hundreds of thousands of students in school districts nationwide. More than simply replacing textbooks with etextbooks, digedu served as a trusted partner for teachers and districts navigating the challenges of meaningfully incorporating technology into the classroom. The Company continues to catalyze the transition to impactful technology adoption, now under the banner Modern Teacher, after a successful merger in 2015.

Before starting digedu, Matt served as founding Managing Director of 7wire Ventures, a Chicago-based firm that starts, incubates, and invests growth-capital in businesses addressing the critical issue-areas of health, education, and energy. During his tenure at 7wire, Matt had the privilege of contributing to the development of a variety of businesses, including SoCore Energy, which was sold to Edison International (NYSE: EIX), and more unique ventures, like Ignite Glass Studios.

Matt is passionate about bringing ideas to life—from creating new businesses to building furniture and digital artifacts. He loves learning, designing, prototyping, and challenging himself physically. He’s also a big fan of hugs, positivity, meditation, and giving back.

John Shegerian: This edition of the Impact! podcast is brought to you by Engage. Engage is a digital booking engine revolutionizing the talent booking industry with hundreds of athletes, entrepreneurs, speakers, and business leaders. Engage is the go-to spot for booking talent for your next event. For more information, please visit www.letsengage.com.

John: Welcome to another edition of the impact podcast on John Shegerian. I am so honored and excited to have my good friend Matt Tullman back on with us today, welcome to impact Matt.

Matt Tullman: Thank you so much for having me, John. I hope you and your family are doing well.

John: We are doing well, given the circumstances, and Matt, It has been too long since we connected last years, you are doing so many important and exciting things. This is going to be a great show for our listeners out there, basically the plant-based space. First, I just want to tear this up. You are the CEO of No Meat Brands. No Meat Brands is the controlling parent company of Plant Bites, 80/20plants, Compliment, and The No Meat Athlete, I just want to say, thank you for joining us. Thank you for doing all the great work you do. Before we get going and talking about, all the important and impact for work, you are doing it No Meat Brands. Can you please share with our listeners give them a little taste, and a little bit of the Matt Tullman journey leading up to this Venture that you are running now?

Matt: Sure. Well, thank you for that introduction the kind words. To make a long long story short, although as you said, I am still a kid at least the kid at heart. I am right out of school went to work at a Think Tank and realized I had no business being at a Think Tank because I had much more interest in trying my hand at this great game of business and was lucky to have some mentors that allowed me to really understand this world and gave me a shot and venture capital. I started by investing other people’s money. Then I started to pitch those people my own ideas. I had the great fortune to incubate a couple of businesses at this time. I was in Chicago the last big one was in education technology. We helped schools transition from textbook to technology-driven ways of teaching and learning, the things that all of us are doing now, 10 years ago.

Matt: It was slightly more unheard of, but even today, we still have a long way to go to create the kind of learning environments at our Next Generation needs to compete on a global scene. In any event, I lost that, then 6-7 years ago. We merged the company continues today under the banner modern teacher helping to catalyze that change that we need, but my focus now is on health and wellness right after leaving an operational role. I spent about 30 days supporting a loved one and what I would learn is end-of-life care and during that time, I really understood that so much of what you deal with, later in life can be prevented if you get ahead of it. It says as the saying goes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I spent about two years building furniture and listening to audiobooks and put back about, I do not know 300-350 titles. I want to learn everything, I did not care if there was, clearly pseudoscience.

Matt: I wanted to understand what everyone was hearing, and then try to decipher myself and I went far too deep my wife will tell you I will never be the same, but I really educated myself and kind of unveiled what is becoming prevailing science. And that is a low-calorie diet, intermittent fasting, reduce calories all those things that lead to longevity as well as things that are still a little bit more controversial but I believe to be the truth which is fruits and vegetables are really really healthy, and so that is why I am so focused on plant-based nutrition for athletes for moms for the mainstream because I really think that is how we combat the broader epidemics that we face as a society. Hence getting involved and starting these brands to really solve problems in this space and try to spread that gospel.

John: That is just so wonderful, I am so lucky and honored to have met you years ago, through our good friend Matt Fraser who originally came on when this podcast was called Green is Good. He came on to promote the launching of his website back then years ago. I can not even remember how many years ago now.

