The 2023 SOSV Human Health 100

Welcome to the second annual SOSV Human Health 100. The list captures  SOSV’s 100 most exciting companies in human health as of April 2023.

SOSV’s core mission, which we pursue through our IndieBioHAX, and Orbit startup development programs, is to fund and foster startups that will improve human and planetary health. In addition to the Human Health 100, each year we also publish our SOSV Climate Tech 100

Those twin missions – health and climate – aim to better human health today and for generations to come, as well as ensure that earth remains a hospitable human habitat. Even though we live in an era of astonishing technological advances such as CRISPR and mRNA, we are also facing civilization-level threats from disease, pandemics and climate change. At SOSV, we believe it has never been more important to apply the energy and genius of founders to addressing those challenges. That is we do every day in our deep tech startup development programsHAX and IndieBio, in their well staffed and equipped labs and workshops.

The Numbers

This year’s SOSV Human Health 100 shows strong growth in both funding and valuations. About 2/3 of the companies are at the seed stage, 1/3 at Series A or more, and only 2 have reached  ‘Growth’ stage (unicorns Opentrons and Formlabs).

The aggregate valuation of the companies on the list is $6.47 billion (up 14% from $5.65B in 2022), and all told the firms have raised $1.42 billion (up 42% from $1B in 2022). SOSV, which invests starting at pre-seed and continues through later stages, has invested $96 million  (up 32% from $73M in 2022). Investment outpaced valuation gains this year, likely due to the headwinds facing startup valuations. 

This year’s list also welcomes 18 newcomers, who are listed below.  It’s important to stress that year-to-year  individual companies in the SOSV portfolio experience many ups and downs due to new fundings, regulatory breakthroughs and commercial partnerships. Joining or leaving this list is anything but a surefire indicator of future outcomes. (The 2022 list is available here. )

Total ValuationCountriesTotal RaisedFemale FoundersSOSV FundingPhD Founders
2022$5.65B19$1.0B30%$73M62%
2023$6.47B17$1.42B30%$96M67%
Change+14%+42%+32%
Note: this table is based on actual funding amounts.

The Founders

As with the SOSV Climate Tech 100, the diversity and sophistication of our health companies and founders is striking. Nearly 30% of the companies have a woman co-founder. The companies are located in 17 countries; topping the list are the US (59), Canada (9) and the UK (9), followed by France (3). 67% of the startups have at least one PhD co-founder. A  total of 52 companies graduated from the biology-centric IndieBio while another 38 hail from hard-tech focused HAX, and five hail  from the Orbit program.

SOSV expands its health portfolio by accepting dozens of pre-seed health startups into our programs across a wide range of categories, including therapeutics, diagnostics, assistive robotics, bio-manufacturing, remote care, and more. As the startups progress, SOSV joins their series seed, A and later rounds. That helps account for our strong showing in PitchBook leaderboards for active investors in categories such as healthcare devices & supplies, women’s health, pharma and biotech.

The 2023 SOSV Human Health 100

* Companies without funding amounts are “undisclosed.” Cell left blank to allow for sorting.

The Investors

When startups finish SOSV startup programs, the SOSV general partners work closely with the founders to find lead investors for their series seed and other early rounds. SOSV usually joins those later rounds. Over the years, several hundred investors have joined financing rounds for the Human Health 100. Several standout as investors in multiple companies on the list, including Temasek, Horizon, True Ventures, Threshold Impact, Khosla Ventures, SoftBank, Particular Ventures, Founders Fund, Entrepreneur First, Berkeley Catalyst Fund, Artesian Capital, 8VC and ZX Ventures. Government-based programs, including the SBIR-STTR in the U.S., Enterprise Ireland, the European Innovation Council, and Innovate UK, are also frequent backers.

The 18 New Startups

Cellens: Medical device company that provides clarity and focus on cancer detection via a non-invasive urine-based test using high-resolution nanoscale imaging and proprietary machine learning.

Chronos DX: High-performance, low-cost, scalable bioassay technology for diagnostics, drug screening and development. It detects biomarkers including cell-free DNA, micro RNA, proteins, exosomes and metabolites with sensitivity down to single-molecule detection, and is capable of in-line and in vivo monitoring of biomarkers.

Dandelion: Training AI models that can design organ and cell-type-specific drug delivery vehicles via Lipid Nanoparticles (LNPs) able to carry mRNA molecules.

Laguna Bio: Drug discovery platform that activates and expands the innate immune system against cancer. Laguna’s technology expands and activates gamma delta T cells up to 10,000x better than other known approaches.

Melio: Delivering pathogen testing at the speed of software with one test for all pathogens. Melio brings its product to the vulnerable newborn population, where, for the lack of better diagnostics, 150 babies are given antibiotics for every 1 that truly needs it.

Mendel: Mendel is a hybrid intelligent engine (human/AI) that can combine a patient’s medical records with the genetic profile of their cancer to recommend personalized cancer treatments  still in the trial phase. It can also pair a patient with oncologists who have a track record matching the patient’s cancer.

MiDocOnline: Latin America’s leading app for video consultations with trusted medical professionals anywhere in the world.

Mimio: Supplements that produce the same cellular effects one would get from fasting—without having to fast. Mimio’s cellular repair and regeneration mechanisms have been demonstrated to work in humans through clinical trials.

Ostoform: Products to improve skin conditions for people who use ostomy bags. Ostoform was born from a need to improve skin health for the ostomates who must regularly cope with appliance leaks and the discomfort of damaged peristomal skin.

PONS: AI-based, mobile ultrasound solution for remote medical imaging. Enabling hospitals to provide value-based continuous care to their outpatients.

Prolific Machines: Prolific offers world class, lowest cost production of antibodies, cell therapies, and iPSCs, because their system needs zero growth factors or recombinant proteins.

Protonintel: Biomarker monitoring to manage chronic disease and save lives – measuring in particular real-time potassium (K+) in the interstitial fluid of the skin continuously for heart and kidney care. This data helps manage medications, diet, or other treatment options to improve health.

Reach Neuro: Restoring movement in people with chronic strokes and other neurological disorders. It uses an implantable neuromodulator to stimulate the spinal cord, working with the nervous system to restore motor function in the upper limbs.

Samphire Neuroscience: Wearable for women who want to be and feel productive regardless of their cycle-related challenges.

Sequential Skin: Personalized skincare solutions with at-home test kits using advanced genetic sequencing technology to understand how genes, skin microbiome, and environment interact to define the unique needs of one’s skin. 

Untap: Building on-site PCR systems to test and surveil wastewater, which will help prevent the next pandemic.

Wayfinder Biosciences: Using computational design to program RNA logic,  unlocking the future of biomanufacturing with nano-scale sensors that light up to discover cells thousands of times faster than current technology.

XN Health: Medical device company helping mechanically ventilated patients wean off the ventilator faster, through phrenic nerve stimulation.

Please note that the funding amounts reported are limited to public information available on Crunchbase and not always accurate.

Join Us

Please think about how you, too, can apply more energy, funding, and time to solve humanity’s most pressing challenges. If that involves working for, working with, or investment into one of these startups, please feel free to reach out directly to these startups or contact SOSV. 

IndieBio’s TômTex in the spotlight for alt-leather made from shrimp shells

TômTex alt-leather
TômTex alt-leather
TômTex develops a “novel non-woven biofabric”, a 100% biodegradable material derived from shrimp and mushroom food waste. Source: TômTex

Shrimp shell-based “leather” maker TômTex (IndieBio NY03) was recently the subject of two feature articles from Bloomberg and WIRED

TômTex turns raw chitosan—a biopolymer that makes up crustacean shells, mushroom cell walls, and insect exoskeletons—into a viscous liquid that can be dyed, molded, stamped, and 3D printed. The final product can act as a one-to-one stand-in for any traditional leather item, ranging from wallets to designer pants and tank tops. The best part: TômTex’s leather-like material is biodegradable, cost-effective, durable, recyclable, non-toxic, and realistic. It has the look, feel, and wearability of cow leather, Bloomberg and WIRED both agree. 

While leather alternatives are abundant, most options, like polyurethane and PVC (petroleum-derived materials), are prone to cracking and peeling—to speak nothing of the materials’ detrimental effects on human health and the environment. In contrast, TômTex’s material is based on chitosan, one of the most common biopolymers on earth, making it affordable and easy to source as shrimp shell waste from the enormous seafood industry.

TômTex has already attracted the attention of high-end designers like Peter Do, big-name leather retailers, a sneaker brand, and an athletic wear brand. With interest in TômTex boiling over, the company is expanding to a larger pilot production space, where it hopes to scale up production. The team believes its chitosan material is compatible with widely-available machinery for developing polyurethane and PVA, simplifying this scaling process even more.

“We’re hopeful that within this year, there’ll be something that people can actually get their hands on,” Ross McBee, TômTex’s cofounder and chief science officer, said to WIRED.

By the end of 2023, the company plans to produce its alternative leather on the scale of 100,000 yards a year.

IndieBio’s Reach Neuro celebrates landmark results in stroke treatment study

Reach Neuro
Reach Neuro
Stroke survivor Heather Rendulic demonstrates her ability to pick up and move a can of soup with the aid of Reach Neuro’s spine stimulation device. Source: UPMC

The Wall Street Journal, along with scores of other outlets including AP News, The New York Times, STAT, and WIRED, recently hailed a pilot study published in Nature Medicine demonstrating a breakthrough in post-stroke treatment to return mobility to the arms and hands of stroke patients. Indie Bio’s Reach Neuro (SF13 2022), which participated in the study, is working to translate the results to clinical use.

The study involved two stroke patients who had spaghetti-thin electrodes surgically implanted into the back of their necks for four weeks. During the experiments, the electrodes delivered a low current in rapid pulses to patients’ spinal cords. The patients were then assigned a series of tasks to test previously-impaired motor skills in their arms and hands. With sensors measuring muscle activity on the patients’ arms, the study reported astonishing results: patients not only experienced significantly improved grasp, reach, and transfer functions during the trials but also demonstrated enhanced mobility weeks after the electrodes were removed. 

“This is actually a procedure done pretty regularly,” Reach Neuro CEO Marc Powell, the lead author on the study, told CBS. “These devices are used to treat chronic pain, and they’re implanted 50,000 times a year in the U.S. So, [it’s] a very safe, well-known piece of hardware.”

“The stimulation is something that is so life-changing for me and so many other people to come after me,” said Heather Rendulic, one of the patients in the study, in the same CBS interview. “It’s enabling me to move and do things that I haven’t done in so many years.”

IndieBio’s Planetarians raises $6M to leverage upcycled ingredients for plant-based whole cuts

Planetarians' plant-based whole cuts
Planetarians' plant-based whole cuts
Planetarians’ plant-based umami-like-flavored whole cuts are made from two ingredients: oil cakes and brewer’s yeast. Source: Planetarians

Plant-based meat maker Planetarians (IndieBio Food-X 08) has closed a $6M seed II round led by Mindrock, which was covered by TechCrunch (“Planetarians grabs $6M to get its plant-based protein into foodservice orbit”). The funding round, which brings Planetarians’ total funding to date to $6.7M, included SOSV, Traction Fund, Techstars, and AB InBev, which provides spent yeast to Planetarians.

While Planetarians has landed on developing whole cuts of plant-based proteins, the company got its start by making nutritional drinks. Upon realizing the high costs of soy proteins, Planetarians’ founders Aleh Manchuliantsau and Max Barnthouse began investigating the merits of lower-cost byproducts or upcycled ingredients. After experimenting with chips and crackers using upcycled ingredients, Planetarians turned to plant-based whole cuts. The company leverages solid-state fermentation using brewer’s yeast, the byproduct of beer fermentation, to create umami-like-flavored “ribs”. 

“I thought, what if we can get the benefits of the fermentation but without fermentation?” Manchuliantsau told TechCrunch in an interview. “We analyzed biomass and started looking for what was already available on the market, and we found brewer’s yeast, the byproduct of beer fermentation. They use yeast to ferment sugars, but they need to dispose of it after making the alcohol.”

Planetarians’ technology has been proven out at an industrial scale, and the company is working on product market fit. The new capital will help fund a pilot facility and allow Planetarians to continue to ramp up sales.

IndieBio’s Aluna gets a $15M wave of support for AI-enabled asthma monitoring platform

Aluna
Aluna
Aluna pairs a portable spirometer with an AI-enabled mobile interface, allowing patients and their doctors to track asthma severity and help develop a personalized, real-time action plan. Source: Aluna

Aluna (IndieBio 03), the San Francisco-based respiratory management platform, has closed out a $15.3M Series B funding round led by previous investor Matrix Partners with support from SOSV, Rho Ignition and Dr. Warner Carr, an allergist and early adopter of Aluna’s platform. The round brings Aluna’s total funding to date to $27M. 

Aluna’s FDA-cleared spirometer allows customers to breathe into the device daily to measure their response to medications and triggers including environment, exercise, and location. Patients can then share this data with their healthcare team, who can access Aluna’s proprietary ML algorithms to better identify and correct respiratory problems. The patient-facing app allows users to visualize their lung function as a rocket taking off based on the strength of their breath into the spirometer. A children’s version of the app gamifies the process of recording respiratory health, including a customizable rocket, achievements, explorable moons, and characters. Under Remote Patient Monitoring, the platform is also eligible for insurance coverage.

Spinning out of UC Berkeley’s bioengineering program, Aluna was co-founded by Charvi Shetty and Inderjit Jutla, who both experience asthma. 

“As two of many asthma sufferers, my co-founder and I set out from day one to build a platform that would not only keep patients healthy, but also help providers provide the best possible care,” said Shetty in the series B announcement. “Our growth will enable asthma, COPD and other chronic respiratory patients and their providers to work more effectively together and prevent attacks before they happen. Down the road, we hope to leverage our lung health data to revolutionize respiratory care.”

So far, Shetty reports that Aluna has 4,000 active users across the U.S. With the Series B funds, the company plans to further innovate their spirometer device, expanding to measure other respiratory conditions including cystic fibrosis and COPD. Get the full story in Axios!

IndieBio NY Demo Day: Watch 10 pitches from Batch 5

Demo Day 2023

Yesterday, IndieBio presented New York Batch 5 for an online Demo Day, an event that highlights new companies in the IndieBio fold. Unique to this year’s Demo Day was the location of the event: IndieBio’s new 25,000 sq. ft. office, lab, and event space at 7 Penn Plaza in New York City. 

IndieBio’s managing director Stephen Chambers led Demo Day, introducing the 10 companies in New York Batch 5, and SOSV managing general partner Sean O’Sullivan offered closing remarks on the companies’ potential impact on climate change, human health, and beyond. The founders of each company presented on stage about their plans to address existing challenges within the food industry, biomaterials, femtech, industrial biotech, therapeutics, and drug discovery. Learn more about each of the New York Batch 5 companies below—and be sure to check out their Demo Day presentations, too!

BioFluff

BioFluff is developing a biodegradable, cost-competitive, and high-quality alternative to animal and synthetic furs for the luxury clothing market. As the world’s first completely plant-based fur, BioFluff’s product is free from plastic and GMOs and is sourced from organic renewable fiber plants—meaning no pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, petrochemicals or unsustainable raw-oil derivatives in the manufacturing process.  

FluoSphera

FluoSphera is devising the first-ever liquid microphysiological systems (MPS) to revolutionize drug discovery, increase the success rate of clinical trials, and propose superior alternatives to animal experimentation. FluoSphera’s MPS mimics the communication between multiple human organs in vitro to more accurately predict the effects of candidate drugs—even before they reach the first patient—and pinpoint the most promising drugs.

Edge

Edge is solving one of the main roadblocks to the cultivated meat industry: finding a growth factor without extensive downstream processing. To do this, the company has created a novel bioprocess using animal cell factories that self-supply authentic growth factors. Edge’s method doesn’t require the isolation and purification steps of recombinant protein production (common in fermentation and molecular farming), significantly cutting costs while providing a constant supply of growth factors and reducing contamination risk. 

Forte Protein

Forte Protein is building a technology platform to sustainably produce bio-identical animal proteins such as ovalbumin and lactoferrin within plants like lettuce or kale. These proteins can be ingredients for non-GMO, vegan, kosher, and gluten-free supplements, gels, dairy and meat alternatives, and energy drinks. The company can also repurpose their plant waste as feedstock, fertilizer, biofuel, extracts, and other plant compounds to bring in an additional revenue stream. 

Atlantic Fish Co

Atlantic Fish Co is developing cultivated seafood that is both delicious and sustainable. The company harvests cells from fish, feeds nutrients in a bioreactor, and uses scaffolding to yield the texture of a whole fish filet. The resulting seafood is real fish-cell-based cuisine without the environmental and health consequences of conventional fish farming.  

Vader Nanotechnologies

Vader Nanotechnology designs new organisms and enzymes that break down plastic and chemical pollutants. Using automation, image processing and computer vision, and analytical chemistry, the company chooses organisms that can grow on plastics and chemicals that resist natural degradation and optimizes these organisms’ performance. 

Vitarka Therapeutics

Vitarka Therapeutics has developed EndoPore, a drug-delivery solution that uses synthetic biology to create pore forming proteins (PFPs) for targeted, cytosolic delivery of RNA therapeutics. Vitarka Therapeutics is exploiting PFP’s naturally-evolved mechanism of endosomal escape and its mechanism of stabilizing RNA.

Pneuma

Pneuma is creating a living, breathing textile, OXYA, seeded with microalgae that consumes carbon dioxide and produces oxygen. By engineering living materials that can photosynthesize and make oxygen, Pneuma hopes to promote healthier, more sustainable apparel and home-ware industries. 

Bioeutectics

Bioeutectics is making green solvents mainstream with its non-toxic, biodegradable, and sustainable solvents. Using a combination of eutectic technology and green chemistry, Bioeutectics is customizing products for industries spanning food, pharma, and personal care. 

AIMA

AIMA is innovating period pain management with CBD-infused products—the first to be tested being OVY. This vaginal suppository acts as a safe and effective pain management solution for menstruators with dosages based on personalized pain response.

IndieBio’s Multus Biotechnology raises $9.5M to fast track the cultivated meat supply chain

Multus
Multus
Multus Biotechnology’s first product, Proliferum M, is a serum- and animal-free replacement for fetal bovine serum, a common growth media for cultivated meat. Source: Multus Biotechnology

IndieBio’s Multus Biotechnology (formerly Multus Media) has raised a $9.5M Series A round to build a production facility for growth media.

The UK-based startup (part of the IndieBio NY01 2020 class) received support from lead investor Mandi Ventures along with SOSV, Big Idea Ventures, SynBioVen, and Asahi Kasei Corp. The Series A raise builds on Multus’ 2021 raise of $2.2M and the launch of the company’s first one-size-fits all growth media, Proliferum M, which eliminates the need for fetal bovine serum (fetal calves’ blood) in cell cultures. 

In an interview with The Spoon, Multus Biotechnology CEO and co-founder explained the technology: “We combine novel ingredient discovery with intelligent formulation design to create high performance growth media suited for the cellular agriculture industry. For example, we use precision fermentation and computational protein design to make growth factors affordable and unlock capabilities in growth media design.”

Multus launched in 2020 with a mission to create animal-free growth media for the cultivated meat industry—specifically, to grow muscle, fat, and connective tissue cells for poultry, meat, and seafood. Multus will target the cultivated meat supply chain without growing the meat itself, as Business Insider highlighted. Multus’ growth media alternative to fetal bovine serum provides cells with the nutrients they need to grow and has the potential to speed cultivated meats to market. The Spoon reported that Multus has big plans to bring a range of products to market in 2023, including a growth media specifically for beef. The company plans to expand to growth media for animal-free dairy and leather as well. 

