Meet Our Newest Team Members

TerViva is growing fast and our team is the engine for our success. Meet three of our newest hires helping to create the world’s most scalable, cost-effective and environmentally friendly source of protein and oil there is.

Henok Belayneh, PhD, Manager, Processing & Markets

Henok joins TerViva after working at the publicly traded Fortune 500 packaged foods company ConAgra, which sells popular products under various brand names such as Chef Boyardee, Hebrew National, Wesson Canola Oil, and Gulden’s. At ConAgra, Henok conducted research and development and was responsible for protein and fat-based ingredients and products. Before that, Henok spent two years working for America’s largest national brand of olive oil, Pompeian Olive Oil.

“My PhD was directly related to the work TerViva is doing with pongamia,” says Henok, who earned his doctorate at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. “It focused on studying the nutritional benefit of seed oil using differing processing techniques to extract and purify oil, and then testing by-products of oil for supplements, exploring alternative uses to make it marketable, optimizing pressing techniques, studying different food applications, and recovering bio-active ingredients.”

Henok is an expert on the nutritional benefits of seed oil, proteins and other bioactives, and on different processing techniques. Growing up in Ethiopia, Henok can recall the days he spent watching his cousin pressing sesame seeds and then sharing the oil with family and friends for cooking and other commercial purposes.

“I was so interested personally and professionally that I felt a need to put my expertise to TerViva’s mission of coming up with solutions for the world’s food and energy security,” says Henok.

Selena Whibs Howes, Executive Management

Based in Oakland, Selena is a skilled cross functional organizer who joins TerViva after working for more than a decade in corporate operations, including for two likeminded startups. Selena is highly-experienced in executive support, logistics, and strategic partnerships, in addition to her being a licensed real estate advisor in the state of California.

After earning her Bachelor of Arts in Photography, Art History, and Graphic Design from the University of Colorado, Selena went on to work in corporate operations for two large brokerages and later in sustainable real estate services.

At TerViva, Selena ensures the executive team continues to innovate Pongamia and progress market opportunities. In her free time, she serves as chairperson for a nonprofit that works with underserved youth and can be found with her husband and dog at one of the many outdoor patios in the Bay Area.

“As more and more of my friends have children, one of the things of increasing concern to me is resources. How is this next generation going to manage and maintain our planet for future generations?” asks Selena. “I am attracted to the mission of creating a sustainable protein and to a company addressing these issues rather than pretending it is not going to happen. This is exactly what I want to be doing.”

Julius Laurel, Manager, Information Technology

Before joining TerViva, Julius spent more than 15 years managing information technology systems for some of the world’s leading financial institutions – a job that requires high-attention to detail when it comes to digital vulnerabilities. But working at companies like BlackRock, AllianceBernstein and Vista Equity meant managing legacy IT systems.

“I have the opportunity to build an IT infrastructure from the ground up and that is very exciting,” says Julius. “I am also very interested and proud to work for a company that is innovating when it comes to sustainability.”

Julius’ technical knowledge and experience in quality assurance will be an asset as TerViva continues to expand operations and markets. He began his professional IT career in San Antonio after graduating from Saint Mary’s University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Information Systems Management in 2003. Julius moved to San Francisco in 2007 to support AllianceBernstein’s West Coast IT operations and enjoys living in the Bay Area.


Our team members make our organization leaders in innovation and sustainability. Welcome Henok, Selena and Julius!

Learn more about career opportunities at TerViva here:

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