Matt: Eleven, we are proud 11 years, Matt is one of my best friends and my partner in these companies. He was one of the first and help by himself. When he started that business it really was because there is nothing out there. He could not find any information about how to fuel his marathons on a plant-based diet. So he just said doing the research and blogging about it and 11 years later, We have touched millions of lives and could not give more blessed to have him as a partner.

John: You have a lot of Brands underneath your No Meat Brands. I want to break it down and make this show easy for our listeners to understand, I want to go in some sort of sequential logical order. I am on your amazing website right now called 80/20plants. Can you and for our listeners out there that want to access 80/20plans? You could go to www.8020plants.com. It is a gorgeous website is full of amazing information. Can you share with our listeners a little bit about the Advent and launch of this website and app and what your intention is with this?

Matt: Sure, well appreciate that, and 80/20 is one of our newest. It is an app-based service and it is really to help those who are looking to try out the plant-based diet, but they do not know where to start. It seems intimidating. Maybe they gave it a try but ran into some challenges and so it is kind of like uber for nutrition in the sense that will connect you with a nutritionist or a registered dietitian, you can text or call and we have actually built a layer of machine learning on top of it, to actually help you even before you need to engage a human. We really started with the premise of so many people in our personal circles and friends and family, they look at my wife who just had her second baby, and they like how did you lose all that weight so quickly and it is like well, we do not really do anything, we pasta we cookies like we eat a ton.

Matt: And no one can understand why we look and feel this way and I say, well it is all plant-based. Everyone says I want to try it. I want that, but they can not figure out where to start or how to start when they run to these challenges. That is the problem I really trying to solve with 80/20plants, and just a quick explanation of the name, 80/20 Obviously, we have all heard about the 80/20 rule we are taking some liberties with that but the point is that we really want to focus on that 80% whole or minimally processed plant-based food.

Matt: So we are talking about fresh fruits and vegetables, yummy stuff, and then that other 20% can be personalized, and that is our approach because we think that the mainstream consumer today needs to hear something that is a little bit more tolerance, a little bit more flexible, this is way too much religion and dogma and the extremism when it comes to eating, I am using the term religion lightly, but it is exact same fervor. People believe this stuff with Incredible Augusto and it is like, we just really want to go back to the facts everybody agrees that, even lot of fruits and vegetables, you are doing such a good thing for your body and to the planet, before I get on it my high horse about the nutrition. I will stop there, but that is the basic premise and we would love you can get a free trial with an on-call nutritionist. If you go sign up at 80/20plants.com.

Matt: Like I say totally free and you can right away start texting folks nutritionist, you do not have to go plant-based. You do not have to go vegan. It is not about that. We are just looking to get people healthy and get them the help they need from a certified nutrition coach.

John: So the basically it is an app and I have a coach by just texting, I will have a nutrition coach to help me on this journey if I know nothing about diet and nutrition and good food and I have had no exposure to that which is tons of Americans tons of people around the world. By the way, they could go on your app download it for free for a free trial, and then have access to your Cadre of experts?

Matt: Exactly! including access to a registered dietitian via phone. If you are willing to pay 19 bucks. If we think it is quite Fair especially when usually engaging a dietitian, you are talking about 75, 100, 150 dollars per session. here through our app, you can get on the phone with them right away and I guess our hope is just to help people to get answers of they are looking for because no one who I have told this story to has ever said, I do not think that’s a guy did it all, every single one says, It is interesting because I always wondered where are smoobees make you fat because the blood sugar hits your blood too fast. We all have these weird questions about nutrition. Because we never learn about it in school or otherwise and so we really want to be that go-to place to get those questions answered.

John: You know is also fascinating Matt. I have so many friends that go to the gym and go to SoulCycle or ride their Peloton at home and all these are great tools, that are out there for us now that exist to help us stay healthy and well, but the problem is so many people feel that because they worked out whatever it is in the Gym or Crossfield or one of those other biking things or a hydro. But if their diet is poor, they do not understand that they really can not outwork a bad diet. So getting that inline using a tool like yours, which is now delivered right in the palm of their hand. Is I believe probably the greatest use of technology that someone could have because it is literally The Gift of Health in the palm of your hand.

Matt: Well, that is a lofty way to describe it, that will have to live up to do my best but I could not agree more, if you look at the numbers it is not complicated, something like 87% of all Americans which means almost of us are going to succumb to one of the four top killers of Americans right? I believe the accidents are number three. So let us say that we can not prevent all accidents, but the other ones are in so many ways preventable, right and that’s a cardiovascular disease that is hard disease right cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, Strokes Etc. Highly really related, vascular there is an overlap there, and then Cancers and more and more research. Every single day is coming out and pointing to how you live. And what you eat is directly correlated to whether or not you will suffer from one of those diseases. that is really our motivation. We are going after those big three killers of Americans.

