Big Ideas: “How to grow corals cheaper, better, faster and stronger”, With Sam Teicher of Coral Vita

Coral reefs sustain 25% of marine life and the livelihoods of up to one billion people in nearly 100 countries and territories. Conservatively, they generate $30B through tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection and are the source of compounds found in many life-saving medicines. But we’ve lost half the world’s reefs since the 1970s, and are […]

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Coral reefs sustain 25% of marine life and the livelihoods of up to one billion people in nearly 100 countries and territories. Conservatively, they generate $30B through tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection and are the source of compounds found in many life-saving medicines. But we’ve lost half the world’s reefs since the 1970s, and are on track to lose over 90% in the next thirty years. Ecological tragedy aside, this could be a socio-economic catastrophe. The best thing to do for reefs is to stop killing them, and we need our political, business, and media leaders to step up to enact climate change, pollution, and overfishing solutions. Until they do, however, we need to rapidly scale up the pace and impact of reef restoration.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Sam Teicher is the co-founder and Chief Reef Officer of Coral Vita, a company that grows corals to restore dying reefs. They use breakthrough methods developed by the Mote Marine Lab and Gates Coral Lab to accelerate coral growth up to 50x while strengthening their resilience to climate change. Coral reefs support up to one billion people, sustain 25% of marine life, and generate $30B annually through tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection. But over half the world’s reefs are dead, and over 90% are projected to die by 2050. By creating a global network of land-based coral farms and selling restoration services to hotels, governments, re-insurers and other customers that depend on reefs’ valuable ecosystem services, Coral Vita works to preserve coral reefs for future generations. He formerly worked to implement climate adaptation initiatives at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, supported the Global Island Partnership’s efforts to build resilient island communities, and is a contributing author to SDG Goal 14: Life Below Water. Sam received his master’s degree from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, analyzed climate change as a threat multiplier for national security through the university’s Studies in Grand Strategy program, is an Echoing Green Fellow and Forbes 30 Under 30 social entrepreneur, and has been in love with the ocean since becoming a scuba diver as a child.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It’s great to be here, thanks for having me! Well, I can definitely tell you that if you’d ask me when I was younger “do you want to grow up to be a coral farmer?” I’d have given you a quizzical look and told you I had no idea what that is. But here I am now, working as part of a nascent global community to preserve our world’s threatened coral reefs from extinction.

I grew up in Washington, DC, which isn’t usually the first place that comes to mind when you think about scuba diving. But my parents got my brother and I certified as soon as we were old enough, and I’ve been in love with the ocean ever since. Coupled with everything from hiking trips to the Shenandoah’s to rolling over logs and looking at bugs for hours in our backyard near Rock Creek Park (not my mom’s favorite activity), I was always drawn to the natural world.

That being said, a career working on environmental protection also wasn’t something I originally envisioned for myself. My dad was a diplomat and security expert, which initially drew me towards peacemaking. After graduating from DC Public Schools, I started considering a path in education reform. And I also loved connecting lessons in history to modern-day issues and challenges. Altogether, this led to me being quite puzzled about what path to take as I went through college. But with some inspiration from my older brother Seth, I started to study climate change. And I realized it was an issue that impacted everything I cared about: the natural world, international security, a healthy and prosperous society… I saw how maybe by working to help solve climate change and environmental degradation, I could have a multiplier effect on other important issues to me.

The moment that drove it home for me was an environmental archaeology course. We were discussing an ancient Syrian settlement that was hit by a prolonged multi-year drought. The villagers were faced with three options: adapt, move, or die out. They stayed put, failed to adapt, and the settlement collapsed.

Humanity ultimately depends on a healthy planet, as does all of Earth’s incredible biodiversity. It’s only since the end of the last Ice Age that human beings made the jump from small bands of hunter-gatherers to modern civilization. And in that time, our climate has been incredibly stable — and it’s only in this climate out of billions of years of Earth’s existence that our species made our giant leap forward. As our climate gets thrown out of whack (primarily because of our own recklessness, ignorance, and greed), it’s tragic to see our world’s wonderful ecosystems and wildlife our world pushed to and beyond the brink. But it’s humanity’s ability to thrive and survive that really will be tested. Earth will be fine. But humanity only has one planet, and we don’t currently have another one to move to. If we fail to either fix or adapt to the problems we’ve created, we’re going to suffer greatly. And that’s why I chose to dedicate my life to the challenges of environmental protection.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

After launching Coral Vita out of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies in 2015, my co-founder Gator Halpern (yes, his name is really Gator) and I spent the next few years raising our Seed Round and finding the location for our pilot coral farm. Fast forward to Summer 2018. We’d raised nearly $2M from investors, prizes, grants, and fellowships, and had partnered with the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) and Grand Bahama Development Corporation (DEVCO) to launch our first farm. Gator and I had moved to Grand Bahama with our first coral scientist Stephen Ranson and were finalizing the permitting process to start farm construction.

