Lab-Growing Meat Startup Raises US$17M From KBW Ventures And More High-Profile Investors
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Growing meat in a lab might sound like a storyline from a science fiction film, but startup Memphis Meats is seeking to do just that. Instead of procuring meat from raised or slaughtered animals, the San Francisco-based startup is developing and producing lab-grown meat, also referred to as ‘clean meat’, by growing beef, chicken and duck meat from animal cells.
Now the clean meat company is one step closer to mass production. The startup has just completed raising a Series A investment of US$17 million with a prominent list of high-profile investors. The round was led by Draper Fisher Jurvetson (which will also join the company’s board of directors), a VC firm that has previously funded Tesla and SpaceX, along with Cargill and other food sector entities. Other investors included Bill Gates and Richard Branson; VC firms Atomico, New Corp Capital, SOSV and Fifty Years; investment firms Inevitable Ventures and HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal’s KBW Ventures, Suzy and Jack Welch, Kyle Vogt and Kimbal Musk, plus various research institutions.
Source: Memphis Meats
That approach has sparked the interest of HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, CEO and founder of KBW Ventures, who is now backing the concept. As an outspoken advocate for sustainability, animal welfare and the environment, Prince Khaled decided to invest on the startup driven by a goal to “find a better alternative to the cruel and environmentally devastating effects of factory farming- and clean meat is that alternative. I have my sights set on sourcing and getting behind solutions to conventionally produced meat that have better carbon footprints, and for the enhanced welfare of animals and for strides forward in terms of human health.”
Prince Khaled also highlighted Memphis Meats’ quick growth trajectory, and while he acknowledged that the cost of creating clean meat products is currently high, he also said the fact that a finished product had already been produced was an impressive feat in itself.
With its first clean meatball released in February 2016, and its first clean chicken strips out in March this year, the startup is steadily working to bring clean meat products to consumers. With the newly-gained funds, Memphis Meats has already started growing its team, and has said it intends to put the investment towards developing more products, scaling up clean meat production, and reducing production costs to levels that are on a par with conventional meat costs.
HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal
CEO and founder, KBW Ventures
For startups focusing on animal welfare and environmental issues, what’s your advice for startups seeking investments?
“I think with any startup that is looking for investment, you want to see founders and teams with drive. You don’t need a lot or really any funds to get started. You start your idea or project and go. If you can prove that your idea works and had the potential to make money or make an impactful dent in the status quo, the funds will quickly follow. If you’re working on alternatives to conventional meat, dairy or eggs, be sure to get in touch with the Good Food Institute team. Check them out at www.gfi.org. You’ll note there that I’m part of their advisory council.”
With the rise of AI, blockchain and other tech innovations, what concepts do you think startups should leverage?
“You can’t expect to make a difference using old methods - especially in the dynamic startup space. If you want to perform competitively, you’ll need to adopt breaking market solutions and tech advancements. Investors and users alike recognize ventures that incorporate the latest and greatest- your idea could be sound, but maybe there’s a startup out there doing what you’re doing but doing it seamlessly, potentially due to the use of tech like blockchain and so on.”