Nick Cooney

Optimize your efficiency by prioritizing what has the best long-term strategic value.


Nick Cooney is the co-founder and a managing partner for Lever VC, a venture capital fund with a focus on alternative protein and clean meat investments. This is his second fund in the space. In the last few years his previous fund, New Crop Capital, found great success with investment in companies like Beyond Meats. Nick has found a niche in the investment market that has an increasing growth potential due to the expanding knowledge of the general public.

Nick is also a co-founder for The Good Food Institute, the world’s largest nonprofit in the alternative protein space. Through education and investments, he has helped bring the benefits of clean eating and alternative sources to areas in need around the world. Nick has been working in this specialty since he began eating the foods himself almost twenty years ago.

Where did the idea for Lever VC come from?

Archimedes once said, “Give me a place to stand, and a lever long enough, and I shall move the world.” The company name came from that idea, that with the right approach, we can change the world. We want to be a part of something that is healthier for everyone.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I do a lot of traveling, up to a third of my time is spent elsewhere. I go to China most frequently. When I’m gone, my day is spent meeting with the companies that we are looking into investing with, or meeting with potential investors. When I am home, I usually start my day by around 7 am. The day is a mix of online work like emails and research, working on projects, and moving things forward by evaluating new companies and market trends. I speak with investors throughout the day. My day typically ends at about 6 pm, but then often must jump back into work around 9 pm since many of the people I am working with are in Asia.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I take things step-by-step. You have to take the small victories that build momentum and lead to more victories. I push myself to try to be as efficient in my use of time and resources as possible, though it’s always a challenge that once can get better at.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The increased interest in plant-based protein and the move toward alternative clean foods is a great trend. It’s obviously great for us as a company since that is our focus in investments, but that isn’t the only reason it excites us. The clean food and alternative protein movement are better for the environment, and it’s better for people. This is a way to meet the protein needs all over the world, including in developing countries where there isn’t always access to traditional protein sources. It’s a positive trend all the way around and can have such a huge impact on so many different things.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

One thing is consistently trying to optimize my efficiency by prioritizing what has the best long-term strategic value. Another thing I do often is continually think about the best next steps, even when I am not working. I will be at the gym or walking and still be considering the options for a deal that we are working on that I want to move forward.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I think I would tell myself to do what I am doing now, but starting younger. I would want to encourage myself to realize how to maximize the use of my time. I would tell myself to always be working to figure out how I could be doing things better than I am now.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Many opinions we have and decisions that we make are based on very little actual knowledge and consideration. We are almost always using gut assumptions and mental shortcuts in coming to those opinions and decisions.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I am always asking myself if what am I doing in that moment is the best thing that I could be doing and if it is the most efficient way to get the results that I want to get. It is all about making sure that you are effective with your time.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

As a fund, it is important that we make people aware that we exist. There is a lot of interest in alternative protein right now and we are in the process of getting our name out there. We have had good traction with deals we’ve done so far and some deals myself and my partner did in the past that have turned out very well, and that has helped us gain attention from investors. For Lever VC we just must continue to make sure our name is at the forefront of this space.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

There have been some choices I made and things I spent time on that I thought were going to have more value but didn’t work out as expected. That time could have been spent elsewhere on something that would have benefited us more. Of course, you try to learn from those choices and adjusted where needed.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Earlier this week, I read an article about a new venture fund that focuses on the ‘vice’ industries, which includes things like the tobacco, alcohol, and sex industries. I think the sex industry is an area that has a great growth potential. Smart businesses and smart investments in that space could do very well and help destigmatize things related to sex, which I feel is needed in most countries.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

This past weekend, my wife and I went to the Jersey Shore and got to enjoy a really beautiful day at the beach. The hotel room was right about that much. Having a little down time and much-needed relaxation was definitely worth it.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

There is a website called RocketReach that is useful for finding contacts, I use it frequently.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

One book would be Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It is the history of humanity as a species and just a great read. It gives a great perspective of where we have been as a species and where we are going.

What is your favorite quote?

“Our comforting conviction that the world makes sense rests on a secure foundation: our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance.”
― Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

Key Learnings:

● Research thoroughly
● Be efficient
● Take time for yourself
● Educate others