It’s at this time that a host of people suddenly emailed us: “did you hear that XPRIZE is crowdsourcing ideas to design competition to save coral reefs?” For those who don’t know, XPRIZE first became famous by helping galvanize the creation of the private space industry through the $10M Ansari XPRIZE, and has since gone on to launch a range of multi-million dollar competitions to spur innovation in everything from early childhood education to oil spill cleanups. This time, things were a bit different.

Rather than launching a prize designed by the organization for teams to go compete for, their community had selected five topics that mattered to them and were inviting teams to propose what the eventual XPRIZE should look like. The five topics were Feeding the Next Billion, Lifting Farmers Out of Poverty, Off-Grid Energy Access, Natural Disaster Prediction, and Saving Coral Reefs. Although we were laser-focused on launching the Grand Bahama farm, this seemed like too good of an opportunity to help shape the discourse, funding streams, and R&D potential for reef restoration to pass on.

Our initial proposal was selected as one of four semi-finalists, and Gator and Stephen went out to XPRIZE’s HQ in Los Angeles. As they pitched off against other teams, they also faced competition from several of the XPRIZE Board members as well. For a group of people who dreamed big about space exploration, 3D printing, and longevity, creating an XPRIZE to save coral reefs wasn’t registering for some of them. “Why is this an XPRIZE?” was a constant refrain, and Gator and Stephen worked hard to not only design a good prize but also make a compelling case as to why global reef degradation is one of the greatest threats facing our planet and humanity today — which it truly is. And how an XPRIZE that galvanizes a coral restoration industry can keep them alive for future generations.

It’s good to have a good team, and Coral Vita’s idea (simply dubbed Coral Restoration) was ultimately chosen as one of the two finalists to pitch to the whole XPRIZE community at their 2018 Visioneering Summit. This was the big leagues. Investors and philanthropists were willing to stake millions of dollars to back an XPRIZE, but only if it really was worth it. Leading technologists, science fiction writers, business executives, experts from the five topic fields, and of course Pharrell (talking about building a reef to look like the N.E.R.D. symbol with Pharrell was not a moment I ever envisioned having in life). This time, I went out with Stephen while Gator attended the annual retreat for Echoing Green, a social entrepreneurship program we’re in.

Our pitch had two components to contend with. First, we had to distinguish our prize design from the other coral team (Coral Survival), which focused on the sexual reproduction of corals. Second, we had to convince the audience that the Saving Coral Reefs prize was the one they should back against all the others. My brother Seth, who’s an investor at GreatPoint Ventures and has been an advisor to Coral Vita since day one, came in to help out, and we were teamed up with the fabulous Lauren Selig, an XPRIZE Board Member (each team was paired up with one). Each topic was introduced to the crowd by scene-setters. For coral reefs, the crowd was treated to crash courses on just how many coral reefs matter to us all by Matt Mulrennan, who runs the ocean program for XPRIZE, and Tom Moore, who leads the coral restoration program for the US Government. When it was time for the Saving Coral Reefs pitches, the audience listened in as we made our case before the panel of coral experts grilled us: Petra Lundgren (a senior manager at the Great Barrier Reef Foundation), Jeff Orlowski (director of the Emmy-award winning documentary Chasing Coral), Dr. David Vaughan (pioneer of the microfragmenting method we use to grow coral up to 50x faster), and Tom Chi (formerly the co-founder of GoogleX and a major reef enthusiast).

Once our pitches were done, an interesting thing happened. Person after person kept coming up to us and the Coral Survival team, asking us if we’d thought about combining our prize idea. And truthfully, it made a ton of sense. XPRIZE aside, the coral community is all on the same team in our fight. So why not merge our ideas for coral restoration with sexual reproduction? Before the winners were announced, our teams decided that no matter whose idea was selected, we would do just that. And when Coral Survival won, we were immediately brought back on stage where, to the surprise and enthusiastic ovation from the crowd, we announced our teams were joining together for the reefs.

