Food Startup Hampton Creek Raises $90 Million
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San Francisco-based Hampton Creek raised $90 million in a strategic Series C financing round, the food technology startup said today. This latest investment brings the company’s total funding to $120 million.
Hampton Creek, which is best known for its egg-free condiment Just Mayo, is trying to index the world’s plants in an effort to come up with plant-based food products that are better for the environment and its customers’ health.
Horizons Ventures and Khosla Ventures, which have both previously invested in the company, led the round. New investors included Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin and Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff.
Hampton Creek’s CEO Josh Tetrick first met Benioff at Fortune’s 40 Under 40 event in San Francisco in October. (Tetrick made his debut on the list this year.) When Tetrick realized Benioff was at the party, he called his team and had them deliver their product to the venue for Benioff to taste test. “The only reason I know Benioff is because of your party,” Tetrick tells Fortune. “That started an incredible relationship.”
Tetrick says the financing will go toward its technology—such as better lab automation and patents—general expansion, and, as Tetrick says, “to make sure in everything we do, we’re not holding back.” He adds, “We don’t want to waste this moment.” Hampton Creek has garnered more name recognition in recent months amid a David vs. Goliath-type lawsuit with Unilever. The multinational behind Hellmann’s has sued the startup, alleging false advertising because Hampton Creek’s mayo does not contain eggs. Unilever has acknowledged that Hellmann’s is losing share to Just Mayo.
The funding round also included investment from Uni-President Enterprises Corporation, one of the largest food conglomerates in Asia, and Southeast Asia’s Far East Organization, which has a beverage operation. Tetrick says that the involvement from these two companies will help Hampton Creek build out its infrastructure in Asia so it can quickly expand in that part of the world when it’s ready.
Other investors include the cofounders of artificial intelligence company DeepMind Technologies (now owned by Google), Collaborative Fund, Founders Fund, Braintree founder Bryan Johnson, Nick Pritzker’s Tao Capital Partners, Blue Bottle Coffee executive chairman Bryan Meehan, and Renaissance man Jean Pigozzi—more on Pigozzi in a minute. “It’s a hyper-eclectic group of people,” Tetrick says.
I spoke with Pigozzi—a super-connected investor, art collector, photographer, and creative director and owner of clothing line LimoLand—to get his take on why he invested in Hampton Creek.
He first heard about the startup from his friend, Martha Stewart. After trying Just Mayo, Pigozzi reached out to Tetrick and the two discovered they had a lot in common, including an interest in Africa. Tetrick lived in Africa for seven years, and Pigozzi has the largest collection of contemporary African art in the world. “So from Martha Stewart to Africa to mayonnaise we made a connection. Very normal, no?” Pigozzi jokes.
Pigozzi’s Hampton Creek investment is his first in food beyond the restaurant industry. He usually sticks to high-tech companies like Facebook and video camera maker GoPro, but Pigozzi got interested in the science behind food from his friend, former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, whose goliath cookbook Modernist Cuisine is a deep dive into the science behind cooking.
Pigozzi was attracted to Hampton Creek’s plant-based approach. “It’s a very intriguing way of looking at making food,” he says. (Pigozzi notes that he doesn’t eat meat after 8 p.m.) He believes the company’s model also taps into a shift in consumer behavior, in which people are starting to pay more attention to how their diet impacts their health.
Hampton Creek also checked a box for Pigozzi in that it’s based in San Francisco. Pigozzi says he has a rule whenever he receives a business plan that if the address isn’t Palo Alto or San Francisco, he usually throws it in the trashcan. “The only only other address I like is a Chinese address because the thing for me is the two most innovative places in the world are Palo Alto and San Francisco, and then China where the market is so enormous.”
His only piece of advice to Tetrick? It’s not enough for it to be healthy. “It must taste good,” he says. “If it doesn’t taste good, just forget about it.”