John: That is really a setup for my next question because you bring up great points. just in what you just said, so given the timeliness of your app and the absolutely tragic period in world history that look we are living through right now with COVID-19 how much more important is it today that people pay attention to their diet and nutrition, given that this pandemic is still upon us, it is going to be with us for an unlimited amount of time at this point and they say, Matt, unfortunately, this might not be the last pandemic that we are forced to deal with so share your thoughts on because I know how much knowledge you have and how really you have applied yourself over the years as you shared at the top of the show to this topic of diet nutrition Wellness. How important is an app like yours and what role could it have for all of us given that we all should be living a healthier lifestyle right now to prevent getting sick?

Matt: I appreciate the question and the implication that I know anything about this stuff. I will try to pretend like I do but I disconnect it from our app because I want to make sure that the message comes across without potentially being promoted by some commercial ads. What I truly believe is that If you look at the data in terms of mortality rates right patient outcomes than those who are admitted to the hospital with COVID positive test. I mean it is just day and night, if you have comorbidities, like Heart Disease and Diabetes those two things go together, your likelihood of survival goes down precipitously. This is something that hits home for me. I lost an aunt to COVID just six weeks eight weeks ago and she is literally, the textbook case of what you do not want to be in the middle of the pandemic.

Matt: She had been struggling with heart disease for a long long time. She was 72, I believe she had diabetes, of course, she was in the hospital for an unrelated matter. She contracted COVID spread through her family. Thank God her husband, my uncle, my cousins, they are doing just fine now, but she did, unfortunately, succumb to that after a battle that we all are too familiar with now, then to question again, I can not think of anything more important than trying to cut excess weight which is not a vanity thing. Your vascular system your arteries, the fat that you see on the outside of your body is highly correlated to the amount of fat right lipids, cholesterol that is going around in your blood creating plaques blocking arteries. Now is the time to go and start working out if it is not already a big habit.

John: The truth is, I will do the commercial side of this having another tool that is a seamless as your app and website to leverage to just help you in the journey to help you as one of our listeners navigate the truth and separate fact from fiction when it comes to diet nutrition, which is sometimes hard because the advertising that is spent the billions of dollars that spent to obfuscate the truth and to trick us into believing some things were healthy when they are clearly not, I think it is just wonderful that you put that out there. It is literally why I have done this why I have brought back this show and call it impact because it is people like you creating tools like this that I do this show with no advertising dollars or anything else because this is the kind of stuff that we need to continue to promote out there and it just the impact that you can make with this just amazing website and app matter it is just incredible.

John: If this is all you did, which I know you have done way much more before this. I know we are going to get to some of the other great Brands you are also running right now. It is just truly remarkable and I am just such a huge fan. So thank you for creating this. Thank you for putting it out there again for our listeners to download this app and get your free trial. Please go to www.80/20plants.com.

John: Let us now switch topics to your great product compliment which I have taken many times before especially when you just launch it and you shared it with me to be able to see the difference that it makes and it is a difference-maker. Can we go and share with our listeners now what you are doing with a compliment and also the evolution in the product that you have made and for our listeners out there to go see compliment you could go to www.lovecompliment.com share a little bit about the journey with complement which is a tremendous product as well.

Matt: Certainly, by now most people can probably infer that I do eat a plant-based diet, and complement is a way to you guessed it, compliments bad diets. We do not believe in supplements, It is heretical. I know because according to the FDA it is technically a supplement but supplement means adding on, its means in addition to, supplemental and what we did was take a different philosophy and say look if you eat a well-rounded diet, you should not need supplemental nutrient. You really should just complement those nutrients that you are already getting in abundance from food with the ones that may not come from food and this philosophy really can extend to any way of eating. Obviously, we built one for a vegan diet.

Matt: But when you really think about it, and I encourage folks again to really think about their own health their own diet and you need a health coach workers one of ours at 80/20plans. But when you look at it, like all of our diets follow a certain pattern because we have preferences and we have allergies and we have access to different foods, as a result, it is very likely that you are getting a lot of one nutrient and maybe a little bit another nutrient and on top of that, because of modern agricultural practices so much of our soil is just decimated. We do not have the kind zinc or iodine [inaudible] and B12, these things just do not exist, and nature and the same levels as they used to because of the way that we have effectively degraded the quality of our soil. And so what we really did with our product line up and we have three now.

