We sat down with our CTO Matthias Feist to hear more about his background in the music and advertising industry, how he eventually discovered the world of software development and continued his career at Klarna and Spotify before joining FoodFacts in 2023.
Hi Matthias - Tell us a bit about yourself, and your background.
I grew up in Germany and my first job straight out of university was at an advertising agency. It was a great experience but I ultimately discovered that I'm much more passionate about writing software that helps solve problems at scale. In my opinion, that's the most enticing thing about software. Once you figure out a problem and can solve it with code, you can pretty much scale it infinitely and solve that problem for a large number of people.
“I'm much more passionate about writing software that helps solve problems at scale”
After this career shift, I started at a start-up in Munich and collected some experience in the e-commerce business before uprooting my life and moving to Sweden to start at Klarna. There I also worked as a Software Engineer before transitioning to Management. It was a fun place to work with a lot of bright people but after 5.5 years, I felt it was time to explore something new and switched to Spotify where I worked for another 2.5 years before I decided that I had seen enough of the "big-tech" world. Luckily, I saw the job ad for the CTO position at FoodFacts, I applied and joined in the summer of 2023.
What made you join FoodFacts?
I learned early in my career that, as a company, "if you can’t measure it you can’t improve it". When I saw the job ad for FoodFacts and read up on their mission and technology, I knew that this was something where I could really have an impact to support the transformation of an entire industry.
During the past 8 years, I have become more and more environmentally conscious. Kudos to my girlfriend who is pushing for it. I’ve tried to minimize my carbon footprint and while it's relatively easy for me to get an understanding of my impact when it comes to travelling by train (since the Swedish Railway even sends out emails with how much CO2 you saved), understanding the impact of my choices in the supermarket is a lot harder.
I was then, and am now even more, impressed by the tech that FoodFacts has developed to assess the CO2 impact of a food product for pretty much all products sold in Sweden. We also have a contract with Coop to manage their "Hållbarhetsdeklaration" which I find really rewarding to work with. I come to work every day to work with fun and smart people and I feel that my effort truly can make a difference.
What are some of your current reflections about the food industry and the challenges that need to be tackled?
The food industry is a complex web of a lot of suppliers and sub-suppliers with different products, specializations, abilities and incentives. Therefore it's relatively hard for a newcomer to break into this industry. Every change in a complex value chain takes time, a detailed understanding of the problems of all parties involved and patience.
For me, coming from the tech industry, it is also surprising how inconsistent the level of digitalization is across companies in the industry. But the people I speak to are super motivated, enthusiastic about our offering and willing to make a change for their business and their customers. So I am very optimistic that we are in a great position to tackle the transformation that's needed as a partner for everyone in the industry.
Do you need CO2 estimates for your products but don't have the budget or time for a full life cycle analysis? Trying to set scope 3 targets for your full food portfolio? Our new CO2 calculator gives you an instant estimate of the carbon footprint of all your products without complex integration. We now offer you the chance to get the CO2 estimate of up to five products. You can also request data on your products' Nutri-Score and NOVA groups. You can get your customized analysis, completely for free here.