How IndieBio’s Beeflow is using supplements to safeguard bees while increasing crop yields

Beeflow
Beeflow
Beeflow develops pollination programs that increase crop yields by up to 60%. Source: Beeflow

IndieBio’s Beeflow (SF06 2018) was recently featured in a Bloomberg article highlighting the company’s work in maximizing the pollination potential of bees via supplements—and safeguarding the declining bee population.

Per Bloomberg, habitat loss, toxic pesticides and climate change are wreaking havoc on both wild and commercial bee populations. And, approximately two thirds of global crops rely on honey bees, which are even less active in cold weather.

Beeflow crafts amino-acid based supplements from floral nectar and plant hormones to help fortify bees’ immune systems. This results in bees capable of carrying out up to seven times more flights in cold weather and double the pollen load. Similar to Pavlov’s dog training experiment, Beeflow also trains bees to associate the scent of the crop they need to pollinate with a sugar syrup treat. This effectively creates a “flight GPS” for the bees to pollinate specific crops. 

Deployed across 10,000 acres of farmland in the U.S., Mexico, Argentina, and Peru, Beeflow’s solutions have increased farm yield (compared to traditional farms) by 32% in blueberry, almond, and raspberry crops.

“It’s the most promising technology that I’ve seen,” Lisa Wasko DeVetter, an associate professor at Washington State University who specializes in small fruit cultivation, told Bloomberg.

Beeflow has raised $13M to date from investors including SOSV, Ospraie Ag Science, and Grid Exponential, with plans to secure more funding to scale up operations. “The next one that is coming is avocado pollination,” per Beeflow founder Matias Viel.

SOSV’s Pae Wu shares a glimpse into the future of climate tech

SOSV general partner and IndieBio CTO Pae Wu speaks at TechCrunch Climate Session. Source: TechCrunch

Closing out 2022, TechCrunch+ compiled the top investor perspectives of the year across various sectors from climate tech to fintech to construction tech. The year-end compilation, “The best TechCrunch+ investor surveys of 2022”, featured SOSV general partner and IndieBio CTO Pae Wu’s thoughts on the future of climate tech. 

TechCrunch asked Wu two questions: Which emerging climate techs have the most potential for impact in the next 10 years? And what three climate techs do you see widespread by 2030?

Wu said the following: 

“Process-oriented technologies, like supplanting energy-intensive chemical production with scaled biology or electrically enhanced processes, will alter energy dynamics of heavy industry in the next 10 years.

2030 isn’t very far, so widespread adoption of what some may call bridge technologies is where I see real change coming. So many of our problems come down to human-level issues limiting implementation and a basic fear of change, so our disruptions need to keep chipping away at that fear of change.

What does that look like? Things like emissions-free, drop-in replacements for petrochemicals and materials for the built environment that are not dependent on a green premium. Some of these are far enough along to potentially make a run at petroleum.

Arguably, electric vehicles should be the easy answer to ‘widespread’ by 2030. But look, this is still a huge problem that touches every facet of our lives, and 2030 is only eight years away. In 2014, Hong Kong pro-democracy protests were raging, Moderna was creating a vaccine for Ebola and Russia annexed Crimea and ratcheted up threats to Ukraine.

Not much changes in eight years. In 2030, the U.S. will have exceeded expectations if even 15% of our light-duty vehicles on the road are electric by then—15% is tiny.

I sound very gloom and doom, but all I’m saying is it’s all hands on deck, and we need lots of solutions to hit at this from all sides. There won’t be a silver bullet, and if we investors are lucky/smart, we’ll get a whole bunch of climate tech Googles and Amazons — name your favorite giant disruptor — to bring to market while also successfully staving off the worst of climate change. We need everyone to be a winner.”

SOSV tops FoodHack’s 2022 ranking of the most active investors in foodtech

Upside chicken
Upside chicken
FoodHack called out cultivated meat maker Upside Foods as one of the successful foodtech companies in SOSV’s portfolio. Source: Upside Foods

In FoodHack’s 2022 report on the most active FoodTech investors, SOSV / IndieBio stood out as the #1 most active investor in the space this year. 

SOSV most active foodtech investor
Pulling data from more than 100 investors, FoodHack placed SOSV / IndieBio as the most active foodtech investor of 2022. Source: FoodHack

SOSV / IndieBio racked up 56 investments, including companies like cultivated meat maker UPSIDE Foods (IBSF02 2015), alternative aquafeed specialist NovoNutrients (IBSF07 2018), and dairy supply chain software developers Milk Moovement (IndieBio Food-X 11).

Berlin-based FoodLabs ranked second with 47 investments, and Big Idea Ventures ranked third with 45.

USDA awards IndieBio’s Re-Nuble $4.6M to turn food waste into fertilizer

Organic Cycling Science
Organic Cycling Science
Re-Nuble’s Organic Cycling Science (OSC) efficiently transforms organic nutrients into viable, soluble nutrients through a carbon negative process done at scale. Source: Re-Nuble

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently awarded IndieBio’s Re-Nuble (Food-X 02) a $4.6M grant as one of the awardees of the Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities. The USDA’s program says it aims to address the climate crisis by “expanding markets for America’s climate-smart commodities, leveraging the greenhouse gas benefits of climate-smart commodity production, and providing direct, meaningful benefits to production agriculture, including for small and underserved producers.”

Re-Nuble transforms food waste into plant-based technologies for both soil-based and chemical-free hydroponic cultivation. Re-Nuble won the grant with a project that focuses on turning on-site agricultural byproducts and unharvested residuals into regenerative and sustainable products, like fertilizer. This closed-loop agricultural method can address the water crisis in the Southwest by helping farmers earn revenue from nutrient systems previously thought to be unusable. 

Speaking on the recent grant, Re-Nuble founder and CEO Tinia Pina said: “Re-Nuble is pleased to see the USDA prioritize more resources for small and underserved producers, as we have often witnessed larger producers benefit from innovative solutions. . . . I think that it’s incredibly honorable for the USDA to offer a program that provides market, equipment, and monetary support that is also focused on maximizing scalability.”

SOSV’s IndieBio NY debuts new 25,000 sq. ft. office, lab and event space at 7 Penn Plaza in NYC

IndieBio NY
The 3,500 sq. ft. lab facility at IndieBio NY’s new home at 7 Penn Plaza in NYC

SOSV’s IndieBio NY has opened the doors to its new headquarters at 7 Penn Plaza—a 25,000-square-foot open office engineered to foster innovation and community in the New York deep tech ecosystem.

The new facility will host startups in the IndieBio NY startup development program, which each year accepts 20+ pre-seed startups focused on human and planetary health. The space includes multi-disciplinary BSL1 and BSL2 wet labs, a 140-person capacity event space and two large, open office areas.

IndieBio aims to make 7 Penn Plaza a hub for the fast growing life-science ecosystem across New York state. Plans are underway to host 100 events a year and make the event space an invaluable venue to convene scientists, researchers, founders, engineers, and investors. 

IndieBio New York’s new home includes a 3,500-square foot laboratory and a 140-person event space. 

Launched in May 2020, IndieBio NY is an expansion of IndieBio SF, the world’s leading startup development program for founders in food and ag tech, bio-engineered materials, therapeutics, and diagnostics, among many other sectors. In other words, IndieBio serves founders who want to “save lives and save the planet.” Startups that join IndieBio receive SOSV’s initial investment of up to $525,000 and work alongside the IndieBio team for 4-6 months to refine their product as well as develop go-to-market and fundraising strategies. 

Since 2014, more than 200 companies have graduated from IndieBio in SF and NY. They have raised more than $2.3 billion and have an aggregate valuation of $8.3 billion. 

To support the launch of IndieBio NY, Empire State Development and the Partnership Fund for New York City pledged to invest $25 million over five years. The partnership aims to accelerate the development of New York’s flourishing life sciences ecosystem. 

New York graduates more life science PhDs than any other state in the U.S. and is home to a quarter of all US clinical trials.

SOSV general partner Stephen Chambers is the managing director of IndieBio NY, and the chief scientific officer is Sabriya Stukes

Stephen Chambers

Chambers has a Ph.D. in molecular biology, was one of the founding scientists at Vertex Pharmaceuticals and co-founded of Abpro Therapeutics, which employed synthetic biology and immunology to accelerate antibody discovery. As CEO of SynbiCITE, the Innovation and Knowledge Center for Synthetic Biology in the UK, he oversaw dramatic growth in the synthetic biology innovation ecosystem. At the same time, Chambers co-founded Bio-start, the UK’s first Life Science accelerator. Recently awarded Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence at Imperial College London, Stephen is a Member of the Royal Society’s Industrial Fellows College and Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology.


Sabriya Stukes

Stukes has a PhD in biomedical sciences from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Prior to IndieBio, she was Operations Director for Stellate Therapeutics, a biotech company developing microbiome-derived therapeutics to treat neurodegenerative diseases. After earning her PhD, she was the founding Associate Director for the Master’s in Translational Medicine (MTM) program at The City College of New York, NYC’s only graduate degree that trains scientists and engineers in the commercialization of medical technology. A microbiologist, educator, and science communicator, Stukes’ expertise is in working with individuals to design sustainable clinical solutions and craft compelling scientific narratives. 


Counting alumni standouts HalomineMultus MediaTômTex, and Harmony Baby Nutrition, IndieBio NY has graduated 36 companies and 34 of those have raised follow-on funding. 

In February, IndieBio NY will graduate its fifth cohort, including companies across the fields of food, biomaterials, femtech, industrial biotech, therapeutics and drug discovery, including: 

  • BioFluff—creating the world’s first completely plant-based fur targeting the luxury clothing market
  • FluoSphera—developing the first liquid microphysiological systems (MPS) ever made to revolutionize drug discovery
  • Edge Foods—creating sophisticated cell factories to bring cultivated meat to market
  • Forte Protein—making animal protein ingredients in plants, safely and sustainably
  • Atlantic Fish Co—developing cultivated seafood to provide the world with delicious and sustainable protein
  • Vader Nanotechnologies—improving our ability to recycle plastic and degrade forever chemicals by creating new organisms and enzymes that break down pollutants
  • Vitarka Therapeutics—revolutionizing intracellular drug delivery by developing a new tumor-targeted platform technology using pore-forming proteins
  • Pneuma—developing the next generation of sustainable materials, implementing the process of photosynthesis as a product feature
  • Bioeutetics—bringing non-toxic, biodegradable, and sustainable solvents to the mainstream
  • AIMA—developing a new generation of CBD-based period pain management systems
The 140-person event space at IndieBio NY’s new 7 Penn Plaza location  

Interesting in learning more about the startups in IndieBio’s fifth cohort? Sign up here to request an invitation to IndieBio NY’s in-person Class 5 Demo Day on Feb 1, which will include a series of talks with past and present IndieBio founders and investors, insights into the current state of biotech investment, and the opportunity to meet IndieBio NY’s companies and see their technology in action. Registration is also open for IBNY’s online Class 5 Demo Day on Feb 7—click here to RSVP.

Founders interested in applying to IndieBio can start  here. For more information on IndieBio and SOSV in general, including how to apply for use of the event space, please reach out here.

The New York Times spotlights IndieBio’s MycoWorks as leader in alternative leather

MycoWorks
MycoWorks
MycoWorks creates a mushroom-based material that has the softness and resiliency of leather, but is vastly more controllable and sustainable. Source: MycoWorks

IndieBio’s mycelium-based “leather” maker MycoWorks (SF03 2016) was recently the subject of The New York Times spotlight, “Are Mushrooms the Future of Alternative Leather?”.

The article charts the company’s history beginning with artist Philip Ross’ use of mycelium, a root structure of mushrooms, in one of his exhibits in 2007. While preparing for the show, Ross met and collaborated with Sophia Wang, who was a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley, at the time. The two experimented with “mycotecture” materials created by manipulating mycelium for six more years before Ross joined up with Wang and co-founded MycoWorks in 2013.

MycoWorks creates material with the appearance and texture of leather but without any animal parts. The development process is significantly more sustainable, too, combining sawmill waste with mycelium to develop customizable thin sheets. The final product, Fine Mycelium, can then be finished by third-party tanneries, and does not require chromium, a toxic substance typically used for animal leather tanning. 

The New York Times reported that MycoWorks, currently based in Emeryville, California, holds more than 75 patents and employs more than 160 people in the U.S., Spain, and France. The company has also secured partnerships with high-end fashion brand Hermès, furniture maker Ligne Roset, and General Motors’ investment arm GM Ventures.

Speaking at a MycoWorks exhibition showroom in New York, CEO Matthew Scullin remarked that Fine Mycelium “can achieve the same quality and performance as animal leathers without the need for any sort of plastics.”

IndieBio’s Catalog successfully encodes and searches eight Shakespearean tragedies in a single test tube of DNA

Catalog
Catalog
Catalog aims to store and compute massive amounts of digital data on a DNA-based platform. Source: Catalog

IndieBio’s DNA-based data storage company Catalog (IndieBio 04) recently announced that it has encoded eight of Shakespeare’s tragedies onto strands of searchable synthetic DNA stored in a test tube, and then successfully conducted text searches of the more than 200,000 words. The Boston Globe highlighted this feat in the article, “Boston startup can search Shakespeare’s plays in a test tube of DNA”

Catalog’s founders Hyunjun Park and Nathaniel Roquet first hatched the idea of DNA-based data storage at MIT, where their company took off with the help of IndieBio and the StartMIT program. (Roquet has since moved on from Catalog and is now the lead scientist at Cambridge-based Tessera Therapeutics.)

Catalog’s minivan-sized proprietary machine, “Shannon,” encodes data onto strands of DNA using technology not unlike an inkjet printer, The Boston Globe explained. Once the data is encoded onto a plastic film, the DNA strands are transferred into a liquid solution for computing and storage. The Boston Globe article noted that while electronic computers must move data from storage to memory and compute via a central processor, Catalog’s technology stores and computes data in a single test tube, accelerating the entire process and saving energy. 

“Consider a database that is also in DNA form, containing not genetic information, but digital information,” Park shared with The Boston Globe. “And you’re searching through that not for COVID sequences but a search phrase or a pattern that you’re looking for.”

The company told The Boston Globe that next year, it hopes to demonstrate a search through a DNA-encoded database of 100 million words.

IndieBio’s NotCo raises $70M to build more food brand alliances

NotCo
NotCo
Following a successful joint venture with Kraft Heinz, plant-based food startup NotCo is capturing the attention of other packaged-goods companies for similar co-branding agreements. Source: NotCo

In Bloomberg’s article “Bezos-Backed Food Startup NotCo Bucks Trend to Raise $70 Million”, IndieBio’s Chilean plant-based food startup NotCo (SF05 2017) is reported to have raised $70M of funding to build more co-branded alliances with other major food manufacturers. 

Led by Princeville Capital, the new funding round also gained support from Bezos Expeditions, Tiger Global, L Catterton, Kaszek Ventures, and MercadoLibre CEO Marcos Galperin. NotCo’s latest funding efforts matched its series D round in July 2021, placing the total company value at $1.5B. 

NotCo uses AI algorithms to develop plant-based meat and dairy alternatives that look and taste like the real thing. CEO and founder Matias Muchnick told Bloomberg that with the new funding, NotCo will have enough capital for the next five years and that the company will deliver a profit by 2024.

After a successful joint venture with Kraft Heinz in February to manufacture animal-free cheese slices, NotCo has been approached by other packaged-goods companies to strike similar co-branding licensing agreements. NotCo’s products are currently available in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and much of Latin America. The company has also secured partnerships with Shake Shack, Burger King, and Starbucks.

“VC money is really scarce,” Muchnick told Bloomberg in an interview. “What you want to do now is secure cash and find avenues of innovation and revenue streams.”

IndieBio’s mushroom “leather” maker MycoWorks has caught the attention of high fashion and automotive clients

MycoWorks
MycoWorks
MycoWorks manufactures “leather” materials from a sustainable alternative to animal leather: the mycelium from mushrooms. Source: MycoWorks

Fortune recently went deep on IndieBio’s mushroom “leather” maker MycoWorks, in the article “Mushroom ‘leather’ realistic enough for $4,200 Hermès handbags has raised over $187 million from investors like Natalie Portman, John Legend, and GM”

MycoWorks (IndieBio 03) engineers mycelium mushrooms to develop durable, non-animal materials that compare to the look, feel, and even smell of the finest animal leathers. In addition to its $187M venture funding, MycoWorks recently broke ground on a facility in South Carolina to ramp up production of the company’s Reishi Fine Mycelium leather-like material. High-fashion client Hermès has sourced MycoWorks’ mycelium material for luxury handbags while GM has expressed plans to use Fine Mycelium for the upholstery in its electric vehicles, the article noted.

Material science Ph.D. Matt Scullin, who joined as MycoWorks’ CEO in 2017, told Fortune: “Brands are making very significant changes to address what is really a growing demographic of people who want to buy sustainable products that have provenance and traceability and a lower carbon footprint, lower water use—and mycelium does all of those things.”

BioAesthetics’ nipple-areolar complex grafted to breast cancer survivor for the first time

BioAesthetics

Biomaterials company BioAesthetics (IndieBio 05) has been developing a nipple-areolar complex (NAC) graft for breast cancer survivors, and New Orleans 4WWL TV News tells the story of the first successful graft in, “Breast cancer survivor receives breakthrough nipple, areola reconstruction surgery”

Breast cancer survivors who have undergone mastectomies usually cannot keep their nipples and areolas because these tissues can also contain cancerous cells. BioAesthetics’ patented NACgraft technology develops a biologically-derived nipple and areola applied by a surgeon. The NAC graft encourages the patient’s own cells to convert the graft into living tissue that looks and feels real to the touch.

The 4WWL TV News segment tells the story of 60-year-old Cathy Mohr, a breast cancer survivor, is the first woman to benefit from BioAesthetics’ NAC grafts. 

Based in North Carolina, BioAesthetics also designs quality-of-life biomaterials, like grafts for third degree burns, prolapsed pelvic organs, and pressure ulcers. Dr Nick Pashos is the CEO and founder.

Back in 2016 when he was a Ph.D. student in the Center for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at Tulane University, Pasho talked about his research work with a 4WWL reporter. “There are 2.8 million breast cancer survivors living in the United States,” he said at the time. “So, this is a huge community, and I think that, hopefully, I can help out at some point. I would love to just see it on one person, help one person, and I think my entire Ph.D., how I’ve spent it on, would be worth it.”

Cathy Mohr clearly agrees.

In a major win for cultivated meat, Upside Foods’ lab-grown chicken clears FDA hurdle

Upside chicken
Upside chicken
Upside Foods is the first company to receive a “No Questions” letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for cultivated poultry, meat, or seafood. Source: Upside Foods

According to The Wall Street Journal’s article, “Lab-Grown Poultry Clears First Hurdle at FDA”, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared Wednesday that it had “no questions” concerning Upside Food’s lab cultivated chicken.

In a press release , Upside Foods CEO and co-founder Dr. Uma Valeti commented: “This is a watershed moment in the history of food. We started UPSIDE amid a world full of skeptics, and today, we’ve made history again as the first company to receive a ‘No Questions’ letter from the FDA for cultivated meat. This milestone marks a major step towards a new era in meat production, and I’m thrilled that U.S. consumers will soon have the chance to eat delicious meat that’s grown directly from animal cells.”

Upside Foods (IndieBio 02) uses animal cells to grow poultry, meat, and seafood, bypassing the environmental and ethical problems associated with traditional animal farming and slaughter. Upside Foods’ production process uses less water and land than conventionally-produced meat and shrinks the risk for harmful bacteria contamination like salmonella. 

Now that Upside Foods’ first product, cultivated chicken, has cleared the FDA’s premarket review, Upside Foods must receive approval from the US Department of Agriculture before it can go to market in the U.S, the WSJ explained. 

This milestone in Upside Foods’ history follows a string of successes from the company, including a successful $400M series C funding round. Upside Foods also recently acquired cultivated seafood company Cultured Decadence and opened one of the world’s most cutting-edge cultivated meat production facilities called the Engineering, Production, and Innovation Center (EPIC).

