Ben Pasternak: “SIMULATE is a nutrition company with a software framework”

The founder behind the "Tesla of chicken nuggets" tells us how his startup operates like a tech company, whether he owns any $TSLA and a billion-dollar biz idea.


August 23, 2020

SIMULATE is the nutrition tech company behind the popular NUGGS product — aka the “Tesla of chicken nuggets” made with plant-based protein.

With $11m in funding, the startup has been able to stand-out from the faux meat crowd with a popular product and a really strong meme game including release notes (like software updates) and a hilarious pricing page (see below).

Most recently, SIMULATE did a “drop” of Spicy NUGGS 😂.

It sold out 1K boxes in 16 minutes and led to a hilarious Instagram exchange with supermodel Bella Hadid, who is a huge fan of the product.

As with Hadid, the NUGGS social team had some fun with The Hustle: I did a NUGGS vs. Wendy’s vs. McDonalds nuggets taste test.

I also spoke with SIMULATE’s CEO Ben Pasternak to answer some pressing questions.

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How is SIMULATE like a software company?

I think of us as a nutrition company that operates with a software framework. This leads to two outcomes 1) we are always iterating; 2) we optimize for scalability, which is important because we need billions of people to consume our product for it to have a meaningful impact.

Also, we’ve built internal testing tools and may look at expanding that technology. Think Github for nutrition. 

What comes after nuggets?

We picked chicken nuggets first because it’s already a highly processed product and a not very polarizing. It’s hard to get angry at a nugget.

We are working on a hot-dog product called DOGGS. From there, we will go beyond processed foods and start simulating more fibrous and muscle-like meats, like chicken tenders.

SIMULATE products: NUGGS, Spicy NUGGS, DOGGS (Ben Pasternak)

What do you think of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods?

Meat simulation companies are equivalent to social networking companies in the 2000s. BEYOND and IMPOSSIBLE are like MySpace or Friendster, paving the way for companies like Facebook and Twitter.

In that context, NUGGS is the Snapchat of plant-based meats. We found that telling people to end their lifelong habit of eating animal-based meat is polarizing, so we wanted to create a brand that was more fun and didn’t take itself too seriously. 

NUGGS is hard to be angry at, because it’s a chicken nugget.

What other corporations do the meme game well?

I (maybe surprisingly) don’t follow many meme-based accounts, but have really admired the work other companies have done on social.

For example, I really like what GoPro has done with its YouTube account, showing the content of people using their product. Other examples would be Glossier’s Instagram and obviously a streetwear company like Supreme.

I also really like Elon’s Twitter account – I feel like it’s a unique extension of Tesla itself and enjoy how he amplifies the Tesla community.  

Do you own any $TSLA?

None right now, I put all my capital into SIMULATE. I actually was inside a Tesla for the first time ever only 3 weeks ago. Elon is nice and I admire what he’s built.

How many nuggets have you personally eaten? 

We are constantly iterating on NUGGS and taking in user feedback. Since the beginning, there have been thousands of iterations of the product. I’ve personally eaten thousands of nuggets throughout the process.

And the product keeps getting better: version 1.6 and version 2.0 are completely different.

The SIMULATE team tasting the fruits of their labor (Ben Pasternak)

Do you have a request for a startup?

It’s hard for me to fully dip NUGGS in sauce. I often find myself only getting half of the NUGG in there before I have to take a bite, then I’m left with a half-eaten NUGG and don’t want to double dip… it’s a nightmare.

I would love an object that allows me to fully submerge your NUGG in sauce for optimal spread and eating enjoyment.

Feel like that’s a billion dollar opportunity there.

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