To be honest, once we did that Saving Coral Reefs had so much momentum heading into the final stage as the five topics pitched off against each other. XPRIZE Founder Peter Diamandis had set the stage for some engaging drama, and the audience voted for the final two design finalists, which included Saving Coral Reefs. And it was in this part of the evening that one of the most powerful moments I’ve truly ever experienced happened. Unlike the other topic areas, where an XPRIZE Board member made the case for why their issue mattered the most, Team Coral got a bit cheeky. Our Board member, the inspirational Keith Ferrazzi, brought all of us on stage, including the coral reef scientists and experts who’d been invited to evaluate the designs from a professional lens.

After these last two pitches were made, audience members were invited to step up to the mics and make their case as to which one they thought should be the next XPRIZE. And it was something else to see yet one more individual enthusiastically proclaim the world needs the Saving Coral Reefs XPRIZE. Including some of the same people who just two months before had questioned why such an XPRIZE topic was even being discussed! The emotions running through all of us were on another level. That I got to be on stage to celebrate when Saving Coral Reefs was declared Best in Show with Tom Moore, Dave Vaughan, Petra Lundgren, members of Force Blue (a group of combat veterans restoring reefs), and others who’d spent decades fighting to protect coral reefs and to get the public to care… it was sublime. I was so happy for them, and still, am. Over the past six months, the XPRIZE team took the design process forward on their own, soliciting comments and suggestions from the global coral restoration community, and is preparing to officially launch the prize this year.

Coral Vita can succeed or fail as a company moving forward. And I hope and believe it will make a big difference for the reefs. But that Gator, Stephen, and I helped get the XPRIZE community — whose first-ever prize led to the creation of SpaceX and Blue Origins — to back a multi-million competition to protect coral reefs is something I’ll always be proud of.

Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Coral Vita is creating the world’s first network of commercial land-based coral farms for reef restoration. We use breakthrough methods to grow coral up to 50x faster while strengthening coral resiliency to threats like warming and acidifying oceans. To paraphrase Daft Punk, combined with our scalable land-based farming model we can grow corals cheaper, better, faster and stronger.

Most existing restoration projects, like the one I helped launch with ELI Africa and MOI, rely on donations or grant funding from entities like the United Nations. They also primarily use ocean-based coral gardens, which have several key limitations. They can only grow fast-growing coral species (missing out on critical diversity), can do little to enhance coral resiliency to major threats like climate change, are exposed to risks such as storms, boating accidents, or bleaching events, and must be established and maintained near each restoration site. Taken together, this model simply doesn’t scale ecologically or economically to counter the rapid acceleration of global reef degradation.

Coral Vita’s methods enable us to grow coral in months rather than decades, boost their survivability for changing ocean conditions, grow potentially millions of corals from each farm rather than thousands, and make the process cost-effective while being supported by a self-sustaining financial model.

How do you think this will change the world?

Coral reefs sustain 25% of marine life and the livelihoods of up to one billion people in nearly 100 countries and territories. Conservatively, they generate $30B through tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection and are the source of compounds found in many life-saving medicines. But we’ve lost half the world’s reefs since the 1970s, and are on track to lose over 90% in the next thirty years. Ecological tragedy aside, this could be a socio-economic catastrophe. The best thing to do for reefs is to stop killing them, and we need our political, business, and media leaders to step up to enact climate change, pollution, and overfishing solutions. Until they do, however, we need to rapidly scale up the pace and impact of reef restoration.

Coral Vita’s model is equipped to do just that. As noted earlier, we can grow more diverse and resilient coral than existing projects. Alongside this, we’re deploying a commercial model to grow the millions if not billions of corals needed to preserve reefs for the future. Assessing the tremendous value coral reefs provide, we have two main revenue streams to sustain large-scale restoration efforts (in comparison to the existing small-scale grant funding model).

Customers who depend on the tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection value of reefs can hire Coral Vita to restore the reefs they depend on. Hotels that rely on scuba or snorkel tourism, coastal real estate developers and insurers concerned about storm damage, governments with critical national interests in reef health, corporate sponsors or cruise lines… anyone with skin in the game that stands to lose out big time as reefs die can work with us.