IndieBio’s Halomine and Inso Biosciences win New York state funding for disease outbreak prevention

Halomine received $2M in funding and Inso Biosciences received $955,000. Source: Halomine
Halomine received $2M in funding and Inso Biosciences received $955,000. Source: Halomine
Halomine received $2M in funding and Inso Biosciences received $955,000. Source: Halomine

Two Cornell-based IndieBio startups Halomine (NY 01) and Inso Biosciences (NY 03) won support from the New York State Biodefense Commercialization Fund to develop solutions that will help prevent future disease outbreaks like COVID-19, the Cornell Daily Sun reported in the article “NYS Funds Cornell Startups To Combat New Disease Outbreaks”.

Halomine’s primary technology, HaloFilm, extends the life of chlorine on a surface to offer continuous protection against viruses and bacteria for days and weeks. Halomine, which received $2 million from the fund, intends to use the capital to create another antimicrobial plastics additive coating called HaloAdd to protect plastic surfaces such as medical supplies and food processing tools from pathogens. 

Inso Biosciences streamlines genomics preparation into one automated, in-solution step. The company’s rapid and precise solution can be applied to Illumina, PacBio, and Oxford Nanopore-based sequencing technologies to expand access to all genomics-enabling technologies. Inso Bioscience received $955,000 from the fund to optimize the design and operation of its chip cartridge and fluid control platform. Inso Bioscience’s technology can provide faster identification and response for sexual assault cases by accurately sorting sperm and epithelial cells by size from sample swabs. Inso Bioscience’s technology can also rapidly filter human samples with infectious microbes and remove human cells from microbes to address infectious diseases. 

“If we can limit the time to respond to a new infectious disease and give a better picture of this infection, we can really help address the ability to contain and control it,” said Inso Biosciences CEO Dr. Harvey Tian.

IndieBio’s vegan hair extension maker Nourie to launch brand with $2.5M seed round

Nourie founders Osahon Ojeaga and Dr. Mary Moore
Nourie founders Osahon Ojeaga and Dr. Mary Moore
Nourie founders Osahon Ojeaga and Dr. Mary Moore. Source: Nourie

IndieBio’s plant-based hair extension company Nourie (formerly Aja Labs) recently closed a $2.5M seed round led by SOSV, Impact America Fund, and Better Ventures, according to WWD’s article, “Meet Nourie, a Nutrient-filled, Plant-based Hair Extension Brand for Black Women”

Nourie (SF09 2019), a brand founded by Black women for Black women, is on a mission to create ethically-sourced and sustainable hair extensions that bypass the drawbacks of conventional synthetic hair and nourish the hair and scalp during wear. 

Nourie founders Osahon Ojeaga and Dr. Mary Moore are among just 200 Black women who have raised more than $1 million in venture capital, according to a Business Insider spotlight on Nourie. Ojeaga shared a 14-page pitch deck with Business Insider including advice about how to raise capital as a Black woman in America.

Her presentation underscored the importance of hair extensions, wigs, and braids as a status symbol across all demographics and economic statuses. Ojeaga also noted that the hair extension market is anticipated to reach $13B by 2026, with individuals spending roughly $2K a year on hair extensions. Her deck also tells investors about the current issues customers face, including skin irritation and potential endocrine disruption. Nourie’s sustainable solution, according to the presentation, brings biomass, crop waste, and green chemistry together to engineer human hair and planet-safe materials that nourish the scalp and hair.

In an interview with BeautyMatter, Ojeaga commented, “Hair has become a status symbol for women everywhere. Black women have been subjected to some of the lowest quality materials by way of fashion and beauty products, leading to irritation and contamination. We are championing a new future, in which sustainability and wellness are paramount.”

Here are videos for all the sessions at the 2022 SOSV Climate Tech Summit

Title graphic for the SOSV Climate Tech Summit

We just completed our two-day summit (Oct. 25-26), which included 22 panels and fireside chats with leading founders, VCs, researchers and policy experts.

We had a great turnout, with more 6700 people registered this year, from 88 countries. We recognize that the event was not available during waking hours in much of the world so we wanted to make the sessions available on-demand right at the show’s conclusion.

The full recordings for each day are here for Day 1 and Day 2. You can find each session listed with its corresponding YouTube link below.

Welcome to SOSV Climate Tech Summit 

Watch Session on YouTube

SPEAKERS


How to invent climate unicorns

Watch Session on YouTube

MIT’s Dr. Yet-Ming Chiang has an astonishing knack for converting science into indispensable climate tech companies, including unicorns Form Energy and Desktop metal and rising star Sublime Systems. How does he do it? And what spaces does he see in the vast materials space?

SPEAKERS


Who writes those early checks, and why?

Watch Session on YouTube

In venture investing, early checks are usually the riskiest, and when it comes to deep tech climate startups, the risk is especially high. How do VCs who put early capital to work decide which founders to back, and in what climate sectors? How do they coach their founders and what do they expect in the early years?

SPEAKERS


Nuclear fusion, the forever promise

Watch session on YouTube

More than $5 billion in venture capital has heated up the race to produce commercially viable, nuclear fusion power – as soon as the 2030s. Helion Founder David Kirtley is one of the frontrunning founders in the race to make this near perfect energy technology a reality.

SPEAKERS


Is this geothermal’s moment?

Watch Session on YouTube

One cure for the limitations of solar and wind is the geothermal potential right under our feet, but the US produces less than 1% of its energy from geo. Dandelion and Quaise are working on solutions that will transform access to geothermal’s untapped possibilities.

SPEAKERS

  • Carlos Araque, Quaise Energy, Co-Founder and CEO
  • Kathy Hannun, Dandelion Energy, Co-Founder and President
  • Moderator: Candice Ammori, Founder, The Climate Vine

Who writes series A & B checks and why?

Watch Session on YouTube

The value of Series A investments in climate tech grew 76% to $5.3 billion between 2020 and 2021, while Series B investments doubled to $8 billion. Khosla, USV and EIP are in the thick of the competition to write those checks. Hear how these investors pick their bets. 

SPEAKERS


The Swedish Way: How Vargas Built NorthVolt, Polarium and H2 Green Steel

Far from Silicon Valley, Carl-Erik Lagercrantz co-founded Vargas Holding and launched three notable companies to re-shore critical clean industries. Can their novel playbook apply to other industries and geographies?

Watch Session on YouTube

SPEAKERS


When the sun and wind aren’t around, what then?

Watch Session on YouTube

Globally, carbon offsets are traded on ETS generally well below $100/tCO₂. The trouble is that most solutions for carbon capture and storage still cost well above $100 per ton. Who will close the gap? We’ll hear from two founders who believe they have the technology and business model to get there. And to keep the conversation grounded, we’ll run it by a scientist whose life’s work is to figure out carbon capture.

SPEAKERS


What’s the right role for Uncle Sam?

Watch Session on YouTube

Whether it’s consumer incentives for electric cars or FDA approvals for alternative proteins, startup founders often need help from legislators and regulators to succeed. What is the best way for the government to help innovators succeed without playing favorites or making the wrong bets? 

SPEAKERS

  • Sarah Hunter, X (Formerly Google X), Director of Global Public Policy
  • Dr. Jesse Jenkins, Princeton University, Assistant Professor and Macro-scale Energy Systems Engineer
  • Robin Millican, Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), Director, U.S. Policy and Advocacy
  • Moderator: Danny Crichton, Lux Capital, Head of Editorial

The DoE’s $40 billion “bridge to bankability”

Watch Session on YouTube

The US Department of Energy has a $40 billion loan facility to assist critical, sustainable energy projects. It’s Jigar Shah’s job to make the call on those loans, and he’s studying 77 applications. So how does that work, exactly?

SPEAKERS


A rockstar VC returns to “fix” climate and secure humanity’s future

Watch Session on YouTube

Legendary software investor Chris Sacca came out of retirement to raise more than $1 billion for his new climate fund, Lowercarbon, and build a team focused on climate science and investing. In no time, they’ve invested in more than 60 companies. What has Sacca learned so far?

SPEAKERS


Termination Shock, the near now

Watch Session on YouTube

Neal Stephenson’s latest, “Termination Shock,” is a riveting take on what the near-future life might look like when climate goes badly sideways. What does the sci-fi legend really think about humanity’s ability to address the challenge?

SPEAKERS


Can direct air capture save the day?

Watch Session on YouTube

The Biden climate package set aside billions to support carbon dioxide removal technologies, and Climeworks is spear-heading the direct air capture (DAC) globally, with the world’s largest DAC facility and storage installation in operation. Co-founded by Dr. Christoph Gebald, the scale-up is on a journey to climate impact at scale and strives to inspire 1 billion people to act and remove CO2 from the air. How far has the technology developed, and what does it take to scale it up as fast as required? How does direct air capture become a real business? 

SPEAKER


Carbon reduction three ways – forests, algae and making things

Watch Session on YouTube

Our planetary ecosystem scrubs C02. Can we help forests and ocean life do better? Or borrow nature’s photosynthesis to make atmospheric CO2 into valuable materials and fuels? These three founders are putting nature to work to reduce C02. 

SPEAKERS


Singapore is way ahead. They have to be.

Watch Session on YouTube

Climate change is an existential threat to Singapore, but unlike most small island states Singapore has the financial resources, technological capability, and governmental focus to address climate change on fronts. At the center of that effort, is Minister Grace Fu.

SPEAKERS

  • Grace Fu, Singapore, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment.
  • Moderator: Ben Joffe, SOSV, Partner

Can plants and AI curb the livestock GHG problem?

Watch Session on YouTube

Can plants replace the animals in our diet? Livestock accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and unicorn Notco has taken on dairy with a plant-based milk and is using an AI-driven platform to design an arrray of plant-based protein replacements. How far can Notco go, and how fast?

SPEAKERS

  • Matias Muchnick, NotCo, Founder and CEO
  • Moderator: Amanda Little, Columnist for Bloomberg and Professor of journalism and science writing at Vanderbilt University

When farming goes indoors

Watch Session on YouTube

Food and climate have a tricky relationship. Unsustainable agriculture is a big GHG source; worsening climate risks food production and famine. Food production in sustainable facilities, If they can scale economically, may be an answer, or so these founders hope.

SPEAKERS


Alternative protein scale-up? There’s a corporate for that.

Watch Session on YouTube

Startups in food tech face daunting capital and know-how challenges to scale production. That’s why brewer giant AB InBev created BioBrew, a new division to build precision fermentation operations (beer, get it?) for the likes of partner The Every Company. How did that collaboration come to pass and how is it working?

SPEAKERS


How can ag tech feed and save the planet at the same time?

Watch Session on YouTube

Industrial agriculture is a major contributor to the greenhouse gasses that drive climate change, and at the same time our ever hotter planet is putting food production everywhere under an unprecedented strain. The challenge for ag tech pioneers is to address both challenges at once.

SPEAKERS

  • Josh Silverman, Aromyx Corporation, CEO
  • Matias Viel, Beeflow, Founder and CEO
  • Toni Wendt, Traitomic – Carlsberg Group, Head of Technology Development and Operations
  • Po Bronson, SOSV General Partner and IndieBio SF Managing Director

A $3.6 billion investment company for future generations towards a net zero world. Singapore, of course.

Watch Session on YouTube

Temasek, a global investment company, was already a global leader in climate tech investing when in June it announced the launch of GenZero, a wholly-owned $3.6 billion investment platform company dedicated to accelerating decarbonisation globally. GenZero CEO Frederick Teo will address how GenZero plans to put that capital to work. 

SPEAKERS


New ways to make materials, minus the carbon.

Watch Session on YouTube

So much of what we take for granted, from plastic, to wood to concrete and steel involve processes that contribute mightily to GHG emissions or other unsustainable processes. These three founders are walking the fine line between new green technologies and promising commercial replacements for legacy approaches. 

SPEAKERS


Welcome to climate tech investing

Watch Session on YouTube

In little more than a year, 72 new climate venture funds and $13 billion in fresh capital pulled up to the climate startup ecosystem. More capital is great for the sector, but how do these new general partners see the opportunity? Which stages and categories do they like? 

SPEAKERS


SOSV Climate Tech Summit Closing Remarks

Watch Session on YouTube

Where do we go from here?

SPEAKERS

Thank you for joining the SOSV Climate Tech Summit!

PitchBook ranks SOSV #1 most active investor in agtech

Milk Moovement
Milk Moovement
As part of Pitchbook’s Q2 agtech report, Pitchbook highlighted Milk Moovement as a participant in one of the key agtech early-stage VC deals this year. Source: Milk Moovement

In its recent quarterly report (Q2 2022) on the agtech sector, PitchBook identified SOSV as the most active VC investor in agtech this year, featuring several successful startups in SOSV’s portfolio. As of June 30, SOSV secured 18 total agtech deals, 12 being angel and seed. 

Source: PitchBook

Appearing in PitchBook’s market map for this sector was SOSV’s indoor smart farm developer Farmshelf, pollination specialist Beeflow, and dairy supply chain software developer Milk Moovement

PitchBook specifically highlighted biomanufacturer Unicorn Biotechnologies in its list of key agtech angel and seed deals in Q2 2022. The company, which is developing cultivated meat using a cell-based biomanufacturing platform, has raised $3.2M in a series seed round.

Source: PitchBook

Milk Moovement appeared again in PitchBook’s report of key agtech early-stage VC deals with a $20.4M series A led by Richard Cargill and VMG Partners. The company’s goal is to innovate dairy software for all players in the raw milk supply chain.

Key agtech early-stage VC deals
Source: PitchBook
Posted in Ag

IndieBio’s Novoloop makes upcycled outsole for On’s new running shoe

Novoloop
Novoloop
Novoloop and On have partnered on a new carbon capture consortium shoe using thermoplastic polyurethane made from upcycled plastic. Source: Novoloop

IndieBio’s materials company Novoloop (RebelBio 02) has partnered with athletic shoemaker On to produce an outsole for On’s Cloudprime sneaker from upcycled thermoplastic polyurethane, TechCrunch reported in the article “Materials startup Novoloop brings its upcycled outsole to On’s new running shoe”.

Novoloop transforms low-value plastic waste into high-quality chemicals and materials—it’s first product being Oistre, a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) material for durable products like shoes, apparel, sporting goods, electronics, and cars. 

In June 2022, TechCrunch also reported that Novoloop had raised a $10M series A extension round led by Taizo Son’s Mistletoe and Hanwha Solutions and joined by SOSV, Valo Ventures, Drive Catalyst, Alante Capital, and S Cap. The extension brought the series A to $21M and the total funding to date to $24M. 

“Our TPU has performed so well in the test that On felt confident enough to put it on the Cloudprime for the [Elemental Excelerator event] reveal,” Novoloop co-founder and CEO Miranda Wang told TechCrunch. “But furthermore, we’re working together on all of the scale of planning to get our TPU into their shoe for mass production.”

IndieBio’s cultivated meat startup Prolific Machines emerges from stealth with $42M from investors

IndieBio’s founder Arvind Gupta shared five valuable lessons he learned from investing in cultivated meat startup Prolific Machines. Source: Prolific Machines

IndieBio’s cultured meat startup Prolific Machines has emerged from stealth mode, announcing  $42M in combined seed and series A funding. Prolific Machines started in SOSV’s IndieBio development program, and Arvind Gupta at Mayfield (previously co-founder of IndieBio) led the $3.1M seed round, followed by the series A led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures. 

TechCrunch described how Prolific Machines is taking a “Henry Ford approach” to cultured meat by developing a scalable “assembly-line” manufacturing process to create cultivated proteins. Prolific Machines’ technology greatly reduces the costs associated with the recombinant proteins in growth mediums used today by startups focused on cultivated proteins. They plan to produce their own cultivated meats as well as license their technology to other cultivated meat producers.

Po Bronson, managing director at IndieBio and general partner at SOSV, commented that “Prolific was a radical idea with a truly incredible team, exactly what IndieBio loves. Prolific has broken all of the records at IndieBio, and I see their technology as the best in this space.”

“When Deniz showed me what they were doing, I was blown away by the creativity in their approach to reinvent the assembly line for food production,” Gupta said in Prolific Machines’ press release. “I am convinced Prolific Machines will be a winner in the race for sustainable food production.”

In a separate post on Mayfield’s website, Gupta reflected on the insights he took away from investing in Prolific Machines

The history of technological revolution occurs in a cycle of invention first and scalability second, he argued, where innovations are made affordable and accessible. Prolific Machines is revolutionizing the assembly-line process to manufacture cultured meats and more. By eliminating the most expensive driver of cell culture—recombinant growth factors—industries beyond meat production, including drug production, can adopt lower priced, more sustainable ingredients. He also noted that great founders are radicals, and Prolific Machines’ co-founder and CEO Dr. Deniz Kent found his radical inspiration in a desire to put his background in stem cell research to work in the fight against climate change through more sustainable food production.

Prolific also published the list of investors who have joined to back Prolific Machines. They include: David Adelman, Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks), The Kraft Group (owners of the New England Patriots), David Rubenstein, Michael Rubin, Breyer Capital, The SALT Fund, Purple Orange Ventures, Fred Blackford, Jake Poliskin, and Baruch Future Ventures. A number of celebrities and restaurateurs have also invested in Prolific including: Kevin Love, Tobias Harris, Meek Mill, Ciara & Russell Wilson, Emily Ratajkowski, Maverick Carter, Sean Feeney, Michael Schulson, Mark Bucher, and RJ Melman.

IndieBio’s Puna Bio raises $3.7 million to enlist nature’s extremophiles in the effort to help crops survive and thrive

PunaBio microbes
PunaBio microbes
PunaBio captures and cultivates “extremophile” microbes, like the ones pictured above, to restore agriculture. Source: PunaBio

IndieBio’s microbial agtech developer PunaBio (IndieBio SF12 2021) has secured $3.7 million in a seed round was led by Builders VC and At One Ventures, TechCrunch revealed in its article “Puna Bio’s extremophile microbe menagerie survives and revives depleted soil”. Other participants in the funding round include SOSV/IndieBio, SP Ventures, Air Capital, GLOCAL, and Grid Exponential

Puna Bio locates and cultivates beneficial microbes thriving in extreme environments (“extremophiles”) and introduces them to agriculture in milder climates where their plant-aiding processes work in overdrive. The result, TechCrunch noted, is higher crop yields, lower carbon emissions, and restored previously-depleted soil. 

“Our extremophiles are used to living with a low amount of nutrients; they have evolved, for around 2.5 billion years, to optimize nutrient uptakes such as nitrogen or phosphorus,” said PunaBio’s co-founder and CEO Franco Martínez Levis to TechCrunch. “For some properties, they show novel genes, or in other words, novel biosynthetic pathways. For others, the number of copies of the genes is higher compared to a non-extremophile microorganisms, which makes their activity more efficient.”

Pitchbook ranks SOSV #1 most active investor in foodtech

Endless West
Endless West
PitchBook called out several SOSV-backed startups like molecular spirit producer Endless West for blazing a trail in foodtech. Source: Endless West

In its recent quarterly report (Q2 2022) on the foodtech sector, PitchBook identified SOSV as the most active VC investor in foodtech this year, citing scores of successful startups in SOSV and IndieBio’s portfolio.

Most active VC investors in foodtech in 2022
With 25 deals as of June, SOSV was the most active VC investor in foodtech in Q2 2022. Source: PitchBook

While the foodtech industry boomed amid the COVID-19 pandemic—especially e-commerce businesses that provided safe grocery and meal access—recent price inflation for food may help or hurt companies depending on business model. PitchBook revealed that companies encountering investor success amid such inflation include those with vertically-integrated models that minimize fees, food delivery services that cut down on consumer fuel costs, and online grocery services that allow consumers to carefully budget a grocery purchase ahead of time. 

