TEDxManhattan Heroes: Shen Tong

Photograph by Christophe Agou

Leading up to TEDxManhattan 2015, we've asked this year's speakers to introduce themselves by answering a few questions. Shen Tong is the founder and partner of Food-X, an international business accelerator program focused on launching food-related ventures. An organizer of the democracy movement that occupied Tiananmen Square, Shen was named one of Newsweek's People of the Year in 1989. Following his exile to the US, Shen pursued PhDs and became an entrepreneur, founding multiple ventures over the past two decades.

What’s the topic you’ll be speaking about?

I’ll be discussing how to feed a food movement by equipping disruptive food innovators and entrepreneurs with the skills and funding needed to create lasting change in our food supply.

Why is this important?

Systemic changes are needed to disrupt the current horrific state of industrial farming and food system. Food needs to be efficient and enjoyable again. We can facilitate this by giving consumers access to better alternatives so that they can voice their vote, and create a market shift with every dollar they spend.

Systemic changes are needed to disrupt the current horrific state of industrial farming and food system. Food needs to be efficient and enjoyable again.

What exactly is a business accelerator and why do we need them in food?

True to their name, accelerators accelerate a company’s ability to viably go to market and scale their businesses. FOOD-X is a mission-driven accelerator backed by an Evergreen fund, which allows us to measure our success using long-term, social-impact benchmarks like improved access to healthy foods and behavior change. This also gives us the edge to make long-term, deep-pocket, multi-stage commitments with companies from the ground up. We envision having an investment ecosystem that includes over 300 companies.


What are you currently passionate about, or what is exciting, at FOOD-X?

SO many great things are happening in food right now. How much time do I have? :) Here are just a few of the things that come to mind:

  • The growth trajectory of super CSAs
  • Popularity of healthy and super food smoothies
  • Specialized food apps
  • Shift of foodie cultural to a mainstream mentality
  • Nutrient-dense food and snacks
  • Tasty and healthy meal alternatives in various verticals: athletes, hospitals, armed services, low-income, specialized diets…
  • And each of the innovative food startups I get to work with everyday

Are there other projects you’re also passionate about right now – either yours or someone else’s?

There are so many passionate people stepping into the food arena. I love Danielle Nierenberg’s work at Food Tank and am mind blown by what Dan Barber’s creating with Stone Barns.

How do you think we will change the food system?

By making the current industrial food system obsolete.

Which other 2015 TEDxManhattan speakers are you excited about hearing?

The lineup this year is great so it’s tough to choose, but I look forward to hearing from Joel Berg and his role in focusing the public's attention to hunger in the America and emphasizing importance of policy for change in food. I also love hearing Danielle Nierenberg speak.

Which past speakers did you find particularly inspiring?

Dan Barber, for inspiring people to rethink their plate and sparking a conversation about the state of farming in this country.

Where can more information about your work/business be found?

We’re on a hunt for the best and brightest minds in food, and have an open call for applications. We're accepting mission-driven, food businesses hungry to help us scale lasting change throughout our food system.

Interested companies can visit food-x.com for more information and to find an application link. They can contact [email protected] with questions.

TEDxManhattan, "Changing the Way We Eat," will take place March 7, 2015, at the TimesCenter in New York City. Interested in joining the day? You can apply to attend, or host or attend a viewing party.