And we’re also seeing an interesting trend growing in innovative conservation financing mechanisms that can further support these projects, such as blue bonds, debt-for-adaptation swaps, and reef insurance policies. For example, healthy reefs reduce wave energy an average of 97%. It’s the best natural seawall around, but as reefs die, that value is lost. That’s why Swiss Re is partnering with The Nature Conservancy, the government of Quintana Roo in Mexico and hotels in the region to develop a scheme where property owners who pay to protect and restore reefs can see their premiums drop. What they and all other customers are looking for are scalable solutions for their reefs, and this is a service Coral Vita provides.

The second revenue stream comes from direct eco-tourism. Because our coral farms are on-land, they’re highly accessible. As they grow coral for restoration, they also serve as interactive eco-tourism attractions. Guests can learn about what’s happening to reefs and various solutions through farm tours, which can include everything from witnessing coral farming in action to touch tanks to virtual reality sessions. Revenue generated from farm tours, our adopt-a-coral program, reef restoration SCUBA certification, and even planting corals with our team will further help support expanded restoration efforts.

Taken together, this model has the potential to unlock the funding streams required to support the large-scale restoration projects our ecosystems and society needs. Our approach also has one other key feature we believe can create a lasting impact. Coral Vita takes a community-based approach to our work. Ultimately, reef health matters most to the local people who depend on them for food, jobs, shelter, and their cultural heritage. By integrating communities into our work, we give them greater ownership over the process, helping ensure benefits are shared and the projects have a greater chance for success. Our farms will function as free education centers for students in the country, and we plan to hire locals to help grow and plant grow corals. We believe this model can be deployed in every country and territory with reefs around the world, helping to preserve them for future generations.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

The Law of Unintended Consequences underpins so much of our work. The first thing we consider is the species and genetic diversity of the coral we work with. We only use native corals for our projects, meaning corals that are found in the reefs we are restoring. So if we’re working in The Bahamas, there’ll only be Bahamian coral; restoring Mexican reefs with Mexican coral; Seychelles with the coral found in the Western Indian Ocean, and so on. In addition to identifying which species we’ll be using for restoration, we also remain cognizant of trying to promote genetic diversity as well. For example, corals of the same species may vary in terms of which genotypes they have to make them more thermally tolerant, disease resistant, etc. Considering such factors gives restoration a much better chance for success.

To enhance coral resiliency, we’re integrating a scientific field in the coral world known as assisted evolution. Pioneered by the late (and most certainly great) Dr. Ruth Gates, who was an advisor to us, this research is exploring a wide variety of ways to strengthen corals’ ability to withstand changing oceanic conditions. Coral does have a natural ability to adapt, but not within the rapid timescale driven largely by man-made climate change. Much of this research is still ongoing and requires more field testing — and we are cognizant of this fact. Even still, there is exciting progress being made which we can already incorporate, such as stress hardening.

Because Coral Vita has control over growing conditions in our land-based farms, we can alter parameters like temperature or acidity to reflect future projects. We can then harden corals in our system, for example gradually raising and then lowering the temperatures, giving them an ability to adjust to these altered conditions (kind of like taking them to the gym). This has already been shown to boost coral survivability, and they can even pass on these new heat-tolerant traits to their offspring in the wild. And since these again are coral already found in these reefs, we’re able to adhere to international biosecurity protocols and best practices.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

After I graduated college in 2012, I decided to take a gap year before starting my master’s program, which ultimately focused on the intersection of business and the environment. Initially exploring the host of environmentally-focused desk jobs in my hometown of Washington DC, I found out about a much cooler opportunity: moving to the other side of the world to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. My friend and former classmate Vedant Seeam had founded the non-profit ELI Africa a few years prior, which was providing free afterschool experiential education for at-risk kids. With a shared lifelong love for nature, Vedant asked me if I wanted to establish a new environmental branch for ELI. Doing what I loved on a tropical island for a year? Flights booked, bags packed, see you next year Mom and Dad!

While my work focused on a range of community-based projects (like environmental courses for our students or mangrove and terrestrial reforestation work), the highlight by far was our coral farming initiative. I’ve been a scuba diver since I was 13-years-old, and there’s no place I’d rather be than exploring Earth’s underwater worlds. Yet like many other ecosystems on our planet, coral reefs are dying. By the time I arrived in Mauritius in 2012, the coral cover had declined from on average 60% to less than 20%. Fishermen were being forced further and further afield to feed their families and pay the bills, while the tourism industry began to suffer as divers and snorkelers look for other locales with healthy and vibrant reefs. So when I heard about grant funding available from the United Nations Development Program for reef restoration in partnership with the Mauritius Oceanography Institute (MOI), my heart was set on helping bring local reefs back to life.