PitchBook compiled a market map in which analysts call out a number of foodtech startups that have received venture capital or other substantial private investments, including UPSIDE Foods, Endless West, Voyage Foods, California Cultured, Dastgyr, Geltor, Perfect Day, The EVERY Company, Joywell Foods, and NotCo, among others. In particular, PitchBook called out cultivated meat provider UPSIDE Foods as having closed one of the most notable megadeals in Q2. 

Key foodtech late-stage VC deals
UPSIDE Foods landed a $400M megadeal led by Temasek Holdings and Abu Dhabi Growth Fund. Source: PitchBook

PitchBook’s company highlight on UPSIDE cited the company’s numerous wins in the past year: its new 53,000-square-foot R&D and production facility, its lineup of restaurant partnerships, its acquisition of cultivated seafood provider Cultured Decadence, and its breakthrough development of FBS-free growth media. The analysts also spotlighted molecular foods developer Voyage Foods for snatching up one of the largest VC deals, raising a $36M series A at a $60M pre-money valuation in a round headed by UBS O’Connor and Level One Fund. 

One foodtech opportunity gaining interest among investors is the molecular food and beverage market, which is also the sweet spot for SOSV’s IndieBio. These startups can create ingredients that sustain the environment and sidestep supply issues affected by climate change challenges, among other benefits.

Key VC-backed molecular food companies
Several SOSV-backed companies landed a spot on PitchBook’s list of key VC-backed molecular food companies, including Endless West, Voyage Foods, and California Cultured. Source: PitchBook

Pitchbook pointed to IndieBio’s Voyage Foods as a leader in molecular foodtech with its peanut-free spread that allows those with peanut allergies to enjoy the taste and consistency of peanuts without a reaction. Pitchbook also nodded to another IndieBio company, molecular spirits developer Endless West, as one startup bypassing the time and cost challenges of aging spirits in barrels by using spectrometry and analytic chemistry to recreate the attributes of premium spirits. Endless West ranked number one in Pitchbook’s list of key VC-backed molecular food companies at over $100M raised to date and Voyage Foods at number three with $41M. IndieBio’s cell-based chocolate developer California Cultured also made the list at half a million raised to date.

Check out the full report below to see more up-and-comers from SOSV’s portfolio and learn about the trajectory of foodtech. 

IndieBio’s The EVERY Company leverages precision fermentation for animal-free egg whites

Alt-eggs
Alt-eggs
While alt-meats and dairy make up the bulk of the plant-based market, alternative eggs are a growing category. Screenshot: Bloomberg Quicktake

Bloomberg Quicktake recently tweeted a video highlighting three companies revolutionizing the alt-egg industry—one of which is IndieBio’s EVERY Company (IndieBio SF01 2015). 

The EVERY Company creates an animal-free egg white replacement using precision fermentation to mimic the characteristics of egg, including foaming, gelation, and nutritional properties. Bloomberg Quicktake interviewed EVERY founder and CEO Arturo Elizondo on how EVERY achieves its alternative egg by reverse engineering an egg’s basic building blocks: its hundreds of proteins. 

“All the proteins we work with are found in online databases. They have the same amino acid profile, the same nutritional profile [as eggs],” he says. “Our products are 100% vegan and they’re also 100% animal protein. And so we have this beautiful opportunity to essentially reimagine what the food of the future could look like.”

Catch Arturo at the 2:00 minute mark.

IndieBio’s OzoneBio upcycles paper waste to produce zero-emissions bio-nylon

OzoneBio
OzoneBio
OzoneBio is creating a low-cost, emissions-free adipic acid from waste feedstocks to make the world’s first bio-nylon 66. Source: OzoneBio

Green tech company OzoneBio (IndieBio SF11 2021) was recently spotlighted in Bioenterprise’s feature, “Start-up uses waste to create world’s first emissions-free bio-nylon”. The Canadian company is upcycling waste from the paper and pulp industry to develop the world’s first nylon 66 without emissions, the article reports. 

Adipic acid, a core building block of the common plastic strengthener nylon 66, produces high amounts of nitrous oxide emissions, which has a heavy environmental and climate toll. Bioenterprise highlighted how OzoneBio is using affordable treated wood waste and natural enzymes called “zombie cells” to create an emissions-free adipic acid powder.

Speaking of adipic acid, OzoneBio’s co-founder Anna Khusnutdinova commented, “The world can’t stop using this polymer because it is one of the most resilient polymers out there, but we have discovered a way to make zero-emissions adipic acid using biocatalysts and enzymes.”

Minus Materials grows biogenic limestone for carbon-neutral cement

Cement
Cement
Minus Materials uses calcareous algae to grow carbon-negative limestone for the cement and concrete industries. Photo by Haneen Krimly on Unsplash

Aiming to drastically cut the carbon emissions of cement production, Minus Materials is using microalgae to make a key ingredient in cement, Fast Company reports in the article, “This startup is using microalgae to make carbon-neutral cement”. The startup, spun out of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Living Materials Laboratory, has received seed investment from SOSV and has already supplied samples of its “biogenic” limestone to partners in the cement industry. Minus Materials is in the current cohort at SOSV’s IndieBio SF.

Cement production currently accounts for 8% of carbon emissions globally—partly from energy use and partly from the process of heating up limestone, which releases significant amounts of CO2, Fast Company explains. Minus Materials has found a way to develop limestone with an algae that captures CO2 as it grows, making cement production carbon neutral. 

Speaking to Fast Company about his inspiration for the biogenic limestone, Minus Minerals CEO Wil Srubar said, “It really wasn’t until I was snorkeling on my honeymoon that I started to really think about how these organisms, these macro- and microscopic algae, grow these structures. All they need is sunlight, seawater, and CO2.” He continued, “What we want to demonstrate with our pilot at-scale cultivation is that this is a replicable model anywhere in the world.” 

How IndieBio helped Geltor set its sights on the lucrative bio-engineered collagen market

Gelter
Gelter
Using a plant-based fermentation process, Gelter biodesigns collagen for beauty, nutrition, food, and beverage markets. Source: Gelter

The New York Times recently spotlighted Geltor, an alt-protein company in Indie Bio’s portfolio (IBSF02 2015), in the article, “Is Bio-Designed Collagen the Next Step in Animal Protein Replacement?”.

The New York Times charts Geltor’s foray into the production of bio-engineered collagen, produced without any animal ingredients, and the firm’s success in working with cosmetics companies to provide essentially vegan collagen for all manner of cosmetics. The story recounts how seven years ago Geltor’s plan looked very different, and how SOSV’s IndieBio helped re-write the script.

“The new company was accepted into IndieBio, a biotech venture capital firm based in San Francisco that has incubated a host of alt-protein companies including Upside Foods (which cultures cow and chicken cells to make meat) and Perfect Day (which bioengineers microbes to produce milk proteins),” the article reports. “IndieBio’s leaders convinced [Geltor founders] Dr. Lorestani and Dr. Ouzounov that Geltor needed to sell a product, not a platform, and the partners settled on bio-designed collagen. Collagen is plentiful in all animal bodies, but Americans often encounter it in food-grade gelatin, nutritional supplements, and hair and skin-care products. They saw a growing market for collagen in luxury skin-care products, particularly in Asia.”

Amid vegan ingredient shortage, IndieBio’s NotCo taps AI for plant-based alternatives

NotCo
NotCo
Chilean plant-based food producer NotCo is using AI to find vegan dairy and meat alternatives—even amid supply chain disruptions. Source: NotCo

Plant-based food producer NotCo (IndieBio SF05 2017) has a secret weapon against critical supply chain disruptions, according to Bloomberg’s recent article, “The AI Platform Behind a Bezos-Backed Startup’s Vegan Burgers”. The Chilean-based company is tapping into an artificial intelligence platform named Giuseppe to find an alternative to sunflower oil—a crucial ingredient to one-third of all vegan meat alternatives, and one that has been in short supply because of the war in Ukraine. Giuseppe draws from a large database of plant-based versions of animal products, allowing it to create new formulas based on flavor, texture, color, and nutritional profile. 

Bloomberg cites NotCo’s impressive list of investors from Tiger Global, which led the series D, to Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton to Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos. (Notco has raised $363 million.) SOSV is also an investor and Notco is a graduate of SOSV’s IndieBio program. The article also paints the breadth of plant-based producer’s reach across fast food chains globally: NotCo has brought vegan options—both plant-based burgers and milkshakes—to Burger King, Shake Shack, Smash Burger, and Starbucks, among others, throughout Latin America, Australia, Canada, and the U.S. The unicorn startup will release its products in Europe and Asia this year.  

Giuseppe has helped NotCo formulate its two most popular dairy and meat alternative lines, NotMilk and NotBurger, using ingredients as surprising as cabbage juice and as common (to vegan recipes) as pea protein. “What NotCo is trying to do is offer a solution to the entire industry,” NotCo co-founder and CEO Matías Muchnick told Bloomberg. “When you take the animal out of the equation and you replace it with plants, everything gets way more efficient, exponentially.” 

Indiebio’s Kelp-based textile company AlgiKnit closes $13M series A, opens new facility

scientist looking at spindle of thread
AlgiKnit Closes $13 Million Series A To Scale Production To Meet Global Demand. Photo credit: AlgiKnit.

In the article, “Materials Innovator AlgiKnit Closes $13 Million Series A Thttps://www.synbiobeta.com/read/materials-innovator-algiknit-closes-13-million-series-a-to-transform-the-textile-industrys-environmental-impacto Transform the Textile Industry’s Environmental Impact,” SynBioBeta reports that biomaterials company AlgiKnit (IndieBio / RebelBio 05) has completed a $13 million Series A funding round led by Collaborative Fund with additional support from Starlight Ventures, Third Nature VenturesHorizons Ventures, and SOSV. Just Style’s article “H&M Group joins funding for seaweed yarn maker Algiknit” also reveals that H&M CO:LAB, the investment arm of H&M Group, has lent additional funding support.

Algiknit leverages kelp, a type of seaweed, to create sustainable yarns and fibers across a number of industries including fashion, interiors, and automotive. In addition to closing its Series A, AlgiKnit also opened a new manufacturing facility in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, according to SynBioBeta. 

Speaking of Algiknit’s recent funding efforts and new manufacturing facility, AlgiKnit co-founder and CEO Tessa Callaghan commented, “This is a huge next step in bringing this technology to scale, and creating positive, tangible change for the planet. We are so excited to partner with new and existing investors who share our vision for transforming the fashion ecosystem.”

Closing a $6M series A, Chinova Bioworks targets mushroom-derived preservatives

In the article, “AgFunder-backed Chinova Bioworks raises $6m Series A funding for natural shelf-life extender”, AgFunderNews reports that Chinova Bioworks, a company developing fungi-based preservatives, closed a series A round worth $6M. This brings Chinova Bioworks’ total funding to date to $11.8M. 

Leading the most recent series A round was DSM Venturing and Rhapsody Venture Partners with additional participation from Rich Products Ventures. In Chinova Bioworks’ 2018 seed round, DSM Venturing and Rhapsody Venture Partners invested $2M alongside AgFunder and Natural Products Canada. The company’s pre-seed funding was headed by SOSV, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, and the First Angel Network, according to AgFunderNews.

Using white button mushroom fiber, Chinova Bioworks creates a clean-label alternative to chemical preservatives in food—particularly in dairy, plant-based meat, baked goods, sauces, spreads, and beverages. 

Explaining the consumer demand for natural ingredients, Chinova Bioworks co-founder and CEO Natasha Dhayagude remarks, “The [Covid-19] pandemic has accelerated the trend for food safety and health-focused products.”

By Hannah DeTavis

Meet Stephen Chambers, the newly promoted general partner at SOSV’s IndieBio NY

Stephen Chambers
IndeBio NY program Managing Director, Dr. Stephen Chambers, PhD, SOSV 's newest general partner
IndeBio NY program Managing Director, Dr. Stephen Chambers, PhD, SOSV ‘s newest general partner

Two years after starting the IndieBio NY program as its Managing Director, Dr. Stephen Chambers, PhD, SOSV named him a general partner.

Stephen has been active in synthetic biology for 3 decades and founded multiple organizations. Immediately prior to joining IndieBio in 2020, Stephen was Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence at Imperial College London where he helping commercialise world-leading research and address skills gaps in the emerging synthetic biology ecosystem.

Before that, he was co-founder of several organizations including London’s BioStart accelerator, SynbiCITE (an innovation and knowledge centre for synthetic biology), Abpro (producing novel antibodies & proteins for biomedical research) and had a 17-years tenure as founding scientist and Director of Gene Expression at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, one of the first biotech firms to use an explicit strategy of rational drug design rather than combinatorial chemistry.

Stephen holds degrees in Molecular Biology from the University of Warwick (PhD), Biotechnology from the University of Birmingham (MS) and Biochemistry from Bangor University (BS).

Here are a few questions for Stephen: 

Dr. Chambers, you’re a bona fide Ph.D. in molecular biology. What attracted you to this field?

Please call me Stephen 🙂

Well, I didn’t start as a Molecular Biologist. I grew up watching Jacques Cousteau explore the undersea world on TV and initially wanted to study Marine Biology. However, I soon transferred to the less flashy but more employable Biochemistry degree and followed that with a Master’s in Biotechnology. At that time, there was an international moratorium on genetic engineering, and the only place in the world where this work could be performed and scaled up was Porton Down in the UK. This is where I did my Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and, in retrospect, was where I caught the startup fever—working alongside Biotech startups, like Biogen and Genentech, using the containment facilities and large-scale fermentors only available at Porton Down. After that, I joined Vertex in the US, as one of their founding scientists; Vertex was one of the first pharma companies to successfully utilize molecular biology in the drug design process.   

You’ve been a serial founder of biotech companies and a big supporter of the UK’s synbio scene. What lessons did you learn on the way? 

Through these experiences, I’ve been fortunate to have worked on numerous drug discovery & development programs, both small-molecule and biologics, resulting in regulatory approvals. And while I share the insights gained from those successful experiences with IndieBio startup founders, I make it a point also to convey what I learned from my many failed projects. Interestingly, I’ve found these are the most valuable lessons.

It’s easy to become pessimistic about the commercialization of science because the probability of failure is high in Biotech. It’s much harder to be optimistic when the odds are so poor. While founders must follow the data, they also need to create an alternative reality for themselves and their company with the belief that they can overcome the many challenges ahead.

Why do you think synbio matters so much today?

Molecular biology was always a very artisan process, highly variable, and not easily transferable or scalable. Synthetic biology can substantially increase predictability by applying engineering principles to biological processes. This shift towards synthetic biology matters because it is seeking to solve some of the biggest societal and environmental problems we face.

How did you get involved with IndieBio?

I followed what Arvind Gupta was doing in SF and Bill Liao in Cork with RebelBio. I visited the Jessie Street labs during a Synbiobeta conference and was very impressed with the team and the companies coming out of the program. I ran BioStart, a synbio pre-accelerator program in London, so when RebelBio relocated to the UK, I reached out to them to help with connectivity and mentored some companies – I feel like that is how many get involved in IndieBio.

Today’s reality is that early-stage investors are all looking for a founding team capable of executing a realistic scientific plan and business model to deliver asset-generating revenues.

You opened IndieBio’s NY office right when Covid hit. How did that work?

Amazingly well.  We opened just as Covid closed New York. But thanks to Po and the SF team who shared their insights and playbook, and the heroic efforts of the NY team –  Alex, Lindsay, Xavier, Julie, Gwen, Sam, Rodrigo, and more recently, Maddy and Sabriya – we recruited great founders and companies into the program and prepared them for the entrepreneurial journey ahead.  The results are there: 90% of the first cohort in IBNY received seed financing, and the subsequent three cohorts continue to impress, raising over $50M.  

What do you think could be done to get more biotech scientists to build startups?

Entrepreneurship is the art of creating something out of nothing and founders are on a constant search for scarce resources. For any scientist, starting a company is like visiting a foreign country for the first time: you need a guide to help with the language, the customs, what to do, where to go, who to see, and hundreds of other insights that make the journey less stressful. I like to think of IndieBio as a welcoming community of peers who will help you pack the right stuff and learn the right things for your journey, providing supportive resources and removing the barriers for biotech scientists wanting to build startups.

What key differences do you see between the biotech startup scenes in SF, NY and the UK?

The New York ecosystem is behind SF in terms of the numbers of biotech startups. But the raw material for success is there, with well-funded world-leading universities and research institutions, graduating the most bioscientists in the US. New York is also home to 12 of the world’s top 20 biopharmaceutical companies. The lack of resources, particularly the first check for early-stage life science companies, has been attributed to the lack of startup activity – and this is where IndieBio can help founders in New York.

I think the difference between coasts is oversimplified: “West-Coast investors with a tech background are more early-stage, founder-driven”, while “East Coast investors with Pharma backgrounds are only interested in a clinically ready asset”. Today’s reality is that early-stage investors are all looking for a founding team capable of executing a realistic scientific plan and business model to deliver asset-generating revenues.

Compared to the US, the UK doesn’t have a robust startup tradition in Biotech, and while the ecosystem is growing fast, it is still much smaller than in the US. And since this is a numbers game, more startups and more shots on goal results in more success. The UK still doesn’t have the critical mass of life science startup companies we have in Boston and SF and starting to see in NY. Biotech is now global, so many UK biotech startups are increasingly looking to the US for resources, investment, and markets – which is good news for IndieBio.

Meet Mohan Iyer, the new general partner at SOSV’s IndieBio SF

Mohan S. Iyer photo
Mohan S. Iyer, the newest general partner at SOSV

Mohan S. Iyer is the newest general partner at SOSV, focused on the IndieBio SF program with fellow SOSV general partners Po Bronson and Pae Wu.

Prior to joining IndieBio in 2021, Mohan was the COO of Pendulum Therapeutics working on probiotics for metabolic health to help people with type 2 diabetes to manage A1C, naturally. He was also Chief Business Officer at Second Genome, the first venture-backed microbiome genomics company, and CFO of Tethys Bioscience, which developed the first commercial test to predict those at highest risk of converting to type 2 diabetes.

Mohan holds an MBA from Yale, and degrees in Biomedical Engineering from Duke (M.S.) and Chemical Engineering from the University of Tennessee (B.S.).

Here are a few questions for Mohan: 

You started out as a biochemical engineer at Genentech, the mecca of biotech, before getting an MBA at Yale, then had various C-level roles in life science companies before focusing on -omics and a longer stint in microbiome. What made you take this path?

Genentech, in the mid-80s, gave me an amazing opportunity to experience first hand how a key insight from molecular biology can disrupt entrenched industries and positively impact human health. My entire career has been focused on chasing and expanding this vision. Each of the startups I worked with were based on a specific molecular biology insight with the potential to transform medicine and health. The technology platform was different in each case, whether genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics or microbiomics. The product and business models varied too, whether a novel molecular diagnostic, a new small or large molecule drug, or even a direct-to-consumer novel medical food. The thread that ties it all together is the drive toward translating disruptive biology into healthcare products that people really need. 

How did you connect with IndieBio and what made it catch your attention?

The last 25-30 years of biotech is just the preamble of how synbio will impact many sectors. It will help switch from petroleum-based and animal-based GHG-intensive products – from meat to packaging or cosmetics. Human health will transform too, and I realized that contributing my experience to founding and launching dozens of startups in that space would be very fulfilling, while also making an innovation-driven impact on the climate crisis.

I joined the intrepid team here focused on scaling up the venture capital industry to launch dozens of life science companies a year, each hoping for a singular impact on human and planetary health. 

I had mentored a few IndieBio companies in the past and I called Po Bronson to discuss how I could increase my involvement. Here’s some advice: If you are not ready to shake up your life, you really should not call Po. I quickly found myself in the basement on Jessie Street hanging out with IndieBio’s amazing startup founders, and I knew I had arrived: I joined the intrepid team here focused on scaling up the venture capital industry to launch dozens of life science companies a year, each hoping for a singular impact on human and planetary health. 