Matt: We are launching a fourth which is a whole food modality is really to look at how do we complement a plant-based diet with just what might be missing from your typical plant-based meal eating pattern and nothing else. Our third-party tested is absolutely no fillers preservatives excipient. let me tell you as someone who is running a supplement company. It is a very scary world out there you can get away with absolutely shocking levels of Obfuscation. Obfuscation is one thing, that implies some sort of malevolence but just like carelessness. People who truly are just trying to make a buck, the true snake oil salesman. You got to worry about both, You can not [inaudible] intent, but you also just maybe more prevalently have to worry about, the kid in New Jersey, who can easily white-label some turmeric supplement out of China and sell it a and there is nothing to stop them. Absolutely nothing.

Matt: So you really have to know who is manufacturing this since we really pride ourselves, on the fact that my whole family takes it, my wife is taking our products through two pregnancies. Which is a scary thought but something that I am very proud of now in hindsight, my toddler takes it, That is the level of trust they have to have and so we are very proud to be exceeding the standards I can set or else I would not give it to my own family.

John: love it. And again, I have tried your product compliment it is wonderful. It makes me feel stronger than I really am and it is just I highly recommend it to our listeners out there and for anybody that wants to just feel better every day. It is www.lovecompliment.com. And again, I am on that website and you just have a way of also articulating the information so clearly, on all of your websites my hat is off to you because even when you have a product that is Head and Shoulders Above the Rest sometimes navigating the territory of communication is difficult, it is a whole different skill set than creating and I got to tell you, Matt, another great website and another great platform where we get to share the truth. And also just another great product. So for our listeners out there, I highly recommend compliment. Now let’s move on to huh. That is on my desk right now your latest and your greatest plant bites. I mean the Fig and Triple Berry plant bites, which I have already worked myself through one bag full.

John: When I swore that I was going to just start with two cubes a day and that held for three days and then one hungry afternoon. I work myself through 68 of these delicious Fig and Berry plant bites. Can you share with our listeners? What was behind creating this new product which I think is fabulous? which I think you are just going to kill it in the United States and around the world when you make this an international brand, this is just delicious talk a little bit all plant bites.

Matt: Well, thank you for that and I have to go back and you complimented our websites and I have to emphasize that I have nothing to do with that. In fact, my team, Michael and Doug, and particular keep me as far away from that stuff as possible. So I will be sure to pass along your Kudos. Thank you for that.

John: You are humble and your hand listens, I know you very well and there is nothing that leaves. Your name is going to be attached to that is nothing less than just about perfect. So although that is true and we can not accomplish anything really great without a team and without collaboration that is important that you are not letting something subpar get through your hands and that represents you, your brand Matt Frazier and your partner’s so my hat is off to you for creating a team that creates now a great product but also great communication so we could understand it, this transparency and we could enjoy your products. Now let’s get talking about this. How you even came up with coming up, why you created plant bites? What was the vision behind it? And your new launch of this wonderful delicious product?

Matt: Yeah, the truth is yet again, I did not come up with plant bites. The original recipe is made by a brilliant woman named Izzy Fisher who is our partner in this Venture and she is the CEO and our co-founder. But again the innovator behind this concept and she really educated me in so many ways, we have a Team, No Meat Acid, Endurance Athletes. So we all are always thinking about fueling right fueling your day for maximum efficacy, whether it is at your desk, or as a parent or on a trail runner on the bike where ever might be, The problem that she faced and she is a world championship qualifier in the Triathlon Sport, just an incredible woman and when she was Finding is that like she was eating a really healthy plant-based diet, 23 hours out of the day, but then when it came to training and when it came to fueling her competitions she eats literally anything. And it is an amazing thing when you look at some of these quote-unquote, Health products that are made for endurance athletes, in particular, they are effective, refined glucose and preservatives, and these are people who really care about their body.