And it was amazing to see what successful coral farming can do for ocean health! At an existing MOI coral farm, I watched as fishermen returned to a once barren lagoon they had abandoned years before, setting up their traps a hundred yards away because there was so much more life. Through ELI’s project was small ($50k in funding to grow about 5,000 coral fragments over two years), we knew it could make a difference.

But while the ecological, community and economic impact of restoration was clear, something kept nagging me. With over 90% of reefs projected to die by 2050, the existing funding and deployment system for coral farming (grant/donation-funded, small-scale, limited coral diversity and resiliency) isn’t sufficient to meet the growing threat of global reef degradation. It’s a thought that I carried with me back to grad school, which is where I met my friend and co-founder Gator and where the idea to create Coral Vita was born.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

Coral Vita’s main focus right now is launching our pilot farm in Grand Bahama in partnership with the GBPA and DEVCO. We’ve got a number of customers, policymakers, investors, and communities eagerly waiting to see the success of our proof-of-concept so that they can bring our work to their countries. But we’ve got to make it happen first. The science we’re using has been proven out, but we’ve got to establish our own track record.

We’re so grateful for the incredible support we’ve gotten from many different places. Members of the public who’ve either shared our stories, started adopting corals and supporting the restoration, or joined our online communities; leading environmental groups like the Global Island Partnership and the United Nations Environment Program; and coral scientists from the Coral Restoration Consortium and Reef Resilience Network.

As we physically work on restoration projects and look to scale globally, we’re also hoping to leverage what we do to raise general awareness about global reef degradation. Discussing things like climate change, coral bleaching, and marine protected areas can be a lot for some folks to wrap their heads around. But the act of planting a coral is a simple (and fun) concept to engage people with. Not only is there a real opportunity for people to help give back, but it’s an amazing starting block to launch into a deeper conversation around why coral reefs matter, what’s happening to them, and what we can do to protect them. As I’ve said before, the best thing to do for coral reefs is to stop killing them. If we can help drive a global discourse around this issue as we do our restoration work, hopefully, it will further help protect reef health and lead to greater adoption of large-scale restoration solutions.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

1. Investors (and partners) are taking a bet on the entrepreneur often more than the idea. Why are you the person to make this idea work? And not just work, but thrive? To build the right team, recruit the best talent, and be tenacious and resilient enough to overcome all the obstacles that are gonna come your way? It’s easy to make the company or product’s pitch. But make sure to get people excited about you.

2. Raising funds can be like dating. The point of the first meeting with an investor is really to get them excited enough to follow-up with a second or third meeting. It’s rare to get a check after the first handshake. They also should know that you want each other, but that you’ve got other people interested and they shouldn’t miss their shot with you. You want to make sure they’re the right investor — don’t just take money from anyone who’s offering, because you’re gonna be in it with them for a long time. It’s also not always just about the money, as there’s often so much more a strategic investor can bring to the table.

3. Imagine worst-case scenarios so you can be (somewhat) prepared for what to do. Usually, they don’t happen. But you can save yourself a lot of anxiety and frustration if you consider all possible contingencies. We had an organization we were on the verge of partnering with for our pilot. It was all smiles and positivity as we prepared to set up shop there, right until the moment at the very last minute they pulled the rug out from underneath us. It could’ve really put us in a bad spot. But as good as that opportunity looked, we had cultivated relationships with other potential partners and were able to navigate through the situation to a good place.

4. Introduce who you are and what you do (concisely) when you have the chance to. I don’t mean do this at every chance you get. But in the right situation, when you have everyone’s attention like asking a question at a Q&A, you may as well use the moment to get people to learn about you. Especially if it’s at something like a networking event, and suddenly more people will be coming up to talk to you rather than you seeking out folks and hoping you land the right random handshake and not waste time. I was in grad school when Ted Turner’s daughter (who helped back my childhood icon Captain Planet) gave a talk about environmentalism. I started asking a question on the mic after her presentation, when she interrupted me and said, “sorry can you tell me who you are before your question?” My classmates and I laughed, and I said my name and that I was starting up a coral reef restoration company before proceeding to my question. Sure enough, she wanted to talk afterward (along with giving me some good-natured ribbing) because she now knew we shared a passion.