Mohan S. Iyer, Pae Wu and Po Bronson

You’ve been working with IndieBio startups for a year — what are the most common knowledge or experience gaps you can help them fill?

Many IndieBio founders are first-timers. My broad and deep operational experience helping to scale half a dozen startups brings them practical advice on how to articulate, structure and execute against their north star goals. Rolling up my sleeves alongside these amazing change agents is a great privilege.

What biotech sectors are you most motivated to work on?

A key ingredient to my personal happiness is continuous learning; so I am fairly agnostic about the sectors and very apt to plunge into new areas. Here at IndieBio, my inner biochemical engineer is like a kid in a candy store. There are so many blue-sky challenges to work on and overcome, they remind me of my first job at Genentech scaling up the manufacturing process for biotech’s very first products. Of course, based on my history and pattern of behavior over the last 30 years, I am intrinsically drawn to a company story where there is a stunning insight from biology with revolutionary possibilities. 

Last, what’s your secret hobby?

Well, it’s not much of a secret. On a weekend afternoon, after a couple of sets of tennis, you will find me picking a new tune on my ukulele. 

Meet the new chief science officers at IndieBio in NYC and HAX in Newark

SOSV, IndieBioNY, HAX
SOSV: Susan Schofer (left), PhD, Chief Science Officer of HAX Newark facility, and Sabriya Stukes, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer of IndieBio New York.
Susan Schofer (left), PhD, Chief Science Officer of HAX Newark facility, and Sabriya Stukes, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer of IndieBio New York.

At SOSV’s IndieBio and HAX, two new team members are helping deep tech founders address scientific challenges. Earlier this year, Sabriya Stukes, PhD, joined IndieBio as Chief Scientific Officer in Manhattan and Susan Schofer, PhD, joined HAX as Partner and Chief Science Officer at its Newark, New Jersey facility. Stukes and Schofer both bring world-class credentials to these leading programs addressing human and planetary health. 

The two scientists will work in a variety of areas, starting with due diligence on the science behind the startups applying to the programs. Once founders are on board, Sabriya and Susan will help them define their scientific milestones, build a compelling narrative, and develop a commercialization strategy. The aim is that by the time founders graduate, they are ready to raise seed capital and pursue regulatory approvals. 

HAX, founded in Shenzhen in 2011, opened its Newark facility this year in partnership with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. IndieBio expanded to NYC from San Francisco, where it started in 2014, in collaboration with New York state. Dr. Stukes and Dr. Schofer will build upon this foundation by developing the network of scientists and corporate partners crucial to emerging startups. 

Sabriya Stukes: Innovating With, Not For

Born in Arlington, Virginia, Sabriya grew up as a voracious reader with a dinosaur obsession. IndieBio can thank The Hot Zone, the nonfiction thriller about Ebola, for convincing Sabriya to study infectious diseases instead of pterodactyls.

After graduating from Virginia Tech in 2005, Sabriya conducted research on HIV at the National Institutes of Health and tuberculosis at New York University. She then pursued her PhD in microbiology and immunology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, graduating in 2015.

At a seminar highlighting women in STEM, Sabriya met Dr. Gilda Barabino, then dean of engineering at the City College of New York (CCNY). Dr. Barabino was about to launch the Master’s in Translational Medicine (MTM) program at CCNY and asked Sabriya to help build it. MTM would be the city’s first graduate degree to train scientists and engineers in medical technology innovation and commercialization.

“You can’t design in a vacuum. I’m big on designing not just for a specific population or community, but with them.”


Over the next six years, Sabriya mentored MTM student-founders working on everything from treating atopic dermatitis in individuals with melanated skin to a wearable device for managing the effects of menopause. Ideas like these “…got me thinking about who gets technologies designed for them, and who doesn’t,” Sabriya says. 

Sabriya noticed that many founders struggled because they often excluded their intended customers from the innovation process. “You can’t design in a vacuum,” she says. “I’m big on designing not just for a specific population or community, but with them.” 

In 2021, Sabriya brought that drive to Stellate Therapeutics, a biotech company using microbiome-derived molecules to treat neurodegenerative disorders. She took on operations for Stellate while continuing to teach MTM graduate students. 

Early in 2022, Sabriya heard about IndieBio’s opening for a Chief Scientific Officer doing what she loves: creating a community of scientists and engineers, in New York, dedicated to designing innovative and inclusive solutions for unmet clinical needs.   

“Sabriya is a perfect fit for the IndieBio New York program,” said SOSV General Partner Stephen Chambers. “She brings a track record of accomplishments as a research scientist, an academic helping grad students translate research into commercial opportunities, and hands-on operational experience in a New York life science startup. In addition, Sabriya brings an enormous amount of energy and positivity with her can-do attitude, making her a pleasure to work alongside.”

Susan Schofer: The Commercialization Wiz

Born in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, Susan was lucky to attend New Trier, a massive public high school where she could “nerd out,” as she puts it, and “be challenged to my limit.” As an undergrad at Brown University, Susan got hooked on chemistry. 

After graduating in 1997, Susan tried out management consulting (“not a fit”) and instead went to Caltech for a PhD in chemistry followed by a postdoc in Sweden working on artificial photosynthesis. In 2005, she joined Symyx Technologies, a Bay Area chemicals startup accelerating new material discovery. 

Not many PhDs enjoy thinking about scale, cost, and marketing narratives, but Susan did. In her next job at Amyris, a San Francisco-based synthetic biology startup, she transitioned from the lab to product management and commercial operations. This was her sweet spot.

“You want to be inventing things that are new to the world, not inventing things that are new to you.”

In 2014, Susan landed a job as the eighth employee at Modern Meadow, then a New York-based startup that was working on animal-free leather and debating how to commercialize it. Partnerships, Susan reasoned, were the missing bridge between the laboratory and market. “You want to be inventing things that are new to the world, not inventing things that are new to you,” she says.

Susan secured partnerships with an Italian textile mill and major luxury and performance brands eager to be part of the innovation process. That way, Modern Meadow was able to develop a useful leather directly, without Marco Polo-ing its way to product-market fit. Susan’s approach helped Modern Meadow raise a $130 million Series C in April 2021.

In 2022, Susan met the HAX team at a hard tech happy hour in New York, where they were scouting for a Chief Science Officer. “This role combines all the things I love,” says Susan. “This team is super talented and trying to create the future.”

Susan applied for the job believing that HAX can revitalize planetary and human health—and New Jersey. “The way we produce, ship, and acquire things is broken and needs to be reinvented,” she says, arguing that cities like Newark—dismissed as Rust Belt relics—will be part of an industrial renaissance as hard tech innovations reshore manufacturing to the US.

“Susan not only has stellar academic credentials, but she has also spent most of her professional life focused on scaling new technology,” said SOSV General Partner Duncan Turner. “As HAX companies continue to push the envelope of hard tech, both in science and scale, we needed an experienced scientist to help us grow our expertise and capabilities in this area. We were absolutely delighted to meet Susan as she is a perfect fit for this role and so happy she chose to join our team.”

They Have Your Back

Sabriya and Susan know firsthand how communities of scientists and engineers, embedded among thoughtful mentors and experienced partners, can commercialize science that changes life for the better. They have seen what lies ahead and can spare founders from avoidable mistakes. They will ask the questions founders have never been asked and help guide startups where they never thought they could go. They know the science, and they have your back.

Voyage Foods raises $36 million to make sustainable pantry staples

The Green Queen article “Ethical Pantry Staples Maker Voyage Foods Bags $36 Million To Accelerate CPG Aspirations” reports on a recent series A funding round led by UBS O’Connor and Level One Fund. SOSV, Horizons Ventures, and Social Impact Capital also participated in the round. 

California-based sustainable food startup Voyage Foods (IndieBio) reverse engineers allergen-free pantry staples, creating similar items while eliminating their negative impact on the environment. According to the article, the company’s first target products will include peanut-free peanut butter, cacao-free chocolate, and coffee bean-free coffee.  

“We’re future-proofing time-tested favorite foods so that we can enjoy them for years to come without having to worry about their impact on the environment and unjust labor customs that contributed to making them,” said Voyage founder and CEO Adam Maxwell.

Joywell Foods raises $25M to develop and commercialize sweet proteins

Photo: Joywell Foods

In “Joywell Foods raises $25M to bring sweet proteins to market,” TechCrunch reported the series B funding was led by Piva Capital, with participation from B37 Ventures, Global Brain Corporation, and existing investors Khosla Ventures, Evolv Ventures, Alumni Ventures, and SOSV. The article indicated that once Joywell Foods (SOSV IBSF03 2016) receives regulatory approval, expected this fall, the company will enter the commercialization phase of a line of beverages containing sweet proteins. 

Joywell CEO Ali Wing said, “We’re biologically predisposed to crave sugar, so it’s not something we should actually feel so bad about. If you really look at consumption today, over 70% of consumers are actively seeking to reduce sugar in their diets and the No. 1 culprit for that is daily added sugars. We just need to solve it differently, and that’s the beauty of technology and what we are doing.”

Sea & Believe developing realistic, flakey plant-based cod

The Spoon article “Sea & Believe is Making Plant-Based Whole Cut ‘Cod’ That Flakes Like Real Fish” reports on the development of a new product for a startup that already sells two alt-fish items, a seaweed burger and seaweed goujons. Growing up in Ireland, Sea & Believe (SOSV IBSF12 2021) founder Jennifer O’Brien discovered the health benefits of eating seaweed to help with her asthma. According to the article, O’Brien and Chief Technology Officer Piyali Chakraborty believe their alt cod filet made from Irish seaweed “will be the first plant-based seafood product to flake just like the real thing.”

The story is also covered in Vegconomist.

Life science innovations on display at IndieBio Expo

On April 20 at an Expo at IndieBio SF, investors and media got a peek at the technology and products of several of the program’s alum and had a chance to meet the founders of the current IndieBio SF cohort. The CGTN video “Tech startups combine technology with nature” features four of the startups, including Sea & Believe (SOSV IBSF12 2021), which produces realistic alternative seafood using great tasting seaweed; Veloz Bio (SOSV IBSF12 2021), the world’s fastest protein design and development platform; earth friendly bio-pesticide producer Pyrone Systems (SOSV IBSF12 2021); and protein-based reef- and human-safe sunscreen maker Soliome (SOSV IBSF12 2021). 

You can learn more watching these companies and more pitch at the IndieBio Demo day, which took place on April 26. 

California Cultured and others aim to bypass the fraught cacao-farming industry

The Wall Street Journal article “Sustainable Chocolate Made Without Cacao” explores the projects underway to make chocolate production more sustainable. According to the Journal, the industry is plagued by child labor, worker exploitation, deforestation, and soil contamination, and business is trying to improve the situation. For example, chocolate giants Nestlé, Mars, and Hershey signed an agreement in 2001 aimed at ending child labor. 

Two SOSV startups—California Cultured (SOSV IBSF11 2021) and Voyage Foods—are mentioned in the article for their use of alternative ingredients and reimagined production methods. California Cultured produces chocolate from cacao plant cells. About his motivations for founding the company, CEO Alan Perlstein said, “California Cultured was created to address chocolate’s dark secrets and bring chocolate and cacao farming into the 21st century.”

Voyage Foods, which produces cacao-free milk-chocolate-style bars from grape seeds, sunflower flour, sugar, fat, and natural flavors, aims to supply other confectioners with its chocolate alternative at a price comparable to Hershey’s. The article quotes Voyage CEO Adam Maxwell:  “If you taste a raw cacao seed, it tastes nothing like chocolate. Chocolate is more dependent on process than the input. We’re essentially creating a product in response to the threat farmers are facing.”

Guests come to taste the future but also “reconnect” with food

In Green Queen’s “What Does the Future of Food Taste Like? A Lot Like Its Past, It Turns Out,” climate editor Jill Ettinger reflects on her attendance at Taste the Future: A Luncheon Celebration of the Future of Food, an event hosted by SOSV (IndieBio’s VC firm) and Apeiron Investment Group. The menu for the event featured animal-free ingredients developed by the firms’ portfolio companies, including several graduates of IndieBio (Endless West, NotCo, The Every Company, California Cultured) and was designed to showcase the latest food tech for investors, celebrities, and industry influencers. 

In the piece, Ettinger outlines the problems of the current food production system and its effects on global warming. She also describes how, although the popular term has become “the future of food,” what is really necessary is to go back to a more mindful way of eating: “Whether it’s an ancient grain or a genetically programmed yeast. All of these foods are aiming to connect us to what we eat in important ways—reconnect us, rather, to the ways we used to value food. Mindless consumption is both the driver and consequence of our current food system… We’ve resigned ourselves to seeing food as a byproduct of supermarkets, forgetting the organic roots of all that we put into our bodies and everything that entails.”

Upside Foods raises $400M series C

TechCrunch’s story “Upside Foods bites into $400M round to serve cultivated meat later this year” reported the blockbuster series C round, led by Temasek and the Abu Dhabi Growth Fund. The round in Upside Foods (IBSF02 2015) is reported to be the largest investment in the alternative protein industry to date and, according to Crunchbase, increases the startup’s value to more than $1 billion. Once Upside gains FDA approval, the company aims to start production of cultivated meat and poultry at its 53,000-square-foot facility in Emeryville, CA. 

“Our goal is to introduce consumers to cultivated meat to dispel any confusion with meat alternatives,” Upside Founder and CEO Uma Valeti told techCrunch, “This is going to open up the entire cultivated meat space, and as the pioneer, we are writing the playbook and sharing it with people. In the next two decades, so many products will be brought to market, so our goal is to engage with consumers and B2B businesses. The consumer has to fall in love with this.”

Announcing the second annual SOSV Climate Tech 100, including 58 IndieBio alums

Now in its second year, the SOSV Climate Tech 100 is shaping up to be a great showcase for SOSV’s climate tech mission and investing. More than half of the companies on the list—58 to be exact—graduated from IndieBio. 

In the past year, the 100 have doubled in valuation, reaching more than $11 billion, and the amount of capital raised by the same companies also doubled, to reach 3.8 billion. The number of unicorns on the list  jumped from two (Formlabs, GetAround) to five (Perfect Day, NotCo, Upside Foods), and those five represent 10% of the climate unicorn count globally. 

In this post over at SOSV’s website, there is a lot more detail on the Climate Tech 100’s  founders and  investors, as well as the complete list. Also worth noting: the planning of this year’s SOSV Climate Tech Summit (October 25 – 26) is well underway (register now). We look forward to advancing the conversation about the emerging climate tech ecosystem with investors, founders, and leaders.

Alora (fka Agrisea) raises $1.4M seed round to create salt-tolerant floating farms

Image: Alora

Food Navigator reported ocean agriculture company Alora (SOSV IBSF09 2019) has raised a $1.4M seed round led by Toyota Ventures and Mistletoe Singapore. Founded under the name Agrisea in 2019, the newly rebranded startup Alora has developed a salt-tolerant growing agriculture technology built to expand food production beyond land masses and into salinated bodies of water.

Dedicated to developing salt-tolerant crops from rice to leafy greens, Alora founders say, “We’re running out of agricultural land, and fresh water is an increasingly precious commodity in many parts of the world. But one thing we’re not short of is sea water, which covers more than 70% of the earth’s surface.”

Posted in Ag

Research shows Beeflow pollination program produces 50% larger blueberries

Perishable News published the findings from a recent Washington State University Study, which found a blueberry farm pollinated with the Beeflow (SOSV IBSF06 2018) hive management system and health supplements produced 50% larger fruit than a non-Beeflow farm. The research also showed that on colder, non-ideal pollination days, the Beeflow farm experienced an increased level of foraging, or flight hours. 

Matias Viel, Beeflow Founder and CEO says, “Our goal is to innovate in order to optimize pollination in a way that has not been done before. We know how important our work is to increasing biodiversity and helping to build an agriculture system that is more harmonious with nature, so these positive results are monumental to achieving this goal.”

Posted in Ag

MycoWorks faux leather Fine Mycelium on full display at NY showcase

MycoWorks
Fine Mycelium in colors and textures, by MycoWorks

At a recent showcase in New York, NBC affiliate WNYT reported on MycoWorks (SOSV IBSF03 2016) in “Mushroom leather ready for the runway.” The video segment shows Fine Mycelium, the natural, plastic-free, leather alternative made by the startup in a wide array of textures and colors. The article indicates MycoWorks currently has a partnership with the luxury company Hermes and “is also in talks with other fashion companies about the possibility of using the material and is building a production facility that will be able to produce millions of square feet of Fine Mycelium a year.”

MycoWorks CEO Matt Scullin describes the company’s process: “Fine Mycelium is our patented way of growing the mycelium into this really dense, strong structure. It’s also really versatile. We can tune the properties as it grows to create different types of Reishis that have functionality even beyond that of leather today.”

Perfect Day listed on Times’ “Most Influential Companies of 2022”

On its “Time100 Most Influential Companies of 2022,” Time magazine listed cow-free dairy company Perfect Day (SOSV RebelBio01). The compilation features companies and corporate leaders that “make an extraordinary impact around the world” and “chart an essential path forward.” Time recognized Perfect Day in the Innovator category for their novel process, which creates dairy-identical products using “precision fermentation and genetically modified fungi,” and notably “consumes less water and results in fewer emissions compared with traditional dairy farming.”

The article reports Perfect Day “has partnered with major brands like Starbucks and General Mills, and is making everything from cream cheese and ice cream to cake mixes and protein powder.”

Prellis Biologics collaborates with Sanofi to expand production of organoids

3D Printing Media Network reported “Prellis Biologics to provide human lymph node organoids for research” and announced the startup will leverage its external human immune system (EXIS) in a collaboration and licensing agreement with the healthcare giant Sanofi. Prellis Biologics (SOSV IBSF05 2017) engineers fully-human lymph node organoids (LNOs) and recreates immune responses in vitro to deliver antibodies with significant genetic diversity.

The piece quotes Melanie Matheu, PhD, Founder and CEO of Prellis Biologics: “This powerful technology enables investigation of human B- and T-cell responses for a variety of applications, including antibody discovery and therapeutic immunogenicity. We are delighted to work in collaboration with Sanofi in novel antibody research with our differentiated approach.”

The Every Company debuts “the world’s first animal-free egg white” via macaron by Chantal Guillon

Food Navigator reports The Every Company (SOSV IBSF01 2015) has teamed up with upmarket west-coast patisserie brand Chantal Guillon to road test its new Every EggWhite—which the company has billed as “the world’s first animal-free egg white”—in a product heavily reliant on the unique functional properties of egg whites: the French macaron.

About the launch, The Every Company founder and CEO Arturo Elizondo says, “Every EggWhite tastes, whips, and gels like a chicken-derived egg white to provide the same height, foam stability, aeration, and texture needed for baking, and can be use in applications that span the gamut from cakes, cookies, and breads to protein bars, plant-based meats and pastas.”

Lypid raises $4 million in seed funding to scale their vegan fat

The Green Queen article “Lypid Bags $4 Million In Seed Funding For Vegan Meat Fat Scale-Up Investigation” reports the round was led by Green Generation with additional support from Big Idea Ventures and SOSV’s IndieBio. According to the article, Lypid (SOSV IBSF11 2021) co-founders Jen-Yu Huang and Michelle Lee aim to use the capital to scale and commercialize their product, PhytoFat, which is said to have animal fat-like properties such as mouth feel, transfer of flavor, and melting point.

Finless Foods raises $34 million in series B funding to bring plant-based tuna to the masses

Forbes reported the first cell-cultured seafood company, Finless Foods (SOSV IBSF05 2017), raised a $34 million series B round led by Hanwha Solutions with Dainichi Corporation, At One Ventures, SOSV, and others. The article says Finless Foods co-founders Michael Selden and Brian Wyrwas will use the capital to finalize construction of their 11,000-square-foot pilot facility, which will help them launch plant-based tuna nationally this year. 

