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‘Breaking barriers is a team sport’ – Lia Carlucci [Interview]

Article-‘Breaking barriers is a team sport’ – Lia Carlucci [Interview]

© Fi Global Insights Women in Food Interview with Lia Carlucci
Lia Carlucci describes herself as a scientist turned entrepreneur turned food and climate investor.

She studied medicine at the University of Hamburg before doing a Bachelor of Science in nutrition sciences and biochemistry and an MBA from the Quantic School of Business and Technology.

She is a partner at climate tech venture capital fund Marvelous and is a mentor and jury member at the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), an EU-funded startup and innovation ecosystem that works to address the biggest issues in the food system.

You are involved in so many exciting projects: the investment firm Marvelous, the food innovation center FoodCampus and your recently launched insights newsletter VITAMIN C. How did your career path lead to where you are?

“My journey began in medical school in Germany, where I was struck by a startling fact: over 80% of human diseases are related to food and nutrition - topics barely touched upon in the medical curriculum. This realisation was a turning point for me.

“Leaving medical school, I dove into biochemistry and nutrition. That's where I discovered the profound impact of food not just on personal health but on our planet.

“Key pitstops on my journey so far include building a D2C health company and co-founding Germany’s leading think tank for the future of nutrition, network of 30,000 experts. At Jägermeister, I led food tech investments and contributed to the company’s transition from a herbal spirit brand to a “Best Nights of Your Life' company.

“My passion for educating the next generation about sustainable food led me to write a children's book on the topic, with a companion book for adults currently in the works. [There were also] many caffeine-fueled late nights and early mornings!”

VITAMIN C is a newsletter-first company for changemakers in food and climate. Why did you start a newsletter?

“Our world is cluttered with noise and information on food and climate. Too much of it is as nourishing as junk food. I saw a need for something different: a source of pure, concentrated insights. Thus, VITAMIN C was born.

“Think of this newsletter as the espresso shot of food and climate intel. I want to serve up the good stuff, no fluff, only concise insights that fuel action and drive real change. Over 500 high level entrepreneurs, investors, and food professionals pre-signed up and every week I’m gaining hundreds of new subscribers from top companies.

“VITAMIN C is about more than just numbers. It's about aligning with folks who share my vision, and yes, if that means getting some support through sponsorships that fit my ethos, all the better.

“The real goal? To spark change. If even one person takes something from VITAMIN C and starts taking action, then I’m winning. That's the kind of ripple effect I'm betting on.”

To what extent does your work impact the global food industry and empower women in the space?

“Women have been the backbone of the food industry forever. Yet, when we talk VC [venture capital] funding, they're practically invisible. We're talking only 2% of global VC funds going to female founders, and Europe is even worse at 1.1%.

“That's not just unfair, it's bad business. Studies, like one from BCG, show that diversity isn't just nice to have; it's profitable, boosting revenues by 20%. As an angel investor as well as by supporting the Marvelous fund, I'm committed to empowering female founders making waves in the sustainable food scene.

“And with VITAMIN C, I’m championing change-makers of all stripes. However, as a woman, I will of course be in favour of female empowerment, leveraging my platform to highlight and support women's achievements in this space.”

What are your experiences of being a serial female entrepreneur in the foodtech sector? Did you face any challenges and, if so, how did you overcome them?

“Navigating the foodtech sector as a female entrepreneur was a wild ride. One memory I vividly recall [was] a potential investor told me: ‘You are pretty; it’s going to be easy for you to raise capital.’

“This comment was not only unprofessional but also revealed the deep-seated stereotypes that still exist in the business world today. In that moment, I was stunned silent at first.

“However, years later that experience became a catalyst for me to advocate for more female representation in investment committees. It motivated me to support fellow female entrepreneurs, sharing resources and strategies. We're lifting each other up, because guess what? Breaking barriers is a team sport.”

You have extensive experience as a mentor and advisor in various fields. How can women actively approach potential mentors and build meaningful relationships that can foster their professional growth?

“Securing a mentor doesn't have to be daunting. Here is how I would go about it without making it awkward. First, find an interesting project and stand out by working on distinctive projects. This attracts attention from potential mentors interested in your initiative.

“Secondly, seek insights, not a title. Instead of asking someone to be your mentor, request their opinion on a specific issue. Keep the conversation brief and straightforward, making it easy for them to offer advice without a heavy commitment.

“Thirdly, follow-up is key. Always update them on the outcomes of their advice and your next steps. This shows appreciation and keeps the dialogue open. After a few exchanges, you'll naturally develop a mentor-mentee relationship without calling it that way.

“Remember that value is exchanged in both directions. Your ‘mentors’ are getting something from it as well, even if it's just inspiration from your story.”

What is your vision for the future of the food industry, and how do you see women playing a pivotal role in shaping it?

“Looking ahead, my vision is to shape a future where food is not just a source of nutrition but a catalyst for health, sustainability, and innovation.

“And I want to see an industry that is as rich in diversity in power positions as it is in flavours, where women's impact is not just recognised—it's a given. That's the kind of inclusive, thriving food system that we need to be resilient enough to face real economic, environmental and societal challenges.”