“I wanted to work in an environment where I have more control, more decision-making power, and I can see the impact I can make."

My favorite quote is: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” My favorite food is: All pan-Asian food

Yudi Ding

Using science to build a new fashion economy

DEVELOPING TRANSFORMATIVE TECHNOLOGY. Yudi Ding is using his scientific expertise to help secure the planet's future health. With the fashion industry being one of the world's largest polluters and under increasing pressure to come up with sustainable solutions, Yudi has developed a high-quality and environmentally friendly leather alternative with his company, Hide Biotech.

Yudi, CEO of Hide Biotech, co-founded the business in 2019 after creating a material that replicates the authentic feel of leather while significantly reducing the water consumption, carbon footprint, and overall waste generated compared to the current manufacturing process.

Yudi's innovative product is the result of an illustrious academic career in chemistry that spans almost a decade. It began at Fudan University in Shanghai, where he studied Natural Sciences, before being selected by the French Embassy in China to study Chemical Engineering at l’École Polytechnique in Paris in 2014. In 2019, he completed his PhD in Organic Chemistry at the University of Cambridge.

Yudi admits he is a founder by chance, the result of enrolling in an entrepreneurship program while figuring out what career path to take during the final year of his PhD. "As a chemistry student, I had no business knowledge at all, so it was a new world for me. I think I became more enthusiastic about doing that program than the PhD, which is when I knew entrepreneurship was something I should explore. That's when the idea for an alternative leather came into my mind."

Previously, Yudi explored working for established firms with internships at Janssen Pharmaceuticals and L'Oreal. "Because it was a new environment, I initially enjoyed it, but being in a corporate environment didn't excite me because you can only make a small impact. I realized I wanted to work in an environment where I have more control over what I'm doing, more decision-making power, and I can see the impact I can make."

A NEW LEARNING CURVE. With the support of his supervisor Professor Chris Hunter, Yudi completed his PhD before building out Hide Biotech in early 2020. With the COVID lockdowns forcing labs to close, creating a prototype of the product and demonstrating its scalability became a much more challenging task than anticipated. "Thankfully, we received a lot of support from Cambridge University and the local community, and it started to take off."

Being a first-time founder, Yudi credits his mentor Professor Steven Ley, a founder and respected figure in Chemistry at Cambridge University, for pushing him to pursue Hide Biotech and sharpening his entrepreneurial instincts. "I quickly discovered it's easy to be pulled in different directions by investors. He helped so much in building self-confidence, learning how to say no, and having that clarity to only work with people who understand the value of what we're doing."

The shift from academia to entrepreneurship has transformed Yudi's outlook on his life and identity. He admits that during his studies, he always sought validation from his peers, "something I think partly came from multiple minority stress, i.e. being a queer Asian immigrant, but my confidence has grown a lot on this entrepreneurship journey.

"I've realized being a gay founder means constantly having to come out because you're always meeting new people. I'll admit I'm not always comfortable with it, but participating in LGBTQIA+-friendly events made me realize I'm not alone in that feeling. Launching a startup can be mentally challenging and exhausting, but I believe if you surround yourself with a supportive network and become comfortable with your identity, the opportunities will come to you."

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Presented with Pride Here is the first collection of one hundred incredible and inspiring LGBTQIA+ venture-backed entrepreneurs featured in this year's Gaingels 100.