MCJ Collective Podcast: Sean O’Sullivan, Managing Director and Founder of SOSV

MCJ Collective podcast hosts Sean O’Sullivan, Managing Partner and Founder of SOSV to discuss how his team pioneers and runs its world-leading startup development programs, IndieBio, HAX, Chinaccelerator, MOX, and dlab. Sean explains the company’s founding story, his transition from cloud and internet technology to deep tech, and what makes a meaningful climate investment. He also shares about the commonalities across all of SOSV’s startup development programs, why SOSV doesn’t have a specific climate pillar, and advice for investors interested in focusing on climate.

Lypid raises $4 million seed round to commercialize its rich, juicy vegan fat

Food Navigator reported a $4 million seed round for vegan-fat producer Lypid (SOSV IBSF11 2021). The round was led by Green Generation with additional support from Big Idea Ventures, SOSV’s IndieBio, and others. The article says that Lypid’s novel formulation and process of micro-encapsulation allow its product, PhytoFat, to heat up like animal fat and maintain both an accurate mouthfeel and flavor transfer, differentiating it from other vegan fats on the market.

About the challenges of the vegan food market, Lypid co-founders Jen-Yu Huang and Michelle Lee say: “Plant-based meat alternatives are getting ‘meatier’ by the day as brands reverse engineer animal products and put them back together with plants. But getting plant-based fat to behave like animal fat has been a major stumbling block for the industry.”

Stämm Biotech raises $17M in series A for its next-gen, 3D printed bioreactor

TechCrunch” “Stämm Biotech raises $17M for its next-generation, 3D printed bioreactor” reported the series A round was led by Verana Capital and supported by several new and follow-on investors, including SOSV.  According to the article, Buenos Aires-based Stämm Biotech (SOSV IBSF07 2018) uses a 3D printer to create a bioreactor that employs microfluidics. The Stämm device creates a “dense network of microchannels that pass cells through the nutrients and oxygen they need.”

Although still in the early stages of commercialization, the startup says it is “working with one European biopharma company focusing on producing biosimilars” and has five potential new partners in the pipeline, aiming for “pilot scale” in 2022.

The SOSV Human Health 100

IndieBio is part of SOSV, and one of our core missions is human health. The other is planetary health – or climate. Recently we took stock of our top health companies and published a list of our top 100, which includes 54 IndieBio companies and many from our sister programs at HAX, and CA / MOX.  We called it the SOSV Human Health 100, and we published a post by IndieBio’s Po Bronson that explains how the companies are windows into the revolutionary developments in science and technology that underlie so many rapid advances in health tech.

In case you missed it, last year we published the SOSV Climate Tech 100 list.

California Cultured and Voyage Foods prep sustainable chocolate for the market

The Atlantic’s “Silicon Valley Is Coming for Your Chocolate” by Larissa Zimberoff explores the startups taking new approaches to chocolate and focuses in part on IndieBio’s California Cultured (SOSV IBSF11 2021) and Voyage Foods

Zimberoff writes that California Cultured, which produces lab cultures cacao cells, the essential ingredient in chocolate,  is driven by the challenges in the legacy chocolate industry, specifically “disease, deforestation, continued child-labor issues, and unpredictable cocoa yields.”

Voyage’s chocolate bar will be available in stores later this year and is made from upcycled grape seeds. “We’re trying to reimagine the potential of nature,” the company’s founder, Adam Maxwell, told Zimberoff. 

To underscore the crisis looming for chocolate production, Zimberoff quotes Howard-Yana Shapiro, a senior fellow at UC Davis’s Agricultural Sustainability Institute and an adviser to the manufacturer Mars: “Cacao is in danger. Everything is wrong with the production system: low productivity. Low prices. Lack of environmental stewardship. Ten years out is not a pretty picture without major restoration and building a resilient supply chain.”

Kraft Heinz creates joint venture with AI-powered foodtech startup NotCo

Food Navigator’s “Kraft Heinz creates joint venture with AI-powered foodtech startup NotCo” reports the consumer food giant has teamed up with plant-based dairy startup NotCo (SOSV IBSF05 2017) to develop a line of co-branded plant-based products across multiple categories. The article indicates the partnership will allow NotCo to scale and make its technology “a catalyzer for a more sustainable food system.”

A taste of the laboratory-grown meat industry

The New York Times article “The New Secret Chicken Recipe? Animal Cells.” reports on the development of laboratory-grown meat with a particular focus on Upside Foods (SOSV IBSF02 2015), which awaits FDA approval to scale production of cultivated chicken at its new facility in Emeryville, California. In addition to a first-hand account of the Upside facility and its product, the author interviews celebrity chefs, academics, consumer experts, food influencers, and consumers about this impending new market.

About lab-grown meat Michal Ansky, an Israeli food journalist who hosts “MasterChef Israel” says, “Food is more than ingredients. Food is about memory and tradition and identity and longing… [In 20 years] people will look at us as crazy people who slaughtered chickens.”

Novoloop raises $11M series A to upcycle single-use plastics

In “Novoloop says it’s worked out how to up-cycle plastic waste, raises $11M Series A,” TechCrunch reports Envisioning Partners led the round with additional support from Valo Ventures and Bemis Associates. According to the article, Novoloop (SOSV RebelBio02) aims to scale its proprietary process to efficiently turn single-use plastics into higher value materials for products like shoes, clothing, automotive parts, and electronics. 

Regarding the advantages of the Novoloop technology, co-founder and CEO Miranda Wang says, “Everybody else is turning this plastic waste polyethylene into fossil fuel reserves. But …our approach is to directly take the polyethylene waste and convert it in one step… So this essentially bypasses many steps and chemistries that would otherwise happen if people were to take it back into oil or into gas.” 

Forbes also covered the story.

Endless West raises $60 million C round

In “Endless West Raises $60 Million To Expand Its Molecular Spirits Technology,” Forbes reports that Endless West (SOSV IBSF01 2015) raised a $60 million C round co-led by Level One Fund and UBS O’Connor. According to the article, Endless West aims to use the funds to expand “production capabilities by 10x to 20x” and broaden use of its technology to the B2B market via the startup’s research arm, Blank Collective.

About the mission of Blank Collective, Endless West co-founder Alec Lee says, “We built a core tech that isn’t fundamentally about wine or whiskey—or any fundamental product itself. Our hope and our belief is that ultimately what matters isn’t how much we control the brands themselves but how many they will utilize this approach and reap the advantages from the accessibility, quality, and sustainability.”

SOSV’s Year in Review 2021: Deep tech’s inflection point

In “SOSV 2021: The year in review,” SOSV Managing General Partner Sean O’Sullivan goes over the factors that drove a 40% increase in assets under management and lifted several portfolio companies to unicorn status in what was a “stunning” year for SOSV. 

More important, O’Sullivan argues that the deep tech investing category has hit an inflection point, which is important to SOSV’s deeptech driven missions in human and planetary health. He cites the rapid increase in valuation of the SOSV Climate Tech 100, up 66% since last April to reach $10 billion, and the great progress of SOSV’s companies in the food sector, where SOSV is top-ranked. He cites the following: 

  • In July, NotCo, a 2017 IndieBio grad, raised a $235 million series D led by Tiger Global and reached a reported $1.5 billion valuation. NotCo is a food technology company that originated in Chile and makes plant-based milk and meat replacements.
  • In September, Perfect Day, a 2014 RebelBio company, raised $350 million in a round led by Temasek that pushed the company to a reported $1.5 billion valuation. Perfect Day makes animal-free dairy products.
  • In November, Upside Foods (FKA Memphis Meats), an IndieBio 2015 graduate, opened the world’s first commercial scale production facility, in Emeryville, California, for the production of sustainable, cultured meat.
  • In December, The Every Company (FKA Clara Foods), another IndieBio 2015 graduate, raised $175 million and earlier this year reached an agreement with AB InBev to brew animal free proteins at industrial scale.

Read more.

Bucha Bio aims for fashion, automotive, and design to increase reach and impact

The Forbes article “Social entrepreneur creates a plastic-free substitute for everything from leather to latex” details the journey of 22-year old Zimri T. Hinshaw, founder and CEO of Bucha Bio (SOSV IBNY02 2021). Hinshaw’s business model has evolved from designing jackets from sustainable leather-like material, the article reports, to “developing a plant-based, sustainable, customizable material that can be used instead of everything from leather to latex, selling it to car manufacturers, interior design companies, and fashion brands, among others.”

The startup plans to create formulations of “composite materials, using a renewable bacterial-nanocellulose as an ingredient in what he calls a ‘library’ of biopolymers,” Forbes reports. Bucha Bio aims to outsource production and expand both the reach of their sustainable materials and their impact on the industry.

Upside Foods acquires cultivated seafood company Cultured Decadence


Green Queen announced “Upside Foods acquires cultivated seafood company Cultured Decadence.” The article reports, “the Wisconsin-based cultivated seafood company will bring high-impact seafood products to the Upside portfolio,” adopt the brand name Upside Foods (SOSV IBSF02 2015), and remain in the Midwest as a production hub.

About the acquisition, CEO of Upside Foods Uma Valeti said, “Seafood has a rich and delicious culinary tradition that makes it a favorite across the globe. Cultivated seafood also has a tremendous potential to benefit the world. Cultured Decadence’s technology is incredibly promising, and their team is filled with passionate, smart individuals who want to make our favorite food a force for good.”

Co-founders of Cultured Decadence, John Pattison and Ian Johnson said: “Upside’s unparalleled R&D and scale up capabilities will significantly accelerate the commercialization of cultivated delicious, sustainable, and humane seafood… There’s nobody else we’d rather join to build the future of food.”

Sustainable leather startup MycoWorks to create 400 new jobs at new plant in South Carolina

The VegNews Magazine article “Why South Carolina is the new hub of sustainable vegan mushroom leather” reports MycoWorks (SOSV IBSF03 2016) is “investing $107 million to build its first full-scale mushroom leather production plant in South Carolina, where it will create 400 new jobs.” The move, the expansion of the startup’s team, and the creation of its new facility follows “a successful $125 million Series C funding round led by Prime Movers Lab,” the article says. 

In December 2021 Vegconomist reported similar news about AlgiKnit (SOSV RebelBio 05) in “Kelp yarn to be produced at scale as AlgiKnit opens North Carolina hub.” Both articles indicate these startups’ proprietary, scalable, and sustainable manufacturing processes are capturing the attention of major fashion brands. 

Introducing IndieBio SF Class 12

The TechCrunch article “Meet the 13 startups in IndieBio’s SF cohort, and discover what about each swayed investors” gives a brief rundown of the startups in our newest cohort (IBSF12 2021) and quotes our Managing Partner Po Bronson on “the clincher” that earned each company its spot in the class. The cohort’s diverse and bold collection of goals range from “a urine-based bladder cancer test that goes beyond screening,” to developing “drugs that can control the death cycle” of cells, to growing the world’s best tasting seaweed “into a scalable food source.” Learn more about each of these startups.

While IndieBio SF is just getting started with this new cohort, IndieBio NY is about to hold a demo day for its latest on January 27: Register here.

IndieBio’s Sundial Foods touted as “one of the cleanest plant-based proteins.”

The Rolling Stone product roundup “What Will the Future of Plant-Based Meat Look Like?” reports that despite the attention and investments drawn by two vegan-meat giants, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, the rest of the plant-based protein market has been “innovating on novel technologies,” “quietly amassing millions of dollars,” and gaining “serious traction.” Among the “new crop” of vegan meat startups listed in the article is Sundial Foods (IBSF11 2021), which makes vegan chicken wings with eight easy-to-recognize ingredients like water, chickpeas, and sunflower oil and no artificial flavors or synthetic chemicals, which will make Sundial Wings “one of the cleanest plant-based protein products on the market when launched” in 2022.  

Sundial also received coverage from Bloomberg in November last year when it announced a $4 million raise led by Nestle.

Upside Foods and others await FDA approval to produce cultured meat

Photo: Upside Foods

The Bloomberg article “Ready to eat some lab-grown meat? The FDA will soon decide,” reports “the science experiment” that is lab-grown meat “could soon reach your supermarket.” The meat it refers to is grown by Upside Foods (SOSV IBSF02 2015), a startup founded by cardiologist Uma Valeti which recently opened a 53,000-square foot culture-meat production facility in Berkeley ahead of official approvals to sell the product. The article says Upside is currently awaiting FDA regulatory requirements and approval to sell and ship cruelty-free meat, which will likely be chicken nuggets and chicken breasts. 

Chase Purdy, the author of Billion Dollar Burger: Inside Big Tech’s Race for the Future of Food, is quoted about recent developments in the approval process: “There’s been this haggling over the regulatory framework, but these are signs that the agencies are really close.”

AlgiKnit co-founders share sustainability advice and vision

The WWD interview “Green People: How Sustainable Material Entrepreneurs Move Differently” features Tessa Callaghan, Aleks Gosiewski, and Aaron Nesser, the co-founders of the sustainable materials startup AlgiKnit (SOSV RebelBio 05). The article reports, after four years of developing their kelp-based yarn in Brooklyn, the company has moved operations “to a new innovation hub in North Carolina.” 

The co-founders share their sustainability advice and vision in this Q&A As to why fashion is finally paying more attention to bio-materials, Callaghan says, “Sustainability is no longer a luxury, it is a requirement, and we can see this shift in understanding and direct action taking a foothold within the industry. As a uniquely sustainable and accessible material, AlgiKnit provides novel solutions for one of the world’s largest polluters, allowing them to both meet their climate commitments and continue to deliver the products their customers so loyally rely upon.”

AlgiKnit moves its eco-conscious materials production to NC for next stage of growth

Vegconomist reports “Kelp Yarn to Be Produced at Scale as AlgiKnit Opens North Carolina Hub.” The article says AlgiKnit (SOSV RebelBio 05) “aims to cut the fashion industry’s carbon emissions in half” with its eco-conscious biomaterials created from kelp. The company’s new facility in Triangle Park, NC, will house R&D, business, and manufacturing as it prepares to commercialize, scale production, and accelerate growth.

Regarding AlgiKnit’s choice for their new location, co-founder and COO Aleksandra Gosiewski says, “North Carolina’s Research Triangle area is becoming a hub for big tech and life sciences, and we look forward to collaborating with other companies focused on scientific innovation and disruption. We’re also excited for the opportunity to tap into the deep and diverse pool of talent and knowledge in the area to strengthen our scientific and engineering divisions.”

Prellis Biologics raises $14.5M series B for lab-grown lymph node organoids

The TechCrunch post,  “Prellis Biologics raises $14.5M, debuts a ‘human immune system’ in a dish’” reports that the series B round for Prellis Biologics (IBSF05 2017) was led by Celesta Capital and existing investor Khosla Ventures. SOSV IndieBio also invested in the round, as it did all Prellis’ prior rounds. The article notes Prellis recently launched a lab-grown human lymph node, called EXIS (external immune system), which mimics the response of the human immune system and will be used in developing new drugs. 

On the benefits of the Prellis lymph node organoid, founder and CEO Melanie Matheu says “By creating this immune system in a dish, we can actually test if those therapeutics are going to elicit an immune response before it goes into a human. Our company’s edge is that [EXIS] is out of the box fully human.”

A look inside the MycoWorks lab that grows alt leather

The video publication Freethink produced “Inside the lab growing leather from mushrooms” to explain the trouble with relying on cows for leather products and explore the new and emerging market for earth-friendly, leather-like materials made from mycelium—the thread-like fungal roots that grow underneath mushrooms. Featuring the Fine Mycelium product made by MycoWorks (SOSV IBSF03 2016), the video shows how “the fungus leather shares common traits with animal leather: durability, strength, aesthetics, and feel” but far exceeds it in sustainability and versatility. 

On whether Fine Mycelium will eventually replace leather, MycoWorks CEO Matthew Scullin says, “I don’t think leather is going away, and I don’t think plastic is going away. I think that, eventually, those materials are going to run into even bigger constraints, even bigger walls, than they are today. Material like Fine Mycelium is going to be able to pick up that slack.”

IndieBio alum The Every Company (fka Clara Foods) raises $175M to challenge egg industry

The TechCrunch article  “The Every Co. grabs $175M as it cracks code on animal-free protein products” reports on a series C round raised by the IndieBio alum The Every Co. (fka Clara Foods),  from IndieBio’s first cohort (IBSF01 2015). The round was co-led by McWin and Rage Capital and also includes SOSV / IndieBio, Temasek, Wheatsheaf Group, and TO Ventures. 

The Every Co. uses precision fermentation to make eggs. The article reports the investment will “enable the company to scale production, commercialize further products in its pipeline, and expand into new food applications for its technology.”

Undaunted by tackling the centuries-old egg industry, Arturo Elizondo, Every Co. founder and CEO said: “You can’t just make a tasty product because eggs are a functional ingredient in almost everything. To have a shot at dominating the market, we have to allow consumers to make the transition and have a 1:1 ratio so we can have the biggest shot at giving the incumbents a run for their money.”

Announcing IndieBio NY Class 3 Demo Day

IndieBio is proud to announce its Demo Day for New York Class 3, taking place on January 27, 2022, with activities scheduled from 12:00pm-1:00pm.

Reserve your tickets here.

IndieBio is the world’s leading biotech startup development program, which supports startups tackling the biggest problems facing human and planetary health. Startups develop scientific projects into products that will transform our food, therapeutics, biomaterials, and diagnostics industries–and more.

IndieBio Demo Day is the opportunity to celebrate with these startup founders, as they highlight the milestones made during the IndieBio program. We welcome you to IndieBio NY Class 3 Demo Day to meet and applaud the deeply mission-driven teams.

The program will feature CEOs from around the world, using biotechnology to solve the biggest problems facing human and planetary health. Get a sneak peak of the startups that will be presenting here.

Starting with Hèrmes, MycoWorks plans big impact on fashion

The Guardian’s “Californian firm touts ‘mushroom leather’ as sustainability gamechanger” explores how the alt-leather material Fine Mycelium, created by MycoWorks (IBSF03 2016), made its debut in an exclusive Hermès handbag and what the implications are for the fashion industry. Grown in trays from fungi engineered to look and feel like calfskin or sheepskin, Fine Mycelium outperforms leather in strength, durability, and sustainability. 

About his strategy to make “significant impact on fashion’s footprint,” MycoWorks CEO Dr. Matt Scullin says, “We are working with luxury fashion first because they are ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainability. These are brands which are in a position to think big and to think long term.”

Spira take first place in Tata Consultancy Service TCS Pitch for Purpose 2021

The Forbes article “Startup uses genetically engineered algae to create pigments, protein, and more” reports that Spira (SOSV RebelBio 03) co-founder and CEO Elliot Roth won the TCS Pitch for Purpose competition for using the algae spirulina—sourced from small farms via fair-trade practices—to make carbon-negative dyes. More than 200 entrepreneurs from across the U.S. participated in the competition, which featured startups leveraging technology to address social issues.

Spira pays algae farmers a living wage and helps them improve operations. Spira turns their algae into carbon-negative pigments to approximately 1,000 food and cosmetics companies.

Upside Foods CEO Uma Valeti on the vegan-friendly benefits of cultured meat

Fortune’s article “Can lab-based meat be vegan?” explores the rapidly evolving industry of cultured proteins and what implications it may have for those who choose a vegan diet. Using Upside Foods (IBSF02 2015) as an example, the article points out how the most common reasons for eating vegan—sustainability, reducing animal cruelty, conserving natural resources—will be called into question by the developing cultured meat economy.

About the inevitable debate, Upside Foods founder and CEO Dr. Uma Valeti says, “We can reduce logistics enormously because we don’t have feed [lots]. We don’t have a slaughterhouse. We don’t have the safety issues that come with having herds of animals intensely confined. But in order to get to scale, we need to have public-private partnerships and continued investment in the field. I have enormous optimism that this is an opportunity not to miss for any stakeholder who cares about impact food and economic opportunity.”

