After a year marked by lots and lots of downs, Soylent co-founder Rob Rhinehart says it’s time for him to step aside as CEO. In a blog post yesterday, he writes that he’s resigning his position “effective immediately.” He explains that while “still quite young,” his baby has now morphed into a “booming” meal-replacement-goop business. (He’s not wrong.) His noting their sudden success could be read as an excuse for why Soylent’s had so many recent problems, but either way, he explains that he’s “decided to pass the reins to a new CEO with more management and industry experience.” That person is Bryan Crowley, Rhinehart’s second-in-command who joined after decades at conventional packaged-foods businesses like KeVita, the kombucha-maker that Pepsi bought a year ago.
Just like with Steve Ells’s departure from Chipotle, Rhinehart will stick around as Soylent’s executive chairman, a gig where he can help Crowley put the “three-year roadmap” they’ve created in place. While effectively everything about this start-up seems ready-made for Silicon Valley’s Erlich Bachman — open-source food for biohacking your diet, a name inspired by a postapocalyptic horror film about cannibalism, Rhinehart’s long rants about the evils of alternating current — Soylent has managed to achieve surprising popularity. (Its new flavored bottles appeared on 7-Eleven store shelves in July.)
But presumably, Rhinehart’s realization that Soylent might do better if run by “more skilled and experienced scientists, managers, and executives” was hastened by the recent setbacks. In late 2016, they had to recall Soylent Food Bars after customers started getting “violently ill.” Then came the problems with Soylent Powder — which got recalled not once, but twice. And just this past October, Canada’s food-safety agency said that Soylent didn’t meet the definition of a “meal replacement,” forcing them to stop sales there until they can find a way to “resolve the categorization issue.”