Startups Venture

Last Week In Venture: Genetic Synths, Distributed Social, And Spreadable Coffee

Hello and welcome back to Last Week In Venture, Crunchbase News’s weekly rundown of deals which may have flown under your radar.

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There are plenty of companies operating outside the unicorn and public company spotlight, but their stories are worth sharing too. In them we find current trends and get a peek at our potential futures.

Without further ado, let’s get to it.

Molecular Assemblies

DNA holds the genetic code that makes us, well, us. Uncoiled from tightly-wound chromosomes, the DNA in all the cells of your body, if laid end-to-end, would be about twice the diameter of the solar system. The DNA of every human on earth would stretch to the Andromeda Galaxy, twice over at least. Just thinking about the roughly six feet of DNA coiled up in each one of our cells is enough to boggle the mind.

Headquartered in San Diego, Molecular Assemblies is a company in the business of synthesizing DNA using an enzymatic process developed by co-founders Dr. Bill Efcavitch and Curt Becker, who’ve been in the genetic materials sector for decades. The two researchers previously developed the first commercially-available DNA synthesizer and reagent system at Applied Biosciences, over 30 years ago.

This week, the company raised $12.2 million in Series A funding led by iSelect Fund. Keshif Ventures, Alexandria Venture Investments, and Agilent Technologies participated in the deal.

Apart from fairly predictable uses in life sciences and industrial applications, high-quality custom DNA synthesis has other possibilities. In 2018, Molecular Assemblies was the first company to encode, store, and retrieve data from synthesized DNA. “In this new age of big data, we are quickly producing more digital information than we can efficiently store. We believe our technology may revolutionize and empower DNA data storage, which is essentially a limitless vault in a near sizeless space,” said company president and CEO Michael J. Kamdar at the time.

Planetary Social

Long before Facebook clear-cut the market and became king of the hill, there was a veritable forest of social networking startups, each with their own niche. Such was the preponderance of these ventures that when a new one sprung up, it was just tossed on the metaphorical pile, dismissed as “yet another social networking service,” or YASNS for short. (If you’d like a waltz down memory lane, check out Danah Boyd’s massive bibliography of SNS references, last updated in 2009.) These days though, the market is dominated by a handful of giant platforms, each with their own problems.

There isn’t much that’s yet been disclosed by Planetary, a Portland-based startup building “a humane decentralized social network,” according to the company’s Crunchbase profile. “Social media is the public sphere and it needs to be owned and controlled by the people who create it,” it also says.

Planetary is co-founded by multi-time digital product creator Tom Coates and Evan “Rabble” Henshaw-Plath, the first employee at a little podcast directory service called Odeo, which later released a SMS-based messaging service called TWTTR, which eventually morphed into the Twitter we love to hate today.

The company disclosed that it raised $1.1 million in pre-seed financing led by Bloomberg Beta. Upside Partnership, Fuel Capital, Kilowatt Capital, and ConsenSys participated in the round. According to Crunchbase data, OAuth creator and early Twitter colleague Blaine Cook also invested in Planetary.

Though the deal was closed earlier this year, according to SEC filings by Planetary’s parent company, it wasn’t disclosed until this week. The company intends to seek seed capital this fall.


Caffeine. It’s the world’s most popular drug, and the greatest addiction ever. In most countries, coffee is the principal means of caffeine delivery. It’s sipped, swigged, and slurped, but is it spread? Not until now. Headquartered in Miami, FL, the Whole Coffee Company is the venture behind Nudge, a jarred, spreadable version of coffee made from whole beans.

The coffee butters, which come in three varieties, contain about 40 milligrams of caffeine and 20 whole coffee beans per serving, and they do not contain nuts or chocolate. This week, The Whole Coffee Company raised $11 million in financing from Tampa-based ProspEquity Partners. CEO David Burke told supermarket industry publication The Shelby Report that “Nudge is poised to shake up the $3 billion U.S. nut-butter food category, which has seen little innovation or growth.”

Image Credits: Last Week In Venture graphic created by JD Battles. Photo by Nina Z, via Unsplash.

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