Vertical Oceans makes Pop Sci “feats of engineering” list for 2021

The Popular Science compilation list “The feats of engineering that dazzled us in 2021” explores the best of what “helps us adapt to the realities of an ever-changing world.” Among the companies featured is Vertical Oceans (IBSF11 2021), which tackles the challenge of sustainably grown animal protein with zero-waste urban shrimp farms run on biocomputers. The article reports the company’s “prototype in Singapore delivered 10 harvests of shrimp this year, totaling more than a ton of crustaceans.”

Aanika Biosciences raises $12M series A

In the exclusive “Aanika Biosciences raises $12M to boost food traceability with edible microbial tags,” Ag Funder News reports the synthetic biology startup closed a $12 million series A round led by Jon Cholak, managing director at Adit Ventures, and with participation from Draper Associates and SOSV. Aanika Biosciences (SOSV RebelBio) creates customized, edible microbial tags which are sprayed on shipments of food products for precise traceability as the food moves through the supply chain. 

The article indicates this level of precision in traceability can have dramatic impacts in public health, trade, reputation of the food company or business, and even the insurance industry. Aanika Bio CSO Ellen Jorgensen says their product “reduces the time and resources needed to track the source of an outbreak,” allowing a pathogen or other issue to be “contained and controlled, because you can trace it back to the source farm and then figure out exactly what to pull from the shelves.”

New Culture raises $25M to expand the animal-free cheese market

TechCrunch reports “New Culture lands $25 million in seed funding to commercialize its cheesy vegan mozzarella” led by Ahren Innovation Capital and CPT Capital and supported by new investors ADM Ventures, Be8 Ventures, S2G Ventures, Marinya Capital and Future Ventures.  New Culture (IBSF08 2019) creates the milk protein casein through a precision fermentation process to make its vegan cheese, which tastes, smells, and stretches like regular cheese. 

The article says investors are confident the authentic nature and healthier profile of New Culture’s animal-free mozzarella will help expand the small $1.2 billion vegan cheese market to $4.4 billion by 2027. Regarding availability of New Culture’s products, the article says, “The plan is to first distribute its cheese through pizzerias around the country beginning next year.”

Huue founder explains fermentation process behind the startups’ sustainable dyes

In  “Where I work: The greener route to indigo blue,” a first-person account in the journal Nature, Tammy Hsu, CSO and co-founder of the SOSV startup Huue (IBSF08 2019) describes the motivation and science behind their earth-friendly dyes. 

In the article she states, “Indigo dye, for example, is usually made from petroleum-derived aniline in a high-temperature process that involves formaldehyde and cyanide. Globally, around 20% of industrial water pollution comes from fabric dyeing. I want to make dyes using microbial fermentation instead. At Huue … we look at how dye molecules are made in nature. We study the biochemical pathways, then program Escherichia coli bacteria to make our dye in the same way. Instead of using toxic chemicals, we feed the microbes and they make the dye.”

Nestle leads $4M seed round for Sundial Foods’ vegan chicken wings

Bloomberg reports that Nestle, the world’s largest food company, is the lead investor in a $4M seed round for Sundial Foods (IBSF11 2021). In the article “Nestle Invests in Maker of Fake Chicken That Has Skin and Bones” Bloomberg writes, “The Swiss food giant has been investing heavily in alternative proteins as an increasing number of consumers forgo animal products amid environmental and health concerns.” 

The founders of the young company—CEO Jessica Schwabach and CTO Siwen Deng, Ph.D got their start in 2020 at Nestle’s R&D Accelerator and continued their work at SOSV’s IndieBio in San Francisco in 2021. They will use the funds to improve and expand production, grow the Sundial team, and bring the product to market in 2022.  

About the rapid progress of Sundial Foods, Po Bronson, General Partner at SOSV and Managing Director of SOSV IndieBio, said: “Making a super tasty alt-chicken wing is only half of it. During the IndieBio program, the Sundial team really focused on automating their production and manufacturing method, where they had several breakthroughs. They’ll make it to market faster than any IndieBio company in history.”

Perfect Day included in Temasek’s Asia Sustainable Foods Platform

Vegconomist reports “Temasek Launches Asia Sustainable Foods Platform to Accelerate Shift to Alt-Protein,” which is designed to support and grow R&D and scale-up of alt-protein products in the region. The article indicates Perfect Day (SOSV RebelBio01) is among the companies selected for mentorship, resources, and opportunities throughout all stages—from development to commercialization. 

Asia Sustainable Foods Platform CEO Mathys Boeren said, “Our key differentiating factor is our end-to-end enabler, operator, and investor capabilities that provide bespoke solutions and support to aspiring food-tech companies at every stage of their growth cycle. With our support to remove friction-to-adoption, companies can speed up their product development and pilot launch, as well as accelerate their commercial scale-up and go-to-market. In the end, it is our goal to delight consumers across Asia with tasty, fresh, traceable, and sustainable food.”

Synthace raises $35M Series C, speeding R&D for drugs and therapeutics

Mobi Health News reports “Synthace raises $35M Series C to accelerate the development of cures and expand reach.” The Synthace Life Sciences R&D Cloud automates data, streamlines insight sharing, and enhances experimentation with machine learning. Using the Synthace platform, scientists can speed up the decision-making process and lower the cost of creating new drugs and therapies—from design to production. 

Guy Levy-Yurista, CEO of Synthace said, “To maximize impact, we need to expand access and reach to customers across the globe—at scale. This investment serves as a strong vote of confidence from world-class investors in the biopharmaceutical and innovation technology industries. With their support, we’ll be able to better deploy human and financial capital to help transform scientific dreams into drugs and alternative food sources.”

Starbucks tests alt-milk from unicorn startup Perfect Day

The Bloomberg article “Starbucks Tests Alt-Milk From Unicorn Startup Perfect Day” reports two Starbucks stores in Seattle will consumer test milk made by alt-dairy startup Perfect Day (SOSV RebelBio01). Made using yeast and age-old fermentation techniques, the Perfect Day milk-alternative works as foam or steam and can be served hot or iced. The article reports there will be no additional charge for Perfect Day milk, and that Starbucks is increasingly experimenting with other non-dairy menu items such as plant-based milk produced by another SOSV unicorn, NotCo (IBSF05 2017).

Novoloop among stand-out startups seeking solutions for plastic problems

An ABC News video “Climate Crisis: Saving Tomorrow” on the recycling challenges of single-use plastics features Miranda Wang, the co-founder and CEO of Novoloop (RebelBio02). Novoloop turns packaging waste—polyethylene—into high-performance materials used in shoes, cars, homes, and more. In the video, Wang explains how their chemical process transforms post-consumer recycled content into early friendly ingredients for manufacturing while reducing up to 45% carbon emissions. Watch the video.

Michroma takes fungal food colors platform to pilot scale

Food Navigator takes a deep dive into the world of natural food dyes in “Michroma takes fungal food colors platform to pilot scale to produce pH-stable, heat-stable natural red.” Michroma (IBSF09 2019), a startup building a production platform for natural food colors from fungi, has advanced to pilot-scale production of a heat-stable vibrant red colorant it claims can give synthetic dyes a serious run for their money when it comes to performance and sustainability.

SOSV ranks SOSV #1 investor in climate tech since 2018

Pitchbook released their inaugural report on Climate Tech for Q3 2021, where SOSV was ranked the most active VC in climate tech by deal count for the period from January 2018 to the end of September 2021.

This came notably from our startup development programs in Hard Tech (HAX) and Biology (IndieBio), which backed dozens of startups notably in the field of alternative proteinbiomaterials and industrial technologies — three of the largest contributors to the emissions of greenhouse gases.

As a reminder that VC in general and Climate Tech in particular are a team sport, we are glad to count many of the other firms ranked as co-investors in our top startups (more details here).

Prelude Ventures and Khosla Ventures also shared insights about their investment approaches during the recent SOSV Climate Tech Summit (summary and videos).

Link to the original Medium post by Ben Joffe

BioROSA Technologies is among the startups in the new Autism Impact Fund (AIF)

In “New venture fund aims to become the ‘investment and innovation arm’ of the autism community,” TechCrunch tells the story of the Autism Impact Fund (AIF), which is actively fundraising to concentrate financial resources around the science and technology of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The article features BioROSA Technologies Inc. (IBSF07 2018), which raised more than $3 million this year and is among the AIF portfolio companies. The Boston-based startup is focused on early detection of ASD, developing a biomarker that aims to identify signs of the condition in children as young as 18 months.

Upside Foods new commercial facility will scale production—and give tours

Fast Company reports on the grand opening of Upside Foods’ (formerly Memphis Meats) (IBSF02 2015) new 53,000-square-foot food production facility in Emeryville, CA.  “Take a look inside this shiny, industrial ‘cultivated meat’ factory of the future” describes the company’s first commercial space for producing meat—chicken, beef, duck, and other meat—from cells grown inside bioreactors. By building the factory in the middle of a bustling neighborhood and designing it to welcome visitors for tours starting in January, Upside Foods’ CEO Dr. Uma Valeti aims to demystify cultured meats and encourage the public to embrace the concept. 

Valeti said, “What’s happened in the last five years is unlike anything that’s ever happened in the food industry. Now we know there’s nearly 100 companies across the world, in nearly every meat-producing and meat-consuming country, trying to do cultivated meat. And that type of acceleration has never happened in food, especially for a completely new space.”

To see video of the grand opening, click here.

IndieBio helps New York biotech sector evolve quickly

The view from IndieBio’s new home at 7 Penn Plaza.

The public-private nonprofit Partnership for New York City is “dedicated to mobilizing private sector resources and expertise to advance New York City’s standing as a global center of economic opportunity, upward mobility, and innovation.” 

In their recent post “SOSV’s IndieBio — New York’s Latest Launch Pad for Early-Stage Biotech,” the organization describes how “the commercial life sciences sector is entering a golden age in New York City, marked by explosive growth in the industry.” 

As part of that expansion plan, the nonprofit’s Partnership Fund worked with New York state to help SOSV bring IndieBio to New York City in 2019 and launch in 2020. Since then, IndieBio New York has supported 15 startups. The Partnership’s Q&A with the IndieBio team reveals more details about the program’s launch and about its role in developing New York’s burgeoning life sciences industry.

A closer look at next-gen alternative proteins

Seventy percent of Americans have tried alternative protein products, but the sector’s actual market share is still just around 3%. This suggests consumers are very open to new products, but making an impact on the climate is going to take wholesale adoption. At the SOSV Climate Tech Summit, Po Bronson, General Partner of SOSV, Managing Director of IndieBio, and co-author of Decoding the World spoke with founders of three alt-protein companies about how they’re preparing for what he says could be “one of the greatest consumer changes in all of history.” Dr. Lisa Dyson, CEO of Air Protein; Dr. Inja Radman, co-founder and CSO of New Culture; and Dr. Sandhya Sriram, CEO Shiok Meats discussed how they may scale production of what they are bringing to market and the solutions to the supply chain challenges that lay ahead for cultivated proteins.

Climate tech VCs explain how to go from zero to funded

Climate tech has its own specialized collection of zero-stage programs that are aimed at helping startup founders get their businesses off the ground. At the SOSV Climate Tech Summit, David Rowan, founder of Voyagers.io and author of Non-Bullsh*t Innovation interviewed four investors who know how to get climate tech startups started: Audun Abelsnes, Managing Director, Techstars Energy; Nina Heir, CEO, Katapult; Dr. Emily Reichert, CEO, Greentown Labs; and Po Bronson, General Partner, SOSV and managing partner for IndieBio. During the discussion, they revealed what they’re looking for in a startup—impact, ability to scale, and traction—and what qualities they look for in founders that bring a higher likelihood of long-term success. A few examples? Empathy, teachability, and the ability to go fast in line with venture capital expectations. Check out the video for more details.

Upside Food’s Uma Valeti: Alternative proteins take the Main Stage

Back in 2015 when cardiologist Dr. Uma Valeti came to the SOSV IndieBio program (IBSF02 2015), he knew there must be a better way to eat chicken than killing one. He started Upside Foods (formerly known as Memphis Meats) to address the challenges of animal cruelty and climate change by bio-manufacturing cultured proteins. SOSV asked Dr. Valeti to join the Main Stage at the SOSV Climate Tech Summit and talk about Upside Food’s mission, the next steps in commercializing cultured protein, and advice he would provide to climate tech founders today. Larissa Zimberoff, author of Technically Food: Inside Silicon Valley’s Mission to Change What We Eat, conducts the interview.

Bio-textile firm Bucha Bio lands new funding

Image courtesy of Bucha Bio.

In its story “Bio-textile firm Bucha Bio lands new funding,” Bio Market Insights reports that the New York-based SOSV IndieBio startup Bucha Bio (IBNY02 2021) has raised $550,000 to accelerate production of its planet- and animal-friendly material Mirai. The creation of Mirai involves fermenting nanocellulose and blending the resulting leather-like material with natural fibers, resulting in what the group describes as “advanced performance and luxuriously soft handfeel.”

Bucha Bio’s mission takes aim at the high-polluting leather industry which produces over 4 million tons of solid waste per year. With this funding from New Climate Ventures, Beni Venture Capital, Lifely VC, QKZ Design, and MicroVentures, Bucha Bio plans to introduce Mirai to companies across the fashion industry as “an ethical alternative to animal leather products including epoxy, vinyl, and latex.”

How the “good” unicorn NotCo plans to make an even bigger impact on climate change

In an interview with Forbes “How NotCo Is Saving The Planet By Making Plants Taste Like Meat,” NotCo (IBSF05 2017) co-founder and CEO Matias Muchnick describes their process for using artificial intelligence algorithms to replace animal-based foods with sustainable plant-based alternatives. He also explains how the disruptive nature of their product has led the company to “be better” in all areas, including operations, supply chain, and packaging. Getting its start in the SOSV IndieBio program, NotCo has been funded by the likes of Tiger Global, Jeff Bezos Expeditions, and celebrities Lewis Hamilton, Roger Federer, and DJ Questlove, among others. Now valued at $1.5B, the company falls into the rare category of “good” unicorn, meaning it operates in service of at least one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. NotCo addresses two—responsible consumption and production and climate change. 

To reach maximum impact on climate change, Muchnick says the mass market is the key: “The thing is, if we just do a super plant-based, vegan, trendy, hipster well-being brand, we’re not going to move the needle of sustainability. We need to make a technology that will allow us to produce food products faster, better, more accurately, at less cost while using less resources. We need to be a mass market company, not niche.”

Khosla Ventures leads IndieBio’s Vertical Oceans’ seed round

TechCrunch reports that Indiebio’s Vertical Oceans (SOSV IBSF11 2021) raised a $3.5 million seed round led by major Silicon Valley fund Khosla Ventures with additional support from SOSV. Vertical Oceans aims to grow sustainable shrimp in huge ‘aqua towers’ inside cities explains how the funding will allow Vertical Oceans to scale its “location agnostic” shrimp farming method facility near downtown Singapore. 

Discussing how Vertical Oceans will compete in the $50 billion-a-year shrimp market, CEO John Diener said, it  “tastes like fresh shrimp from the ocean, that’s really hard to achieve consistently in a recirculating aquaculture system. Because our product is so high-quality and fresh, we can sell on par with fresh wild-caught versus farmed frozen shrimp. This higher price more than offsets the costs of going vertical and urban.”

Catalog Technologies raises $35 million series B

TechCrunch reported the DNA-based data storage platform Catalog Technologies (SOSV IBSF04 2016) has raised $35 million in series B funding. Led by Hanwha Impact with additional support from Horizons Ventures, this round brings Catalog’s total raise to approximately $60 million. The article reports that the company’s “energy-efficient, cost-competitive, and more secure data storage and computation platform,” uses synthetic DNA to solve the problems of conventional electronic media. With the goal of commercialized use in 2025, the platform is expected to be used for “fraud detection in financial services, image processing for defect discovery in manufacturing, and digital signal processing in the energy sector.”

Speaking about the future of the platform, Nick Ha, vice president of Hanwha Impact Partners said, “Catalog’s technology represents a viable pathway to solve the issue of not only mass data accumulation and preservation but more importantly, the effective usage of data.”

Sequential Skin raises $1.65 million seed round

Yahoo! News published news that  Sequential Skin raised US $1.65M in oversubscribed seed round to revolutionise skin health with their novel skin microbiome testing kit

Sequential Skin (SOSV IBNY02 2021) provides personalized skincare by using advanced genetic sequencing technology to analyze how genes, skin microbiome, and the environment interact and affect an individual’s skin.

Led by Metaplanet and joined by Scrum Ventures, SOSV, Genedant, and angel investor Ben Holmes, the press release explains “the funding will significantly boost their IP portfolio, using their novel patch-based, skin analysis, to develop further tools to understand how your genetics, epigenetics, and skin microbiome, affect health and disease.”

About Sequential Skin’s mission, the company’s CSO and co-founder Dr. Albert Dashi said, “Our scope is to provide science to people and empower them with the right tools and knowledge so they make the right decision for the future of their skin health and well-being.”

UPSIDE Foods prepares to scale cell-based meat production for the world to see (and eat)

This recent article in The Economist “Meat no longer requires animal slaughter” explores the burgeoning cultured meat industry with a focus on UPSIDE Foods (SOSV IBSF02) and its founder and CEO Dr. Uma Valeti. 

The article tracks the emergence of  lab-cultured  proteins, like chicken, as a response to the moral issue of animal slaughter as well as the dire impact of animal husbandry on greenhouse gas emissions. The Economist wonders if firms like Upside Foods can attract consumers, and points out that Upside is shifting its focus from science to trust-building and education, starting with giant windows at its new facility in California’s East Bay through which the public can view production of lab-grown protein.

Excerpts from the article: 

“Today Upside Foods and its backers hope that lab-grown meat will not shield the revolution, but be the revolution—and in a much more appealing way. The company has broken ground on a new production facility in California’s East Bay. It is not alone. Nearly 100 firms are vying to be the first to bring cultured meat to market. Select locations—including a private club in Singapore and a test kitchen in Tel Aviv—serve it from time to time. But as yet it remains unavailable to the average diner.

“It is not hard to see why investors are excited. Demand for meat and fish is soaring, particularly among the rapidly growing middle classes in parts of the developing world. Making that meat the old-fashioned way uses a lot of land and produces giga-tonnes of greenhouse gas. Much of the fish people want is not caught sustainably, and some comes from endangered or threatened species. Plant-based substitutes can meet some of the increased demand, but currently they only really compete with processed products such as those based on mince. Growing meat directly from animal cells offers a way of squaring the circle, while also satisfying the moral demands of consumers uneasy about factory farming and animal slaughter. But it is a hugely ambitious undertaking.”

New Wave Foods’ shrimpless shrimp ready for prime time

Forbes’ article “Can Shrimpless Shrimp Catch Mainstream Consumers?” outlines the product development and funding story of SOSV IndieBio alum New Wave Foods, one of the first vegan seafood suppliers attempting the difficult-to-produce snap and flavor of shellfish. The article reports New Wave’s commitment to plant-based shrimp has held steady as the alternative seafood market has gone from “barely selling” to earning $500 million in funding.

With the help of $18 million in series A funding from America’s largest meatpacker, Tyson Foods, the startup’s first commercial-ready plant-based shrimp is being distributed to restaurants across the country. Watch this video interview with New Wave Foods CEO Mary McGovern, filmed while a chef prepared a dish using their product.

Aanika Bio founder to appear in Hulu’s “The Next Thing You Eat”

From lab-grown fish to burger flipping robots, Hulu’s new six-episode docu-series “The Next Thing You Eat” will explore the changes in what we eat. To help advance that discussion, co-founder and CSO Ellen Jorgensen of Aanika Biosciences (SOSV RebelBio) joins an episode to explain how they use microbes to trace and authenticate products in the supply chain. The show premieres on October 21, but you can see the trailer here (Jorgensen appears at 1:57).

