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5 Interesting Startup Deals You May Have Missed In March: Restoring The Woolly Mammoth, Faux Seafood And Lots Of Bees

Illustration of a robot arm/wrench turning a nut in the middle of the number 5.

This is a new monthly column that will run down five interesting deals every month that may have flown under the radar.

This month, there were more than 2,000 funding deals given out to VC-backed companies globally, so it’s easy to miss some that are pretty intriguing.

Every month, we’ll try to run down some that caught our attention here at Crunchbase News. These aren’t the largest rounds (we already do that) and they may not be from the biggest-named investors (we already do that too). It’s just what we found interesting, quirky, notable or maybe a little off-the-wall, which brings us to ….

Colossal Biosciences: The Dallas-based company closed a $60 million Series A led by Thomas Tull and At One Ventures. What caught our eye is that this isn’t just a normal bioscience firm battling disease—rather it’s trying to solve de-extinction! Yes, like resurrection biology! (Which Hollywood has shown always turns out poorly, i.e. the whole Jurassic Park franchise).

The company—which launched five months ago—is using genome engineering technologies to find a practical working model of de-extinction that will focus on the goal of the “restoration and rewilding of functional woolly mammoths to the tundra.” Colossal said bringing back mammoths would allow for a better understanding of evolutionary change in other species, and that genetic engineering applications also will help enhance food production and reduce environmental impact.

The other thing that piqued our interest about this were the investors. Thomas Tull—of Legendary Entertainment (speaking of movies) and investment firm Tulco fame—gaming company Animoca Brands, Paris Hilton and several other investors from a variety of areas. A pretty eclectic bunch—but then again, maybe that fits in with the mission.

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Beewise: Speaking of saving species, let’s talk about the bees. Insight Partners clearly wants to. The huge New York-based private equity/venture firm led an $80 million Series C into Israel-based Beewise, a robotics company that is focused on saving bees from climate change.

The company’s proprietary robotic beehive—the Beehome—helps increase pollination capacity and honey production while also helping defend against threats like pesticides and pests. It also is thermally regulated and can even help feed the bees. The company said its tech can help  reduce bee mortality by 80 percent, increase yields 50 percent, and eliminate approximately 90 percent of manual labor.

According to the EPA, more than 30 percent of honeybee colonies are disappearing each year—a rate that represents a risk to global food chains. Maybe that’s why investors found this deal so sweet and have already poured more than $120 million into Beewise since it was founded in 2018.

Nautilus Labs: The New York-based maritime tech company closed a $34 million Series B this month. The company’s tech is pretty cool, as it uses machine-learning to try to help ocean shippers lower emissions and fuel waste while also maximizing commercial returns. In its release on the raise, the company said ​​shipping accounts for 3 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions—GHG—every year. While that may not seem like a lot, if the industry does not change, it’s estimated that number will balloon to 17 percent by 2050.

While the maritime shipping industry and the tech around it is intriguing, the other reason the round made this list is who led the investment—M12 and the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund. That’s right, Microsoft’s venture fund and its climate fund both made investments—simultaneously. That’s the first time that has ever happened. Seems odd, but maybe Microsoft is just really interested in the maritime shipping space.

Pixxel: Yes, everybody seems to be launching satellites nowadays. But Palo Alto, California-based Pixxel’s earth-imaging tech puts a little different spin on it and is launching the first of its hyperspectral satellites as part of SpaceX’s upcoming April Transporter-4 mission.

The company closed a $25 million Series A led by Radical Ventures this month, and will use the cash to advance its earth-imaging microsatellites, which the company says have 50x higher resolution than existing multispectral counterparts. Pixxel’s hyperspectral imaging allows it to collect data beyond just the visible light spectrum and across about 40x more wavelengths, which could include infrared and ultraviolet frequencies.

The fuller imaging would be able to do more things—including monitor methane emissions or disease outbreaks across agricultural lands. Combining space, moving beyond the visible light spectrum, and helping solve real-world problems can get a company on this list.

Finless Foods: Admittedly, non-sea seafood is not brand new, but it still seemingly gets fewer headlines than faux meat and cheese—and certainly startups that focus strictly on it generally get less attention.

Emeryville, California-based Finless, which creates both cell-cultured and plant-based tuna, closed a $34 million Series B led by Hanwha Solutions this month. Its current focus is the bluefin tuna due to specific pressures on that industry and also its popularity.

Finless is part of the growing number of foodtech companies attracting investor interest as more start to worry about sustainability and food supply. According to Crunchbase numbers, investment into foodtech—everything from fake meat to vertical farming—reached a record $12.8 billion globally in 2021, double the amount of 2020.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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