Startups Venture

Last Week In Venture: Seaweed Shrimp, Printed Steaks, And A Footrace Marketplace

Hello and welcome back to Last Week In Venture, the weekly roundup of deals that may have flown under your radar.

There are a lot of companies operating outside the unicorn and public company spotlight, but that doesn’t mean their milestones aren’t worth sharing. In these deals there are trends to spot, giving us a peek into the present and future of the new tech landscape.

So, without further ado, let’s jump into a sampling from the week that was in venture-land.

Racing Toward Success

For some fitness fanatics and folks just getting into the scene, there’s no better way than to commit to a competition. But where’s a runner, cyclist, or triathlete to go find and register for races in their area? Let’s Do This is a startup building a listing and registration service where race organizers can post information and prospective race participants can register. “Our mission is to inspire more people to have epic experiences than any other community on the planet,” co-founder Sam Browne told Crunchbase News.

Sprinting off the block this week, Let’s Do This raised $5 million in its seed round, which was led by NFX managing partner Pete Flint. Tennis star Serena Williams and Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt were among the many individual investors participating in the deal, which was also backed by institutional players like Index Ventures, FJ Labs, Shasta Ventures, and Y Combinator. This deal is Bolt’s first major investment in a startup.

Browne said that in the two years since launching Let’s Do This, the company now lists 30,000 races and provides significantly more information about the events and their race routes than competing athletics registration platforms like U.S.-focused Running In The USA and U.K.-based Time Outdoors. He also said that “100 million people crossed a finish line in the US alone last year and over $30 [billion] was spent on races globally.”

Browne added that his startup’s funding deal was “24 times oversubscribed on our funding round post YC.”

Last Week In Meats

This week there were enough deals in the alternative and plant-based protein space to warrant a summary section of their own.

Growing mindfulness about how conventional protein production affects the environment and our personal health is driving innovation and investment into alternatives.

Though companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have gained pretty significant traction in the U.S., the world of protein alternatives extends way past burgers and sausages. Here are some highlights from last week:

  • If you like seafood and aren’t allergic to shellfish, chances are you’re into shrimp. It’s the fruit of the sea, after all. But what if you want shrimp-like flavor and texture without the shrimp itself? New Wave Foods is in the business of making shrimp substitutes out of seaweed; the company says it “has the bite, taste, and texture of the real thing.” The San Francisco-based venture, founded by Dominique Barnes and Michelle Wolf, raised an unknown sum of capital from Tyson Ventures, the VC wing of the prolific poultry producer.
  • In a similar vein to shrimp substitutes there’s a company like Finless Foods, which—rather than using plant material to replicate animal proteins—uses tissue culturing technology to grow real animal proteins in the lab, instead of inside a fish. The company plans to start with high-end fish like bluefin tuna, and expects to price match the animal-sourced stuff when it eventually launches commercially. Crunchbase data indicates that French firm Akitua invested an undisclosed sum in the Bay Area seafood startup.
  • For those that want a little turf with their surf, there’s a company like Barcelona-based Novameat, which is developing tech to 3D print a meat substitute that feels like fibrous meat like steak or chicken breast. Founded by Giuseppe Scionti, a former assistant professor of tissue engineering, the company plans to develop and license its molecular scaffolding and micro-extrusion technology to plant-based protein producers. To aid in this effort, food tech venture firm New Crop Capital invested an undisclosed sum in the company. As an aside, New Crop Capital was a seed-stage backer of New Wave Foods.
  • It’s not just plant-based meat that’s getting VC attention. The dairy industry is too. Headquartered in Naugatuck, Connecticut, Culture Fresh Foods netted $11 million in its Series A round, which was co-led by FreshTracks Capital and CEI Ventures. According to coverage of the round in AgFunder News, Culture Fresh co-founder Tom Moffitt was a former dairyman himself. His previous company, a private-label yogurt manufacturer called Green Mountain Creamery, grew to $140 million in revenue in just five years. Culture Fresh will use its fresh venture backing to acquire and outfit a cows’ milk processing facility formerly owned by yogurt giant Danone into one suited to manufacture dairy alternatives from “a number of inputs like almonds, cashews, oats, and seeds,” according to the news report.

If you want to read more about investments in food tech and alternative protein startups, check out reporting on food corporations’ startup investments Joanna Glasner did for Crunchbase News back in April.

And with that we’re done for the week. Hope you have a lovely weekend!

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

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