My dream dinner guest would be: W. E. B. Du Bois My favorite country is: Senegal
A mission to feed 8 billion people better
EMBRACING THE WEIGHT OF RESPONSIBILITY. When Riana Lynn reflects on her entrepreneurial journey so far, she is proud to have already exceeded the milestones she established three, five, and seven years ago. "Being a public entrepreneur and a black queer entrepreneur can feel very heavy. It's a roller coaster of emotions, impostor syndrome, and challenges that you go through alone - until you find that person or group of people who can show up with you and make you feel seen."
Riana found her tribe at college, halfway through her sophomore year, in a collective of scientist entrepreneurs, "or neo-scientists, as I call them today." She credits Dr. Rick Kittles, founder of africanancestry.com, as a critical impactor in her trajectory for his intrapreneurial approach to scientific research. By working with him and top geneticists worldwide, building lab websites, she believed she could make more impact on the planet than being a doctor.
Before that, Riana was a "dorm room web developer," helping to build websites while studying biology. Unknowingly at the time, it was the start of her career as a serial entrepreneur. While at grad school, she launched a chain of fresh juice bars that scaled past $1m in its first year. Afterward, she worked at the White House during Obama's administration before being an entrepreneur in residence at Google. "I consider myself a neo-scientist and true tech entrepreneur. Beyond science, I'm familiar with different coding languages and programs – I'm grateful to be able to switch both of those brains on."
Riana's latest startup, Journey Foods, draws on all her experience for her most ambitious enterprise yet. The company, launched in 2019, is building technology to solve food science and supply chain inefficiencies. They predominantly focus on packaged processed foods, collecting data for multinational CPG companies and fast-growing startups to improve the nutrition of everything from granola bars and plant-based burgers to frozen waffles.
CREATING BETTER PRODUCTS. There are also sustainability considerations; greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, GMOs, and fair trade are factored in and paired against profit margins and cost predictions for those alternative recipes. "Instead of wasting time in a lab or marketing room trying to predict if something is going to work, we look at both supply and costs at the same time as the recipe formulation. The aim is to save companies time in getting us better products to our grocery stores."
Riana credits growing up in Evanston in Illinois, Chicago – "a place with incredible exposure to the arts, success, creativity, and innovation" – for arming her with the drive and inspiration to successfully navigate the startup world. She firmly believes that "exposure is life's greatest professor. If it weren't for flying to certain cities, cold emailing people, running through the streets of Manhattan to be in the room with inspiring leaders, to sit and speak on panels for free, I most definitely would not be where I am today."
With Journey Foods at the forefront of food innovation, Riana is committed to helping feed the eight billion people on the planet better. "My proudest thing has been to be a black queer woman in manufacturing and supply chain because I still get asked to this day, 'how did you get into this?' I am very inspired by the fact that I get to show up and work in spaces and represent but also inspire the next generation of b2b, queer, and black founders. That, for me, is just so exciting."