5. The Japanese principle of Kaizen. Back in 2016, Gator and I were in the Halcyon Incubator, an incredible program for social entrepreneurs based in Washington, DC. Every fellow was given a professional development coach, and I had the awesome pleasure of being teamed up with Wendy Luke. And it was Wendy who taught me about kaizen, which can be used as a means for continual self-improvement. There are different ways it can manifest itself or be applied, but for me, it was to take small steps to achieve big goals. For example, rather than setting an audacious target that you may not be disciplined enough to reach (e.g. run thirty miles per week and five hundred pushups), start by running five miles per week and doing one hundred pushups. And then slowly build up and hopefully surpass your goals. It’s a principle that be applied in business, for personal development, and much more.

The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?

Learn transferable skills. A person I met at an alumni event once told me how he had three jobs in his one career. But when he looks at my generation, he sees people with three to five careers in their future. Even if you’re a specialist, give yourself the opportunity to be good in different roles or sectors.

In that light, it helps to be personable along with being talented. I wish I could offer some sort’ve silver bullet answer on how to be better there (I’m always working on it myself). But if the robots are really coming for our jobs, it helps to be someone that not only is good at what they do but that people enjoy working with. If you can do that while being your genuine self, it ultimately can set you apart.

Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?

A tool or system to rapidly and effectively plant massive amounts of coral. Right now, it’s done primarily by-hand by scuba divers. We’re going to need a much better method to do large-scale restoration work globally. And that’s hopefully an area that something like the Saving Coral Reefs XPRIZE will help spur innovation in.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

The overarching one is something my parents raised me and my brother Seth on: the Jewish concept of Tikkun ha’Olam, or Repair of the World. If I have an ability or opportunity to fix problems or improve the status quo, it’s something I believe I should do.

I’m a big history nerd, and unsurprisingly I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from Abraham Lincoln. Of his many attributes and lessons, some of the big ones that stand out are the value in building good teams, how timing is just as important as how the idea is itself, and that success often requires digging a deep well of personal resilience. I’m actually in the middle of reading the book “Leadership” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which explores how the lives of Lincoln, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, and LBJ shaped who they were and how they led. I definitely recommend it.

Ask for help when you need it.

And to quote Oscar Wilde, everything in moderation, including moderation.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Entrepreneurship is often described as having prolonged periods of solitude. This is why I firmly believe in taking time to build a community, creating a balance between doing good work and enjoying my life, and asking for help. The community part is really key. So many of Coral Vita’s successes have come from friends and networks we’ve developed along the way. Whether it’s the people in the community you’re working to help or fellow entrepreneurs who can offer you advice and pick-me-ups when you’re in a prolonged rough patch, reach out to folks. Don’t wall yourself off because you feel it will be a distraction. You’re much more likely to succeed (professionally and personally) if you have a group of people you can rely on, for the laughs, for sage wisdom, or for the needed ass-kicking.

Along those lines of asking for help, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Especially when it comes to bigger names who you think can help you fulfill your mission. It could be an investor, scientist, influencer, or thought leader. But if you’ve got a compelling (and concise) way of introducing yourself and what you’re asking for, send it their way. The worst that usually can happen is they say no, which is effectively the same answer as never asking. So why not go for it? As Wayne Gretzky said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Send them an email, grab the mic and ask a question, walk up to them at the event while they’re standing around. I once met a future investor when she legitimately offered to buy the coral reef tie I was wearing when she met me — I told her it could be for sale if she invested in our company, which led her to asking what Coral Vita was all about. Step up and swing.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Coral reefs are one of the most important, valuable, and incredible ecosystems on the planet. They support up to one billion people while conservatively generating $30B annually through tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection. But we’ve already lost half the world’s reefs, and we’re on track to lose over 90% by 2050. If they die, countries, industries, communities, and wildlife will suffer.

Coral Vita grows coral up to 50x faster while strengthening their resiliency to climate change. By selling restoration services to reef-dependent customers, we are transitioning the space from small-scale grant-funded projects to financially sustainable large-scale restoration efforts needed to prevent global reef collapse. We are the world’s first commercial land-based coral farming company, and are building a global network of farms to protect reefs in every country and territory that has them. By supporting Coral Vita, you can help preserve the life and benefits coral reefs provide for future generations. We hope you’ll plant corals with us one one day soon.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can sign up for our newsletter at, keep up with us on Instagram and Twitter on the handle @CoralVitaReefs, and join our Facebook page at!

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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