Matt: They do anything to make their body perform at the highest possible level and yet they put junk in when it comes to the moment that they need to perform at that highest level. And so what is he figured out was, maybe I can do this on Whole Foods, our shared philosophy is that fruit is a good thing, the fruit has sugar. so I will compete, just with fruit, and fuel these ungodly competitions, hundreds of miles and obviously the next challenge was well fruit has some drawbacks, you got slow-burning fruit like bananas, you got quick-burning fruit and then you have got portability issue. You do not exactly want to go on a run with the knapsack full of apples and oranges, so she really focuses on this for a lot of years and then through a process where we engaged about 2,000 of our community members to a No Meat Athlete to help refine the product and really hone in on what we were trying to create we had it in some superfoods like beets which is a vasodilator and other words your sends more fuel to your muscle in the form of blood.

Matt: We launched this just a few weeks ago. It is not actually publicly available. Although you may be able to find it online. We are going to be solely rolling this out as we ramp up production. And now that was truly the story where our vision is to help athletes to, form at their best and to educate athletes said, they do not need these highly processed products to be able to do that you can get the convenience and the precision as well as a health component through a product like plant bites. So the coolest thing is that what we found is that we designed it for athletes, but guys like you and me who may not be putting in hundreds of miles every day, they are a great snack, my son and I go through at least a bag every two or three days.

John: I do not blame you that they are so good. They taste so good. I mean and they just make you feel so good. I got to tell you. I mean they do not affect my blood sugar at all and they just keep me totally fueled the whole day. So I just got to tell you I love it. Where can our listeners find these online or what stores do you intend to sell them in once you roll them out? What’s your vision, Matt?

Matt: The best thing for listeners to do better to go to nomeatathlete.com, to sign up for a newsletter and over the next couple of weeks really about a month from today actually, we are going to be launching this to the public you might be able to Google and find a website out there because like I said, we are slowly rolling it out to be pretty sure that we do not make promises before our production capacity can fulfill it. But like I said nomeatathlete.com and you will be able to find, we will be sending out the details over next month.

John: Wonderful. That is wonderful, Matt before we sign off for today. I just want you to share any last thoughts because your wisdom is Way Beyond your years when it comes to health management wellness, and all the issues around plant-based eating and the effects and the positive effects, it can have on how we live and work through our journeys of Life any final thoughts for our listeners out there for those who want to improve their lives and not sure yet. If they are ready to make the dive into the pool of veganism or plant-based eating, but how do people who just want to start putting one foot in front of the other move forward nowadays after listening to you and being inspired by you?

Matt: Yeah, I would just start educating yourself and there are lots of ways to go about it. But the thing that I tell folks is that if you want to follow the paleo diet if you want to follow this, the Mediterranean diet the longevity diet you name it or vegan diet or plant-based diet. There are a lot more things in common with those diets, even though there might be a lot of rancor and animosity between those tribes. There is a lot more in common because it is the intention that goes behind following a diet that leads to self-improvement. Once you get on that flywheel and you start turning in creating some momentum you are going to do other things like you are going to go to the gym or you are going to just start doing some push-ups every day. It does not have to be big things. Just taking a walk around the neighborhood since I know no one is going to a gym anytime soon, unfortunately, just as baby steps.

Matt: But again, I would encourage everybody to just think deeply about the way they eat because whatever the diet you choose to follow as long as it is not the standard American diet, that would be my big ask [inaudible] because I might have said this before but by 2050 we are going to have a hundred million Americans who have type 2 diabetes that will not only bankrupt our economy, but it will cause so much undue suffering. It is unimaginable. Just today we have a hundred 40 Million Americans it is 40% of us, It means one out of two listeners are living with a chronic disease and maybe two or three, we are in a very sick country and it always comes back to what are you putting in your body and what are you doing with your body on a daily basis?

Matt: So again, it does not have to be 80/20 plants. It does not have to be plant-based, it is just starting with a walk every day some push-ups, some meditation drinking more water, and thinking about what you eat, It will make a tremendous difference for you today tomorrow your kid’s Next Generation our country our society. We need to take this more seriously. That is the big message. I try to get across no matter who I am talking to.

John: that is a great message. And for listeners out there one more time, please go check out Matt’s amazing websites and all the important items that they have on them, chock full of information, www.80/20plants.com, www.lovecompliment.com and www.nomeatathlete.com, Matt Tullman. I am always inspired by you. I am lucky to have you as a friend. I am so honored that you came on the show today. Thank you for making all the important impacts that you make on this planet right now and making the world a better place. I can not wait to have you back on the impact podcast. Once again.

Matt: Pleasures all mine. Thanks for doing what you do to shine a bright light, on all of our work.