SOSV’s Perfect Day raises $350 million, reaches $1.5 billion valuation

The Wall Street Journal broke an exclusive on Perfect Day’s big fund raise and planned IPO. Perfect Day launched in Cork, Ireland in 2014 as part of SOSV’s now retired Rebel Bio program, and SOSV was its first investor. From the Wall Street Journal story:

“Perfect Day Inc. raised $350 million in a late-stage funding round, valuing the non-animal dairy startup at roughly $1.5 billion and setting the stage for an initial public offering.

“Singapore’s Temasek and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board led the Series D funding round for the California company, co-founders Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi told The Wall Street Journal. Other investors include Walt Disney Co. Executive Chairman Robert Iger.

“Since its founding in 2014, Perfect Day, which uses fermentation technology to produce animal-free dairy proteins and counts actor Leonardo DiCaprio as an adviser, has raised $750 million.”

Huue founders on Inc. list of most inspiring women of 2021

The business magazine Inc. just named Huue (IndieBio) founders Tammy Hsu and Michelle Zhu to its Female Founders 100. Inc. recognized the two founders for their development of planet-friendly microbe-based dyes that are scalable for denim manufacturing. The editors did a great interview with the Oakland-based duo about the global need for Huue’s technology and why they feel confident in the firm’s ability to scale. Here are a couple of the best moments:

“The fashion industry is aware of its challenges—its troubled supply chain and the toxic nature of the dyeing process. It hasn’t been difficult to get people really excited about the technology and potential.” —Michelle Zhu

“We’ve made a lot of progress to scale up our production with a couple of facilities around the U.S. and to make our microbes more efficient. In August, we were producing 80 times more dye than at the end of last year.” —Tammy Hsu

IndieBio’s New Age Meats raises $25 million series A

To stand out in the increasingly crowded cultured-meat market, Berkeley-based New Age Meats, an IndieBio alum, aims to provide “the best of both worlds: the sensory experience and irreplaceable flavor of meat that’s safer and more sustainable than conventionally-grown meat.” That message helped the company raise a $25 million series A, according to a story published in TechCrunch today.

TechCrunch reported that Hanwha led the round and was joined by SOSV’s IndieBio, TechU Ventures, ff VC, and Siddhi Capital. CEO Brian Spears told TechCrunch that the company can now “go after our mission to become the largest and most innovative meat company on Earth,” and plans produce the company’s first product, pork sausage, next year.

SOSV HAX alum Opentrons raises $200 million, reaching $1.8 billion valuation

IndieBio’s fellow startup development program, HAX, just recorded a big win, as reported by Bloomberg in “SoftBank Invests in Robotic Company Behind NYC Covid Testing. HAX alum Opentrons Labworks Inc. raised $200 million in round led by Softbank to reach a valuation of $1.8 billion. The Brooklyn-based, laboratory robotics company used its automated systems to decrease Covid-19 testing result times from 14 days to 24 hours and reduced test costs from $2,000 to $28. Opentrons “has grown to support a community of more than 1,000 scientists and 46 countries.” Other participating investors in the funding include Khosla Ventures and ex-Pfizer Inc. CEO Jeff Kindler.

“Biology opens the door to solve many of humanity’s grand challenges. For far too long, scientists and clinicians have been locked-in by slow, expensive, and overly complex lab solutions that underpin their work.” —Brennan-Badal, Chief Executive Officer, Opentrons

Nyoka Design Labs helps engineer the world’s first bioluminescent gaming PC

In this video from from PCGamesN, “World’s first bioluminescent gaming PC is impractically beautiful,” Linus Tech Tips and SOSV IndieBio startup Nyoka Design Labs collaborated on a project to make a gaming PC glow while it cools. Nyoka is a startup that aims to use bioluminescence as a cleantech alternative to the air-polluting fluid contained in glow sticks. The PC cooling project was a fun side challenge. But don’t try this complicated build at home, kids. As explained in the video, “the fluid’s micro-particles could also damage your CPU block. So, while bioluminescent PC lighting is mesmerising, it’s unlikely to replace your usual coolant.”

SOSV HAX’s Opentrons is center stage in New York City’s rapidly growing life sciences sector

NY1 published a segment “How New York City is expanding its life sciences industry” featuring Opentrons, an SOSV HAX startup. If you’ve ever taken a COVID-19 test in New York City, it’s highly likely your sample was processed by Opentrons, a Brooklyn-based company that builds lab robots for biologists. And this is by design—pegged as a key to New York’s economic recovery, the life sciences industry has received $1 billion investment and support from the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and Mayor Bill de Blasio to attract new businesses, capital, and jobs. This week Opentrons received a $200M investment led by Softbank, boosting the company’s value to $1.8B.

“Beyond all our traditional industries, beyond the tech community that has grown so successfully in New York City, we need to build up life sciences. This is the future.” —New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

The environmental benefits of Perfect Day’s animal-free dairy products

Cows — and the methane they produce — are a major contributor to the overall greenhouse gas emissions of the dairy sector. Taking them out of the equation could be a net environmental positive.

Alternative methods that use fermentation to produce dairy proteins could significantly cut the environmental cost of milk, cheese and ice cream.

In a study released first to Axios, independent researchers tapped by Perfect Day found the company’s process produced more than 90% less greenhouse gases, required 20% to 60% less energy, and used more than 96% less water per kilogram of protein produced compared to conventional bovine dairy protein.

Inside Hermès, where MycoWorks mycelium leather will soon join the product line

Vanity Fair recently published a photo essay, “Inside the Hermès Workshop That Makes Its Iconic Bags,” that discusses the iconic designer’s plans to use IndieBio alum’s MycoWorks‘ “Fine Mycelium,” in an upcoming line of products. From Alexis Cheung’s piece:

“Despite this staunch adherence to tradition, Hermès will introduce a decidedly modern material this fall: mycelium leather. Developed in collaboration with the San Francisco-based biotech company MycoWorks, this “Fine Mycelium,” coined Sylvania by its creators, derives not from cattle but from mushrooms. Fournier insists that its quality and durability meet the same high standards of traditional leathers and that the material continues Hermès’s long legacy of innovation—it was, after all, Thierry’s grandson Émile-Maurice Hermès who introduced the zipper to handbags in 1922.

“We strongly believe that we should not oppose new technology with what we do with the hands and tradition,” says Fournier. “Both are compatible.” Plus, he adds, “It’s a fantastic opportunity for creation, to play with new materials.” (For now, this particular play is reserved for the Victoria handbag from the autumn/winter 2021 collection, constructed at a workshop of its own.)”

UPSIDE Foods founder and CEO Dr. Uma Valeti to speak at SOSV Climate Tech Summit

We are delighted to announce that a pioneer in cultivated meat, Dr. Uma Valeti, founder and CEO of UPSIDE Foods, will be speaking at the SOSV Climate Tech Summit on October 20-21. UPSIDE (formerly known as Memphis Meats) produced the world’s first cultured beef meatball in 2016 and the first cultured chicken and duck in 2017.

From a climate tech perspective, the hope is that the cultivated proteins that UPSIDE has developed will eventually help reduce live animal production and slaughter, which are a major contributor to climate change. Read more…

This could be the milkiest vegan ice cream ever

“Perfect Day’s research found that its process generates 85 to 97 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional dairy production. It also doesn’t use any of the hormones or antibiotics (or, for that matter, land) needed to keep that immense livestock machine running. You won’t find any lactose or cholesterol, either.”

Join IndieBio at the SOSV Climate Tech Summit

Since its founding, IndieBio has worked with biotech startups addressing the biggest challenges in human and planetary health. “Planetary health” isn’t merely a tagline, but a new reality that IndieBio companies have created by rewriting the way we make food, design materials, and utilize waste streams. The need to mitigate human-made climate change through novel technologies has never been more clear to anyone who has followed the news and observed the new norm of extreme weather.

IndieBio is joining its parent firm SOSV for an event all about climate tech. The SOSV Climate Tech Summit will be produced in conjunction with other VCs who have committed to using capital to build a better planet. Join top founders, investors, and policymakers to discuss how to accelerate the startup ecosystem taking on climate change.

The event is free and open to everyone. Register here to attend

Gwen Cheni’s IndieBio Podcast: Pablo Zamora, PhD. Co-Founder of NotCo

Gwen speaks with Pablo Zamora, Co-Founder and original CSO of NotCo. From their website: “When we discovered removing animals from food production would protect the planet, the solution was simple: create an algorithm – that we named Giuseppe – who could learn infinite combinations of plants to replicate animal products, make them sustainable and taste even better. Now, for the sake of the planet, let’s reinvent the food industry — one delicious mouthful at a time.”

Podcast Episode: How to CSO a Unicorn

TRANSCRIPT BELOW

Pablo: At the initial moments of a startup, you have so a limited budget that you can not make mistakes. And if you made mistake, you need to [make that mistake] cheap and fast. 

Gwen: Hi everyone. On today’s podcast, we have Pablo Zamora, who was the co-founder original CSO of NotCo. Everyone’s probably heard of NotCo by now. It is has saturated the Chilean market, and now in the US market and can be found at a Whole Foods near you. So Pablo, welcome to the IndieBio podcast.

Pablo: Thank you Gwen for the introduction. 

Gwen: So Pablo, I have to tell a joke to everyone to start the podcast. So I was actually on a on a radio show with Pablo. And you know the letter Y is pronounced like a J in Spanish. So Pablo goes, “Oh Gwen got her start in jail.” And so I was thinking, “I’ve never been to jail!” Where is this coming from? So I went to Yale university. So Yale is pronounced like Jail in Spanish. It took me a second, but I very quickly said “no, no, I’ve never been to jail.” So that’s the little bit of Spanish lesson for everyone here. So Pablo, with that start, tell us about yourself. How did you get started with NotCo? How did you get that idea?

Pablo: So I started with NotCo six years ago. I think because the food industry was really static, and real innovation wasn’t there, at least in Latin America. When we started the company, the three founders, we met in the US. I was in California at UC Davis. My co-founder was at Berkeley taking some courses, and another one he was at Harvard. So we connect to each other in the US, and then suddenly we realized that innovation was required in a space where everybody can be a user, right? It could be tangible for everyone. And food industry was the first reaction that we get to, how we improve technology in a space that is kind of [backward] in that time, we were talking about 2015, 2014 we started a company and we decide to move it, three of us to Chile to start it here. Chile make a lot of sense for us because we were Chilean. So if we succeed or we fail, nothing happens because we get some kind of reputation over here. And at the same time, I think that we identify that new tools that they were available for other industries like biotech, biopharmaceutical or medicine weren’t there for the food industry.

So that’s how we ended up bringing to profile of deep science: I’m a biochemist, plant biochemist and with a lot of expertise in genomics, my co-founder Karim [Pichara], he was expert in machine learning for astronomy, um, use of data sets and creating algorithms for that kind of application.

So we bring together – and I always say that when we met Karim and we tried to pull together these two angles of food – it was a train 200 miles per hour, because we try to bring up a solution when the data was not there, we create some experimental data and then we use the optics of astronomy to resemble food. And that was pretty amazing at the beginning.

Originally reason, for me at least, on my end was a pure academic exercise. And then we find out with the help ofMatias [Muchnick] that we can really build a business around it. 

Gwen:  So it sounds like the three co-founders were actually bicoastal. How did you find each other?

Pablo: I think it was funny, you know, because I was living in the US for, I dunno, nine years. And Karim, he was doing his postdoc at Harvard. He [was there for] a year and a half. But Matias had traveled to get some entrepreneurship courses in Berkeley, Stanford, these small programs, and then he moved to the east coast and he find out my name because the Chilean diaspora is kind of a small, and there were not too many Chileans working there and doing great stuff. And I was, at that time, getting a very senior position at Mars Incorporated doing pretty awesome and deep science project with plants and Matias wanted to contact someone with expertise in plant biotechnology mainly.  I think that he didn’t understand very well what was the type of expertise that he was looking for, but I was a Chilean, sitting there, leading a lab. So he contacted me and then he moved to Harvard, because a friend of his was an alumni, friend of Karim.  And of course Chileans, we love our country, we always communicate with our peers outside of Chile. So he was, I think contacting Chileans that came highly recommended. So he ended up contacting me and contacting Karim on the East Coast. 

Gwen: Got it. So I do know that hiring – both after the initial IndieBio stage or even during IndieBio – hiring is such an important role for both founders and VCs. So always I’m always asking for tips. How did you bridge that? And Pablo is super humble: NotCo, with their $235 million recent raise just became IndieBio’s first unicorn. Congratulations! 

Pablo: The decision of investing in it. 

Gwen: I always feel like it’s the team, right? There was a meme on Twitter recently of the real athletes and then the spectators that are watching it on TV or in the stands. But I really feel that as investors, that’s all we are is that we’re cheering you on. We’re helping you. We’re buying your schwag, but you know, we’re not the ones in the arena fighting.

Pablo: Yeah, but I think that particularly in the case of IndieBio, right? Because you, for example, you help with fundraising, but at the same time you have access to facilities. The iteration that happened internally really triggers a lot of progress, not just pure business side, but also the experimental one, and the experimental one with the interaction that you have with the mentors and everybody around the ecosystem have with IndieBio. We spend time in SF – New York didn’t exist at the time – I think it’s very fast how every iteration happened between the experimental and the business, because you are developing business skills all the time. In the case of our our CEO, Mathias is very smart and he learned pretty fast. But at the same time, you have a layer of experimental skills that you are improving and you are interacting with the business, in the day-by-day, very concentrated. Because when we were in Chile, of course, the team was in Chile, there is a lot of business to attend, including, how you hire people, how you build a business, how you build a lab, how you manufacture, how you contract services. So, I will say that the momentum of IndieBio is something that of course it’s very good for founders because you’re aligned with the founders. You need to be, really, at the end of the program. But at the same time, I think it gives some kind of peace for people that are sitting there, just thinking on executing what was proposed on the regional plan. And I think that that is very valuable because I for instance, I spent a lot of time with Matias in Japan, getting selected by endeavor. And I think at that week in Japan, just two of us working together helped me understand better my co-founder. And I think that is exactly what happened at IndieBio:when you spend more time with your co-founders and you try to map out how they think, how they take decisions, you know friends you could be, or how colleagues you could be. 

Gwen: Yeah, I think that is the differentiation between IndieBio and regular investors, whether it’s an angel investor or a seed fund. We really are free employees for six months for you. For some of our companies that just went through the batch, I literally sat in every large sales meeting with them and for them, because when you’re selling B2B, you might only have a dozen possible clients. And so you can’t burn any of those meetings. So I made sure to attend all of them. Because if you miss one of those opportunities, It’s jeopardizing the survival of your company. So totally agree with you on that. Thanks for pointing that out. We don’t see a lot of founders that really appreciate what we do, but you’re definitely very grateful for the people that help you. And maybe that’s why you guys are so successful, right? Is that people want to continue helping you guys.

Pablo: Even more! I remember that after we raised series A and B, and we needed to be back in the U S with the long run of growing in Chile and expanding to Brazil and Argentina. I remember the time that I went there, 2019 and the first door that I knocked on was IndieBio SF, because we needed to find space for working. And you said you were alumni like two, three years ago, but this is your space, you use it. And when you’re ready, you move on. So through IndieBio, we ended up in another place in San Francisco where everything is happening with big companies. But the first door we knocked on was IndieBio because we were involved in the past and that kind of continuity, it’s good because you have a partner overseas, in a case like our company based in Latin America.

Gwen: Yeah, that’s definitely been true: we’ve never kick out any of our alum companies. You essentially have free coworking spaces, in both San Francisco and New York now, which has a benefit. You have West Coast and East Coast. So let’s talk about the operating side of NotCo because you guys grew very quickly in Chile. How did you do that? And how did you pick Chile?

Pablo: I think for many reasons. First of all, I think that Chile is small enough as a country and it’s very organized in terms of retail. So if you are in the three main retailers, you concentrate like 80% of the market. And we have some retail that is very well organized and very innovative. So we have one specific brand called Jumbo, they are looking for brilliant products overall. So we have a small market, small enough to make a proof of concept, and at the same time, I will say smart retail for bringing in new concepts. And we aligned perfectly with them because we were the new kids on the block, with an aisle that was very depressed. The first product we launched was NotMayo, because people change their decision on the price point, based on how cheap was the competitor. So you didn’t have any attachment to the brand. So when we created the first product, I think that we make a lot of noise, because [we were] equal price from the competitors, and we were doing in-store tasting, and saying to people that [NotMayo] was exactly the same, but with no cholesterol, not saying that it was a better product, or anything like that. Very smart way of communicating this. So, I think that we broke some kind of cultural boundary of consumers saying that plant-based product was for vegan. And we never communicate that we were a vegan company, because vegan for a big retailer, you will be a niche product on their organic aisle. And we ended up working on the same aisle with the regular mayo, and nobody noticed because [our] competitors were based in Europe and another one with the R-and-D center in Brazil. So I think that we grew in market share, without the competitor [knowing] that we could be a good and strong player. So I think that combined many things: an organize market, a very good retailer mindset, an aisle that was very depressed, and in-store tasting, I think that was key because if you just leave your product there and [go] home, nobody will shift their decision based on a label. You need to test and interact. We, myself and my co-founders, we went to the supermarket and gave samples to them. And I think that makes some dynamic internally inside the supermarket, with how people interact with the product. And that was pure marketing, and Matias is brilliant there. Yeah, that’s how we grew and people started adopting without being vegan. So they go for X and they go for NotMayo. And that was perfect because we, in some way democratize how the plant-based food was perceived in the market. And we were very focused, I would say, in one supermarket, and with that case of success, we went to the second one and the third one, and negotiated better terms, and eventually grew nationally. But [Chile is] still one-third of California in population. So I think it was good for creating this narrative of the company. And with that enhanced experience, we are opening in more aggressive markets like Brazil and Argentina.

With regards to regulations and how we develop the product, if we want to develop the product internally and then ship it to other countries, or start operations in other countries. So that exercise of perceiving ourselves on a growing process, I would think that Chile helped us to [nail] down [a process]. If we make mistakes, it’s still a small market. If something happened in the aisle, we drove there and see what happened. And that was very cool. I think it, for me at least, made a lot of sense because I was in charge originally in the company of creating the science platform. And you have great universities, excellent, these student, a lot of PostDocs everywhere from Chile, from overseas that can flow back, and be back in the country. So the kind of people, the highly skilled people recruited for the company was already in the country. So that makes everything happen pretty fast. 

Gwen: So I just got a request to do a go-to-market and distribution session for the next batch. And I think I’m going to use what you just said. I think you summarized it really well. The number one thing it sounds like from what you said is, find a partner that has an unmet need, right? So if you’re knocking on doors, you want to knock on the easiest door. Somebody that is looking for the solution that you can deliver. And number two, is after you found the partner, the product that you picked is one with very little loyalty, right? And so that’s another easy product. So you want to find the easiest product there as well. And then I think number three that you mentioned, after you’ve done these two, you can’t just sit back and let the market do its work. You actually have to put in the sweat and maybe blood and tears to actually do the one-on-one product introduction to get the customers up the learning curve of what is this new product, have them try it. And then I guess the fourth thing, if possible, you’re hoping that the [distributor] that you’ve partnered with has enough market share such that if it works, you get enough growth right away. But I think of the four items that you mentioned, the fourth one is a nice to have, but not a must have, 

Pablo: Yeah, very good you explained it better than me. So number five, I will say – it was critical and not intentional – is the mainstream products, their R-and-D operations to challenge us wasn’t in the country. So we grew 1 point of market share to 2, 3, 4, 10, 12, 15, and the people [finally] noticed. What is happening in Chile, why we are losing market share why wouldn’t, why we don’t release our own plant-base? 

And when they went to launch their plant-based product, we were already on the top of the mind of every customer. So we created a brand very powerful, so people give loyalty to us. When they reacted, that was too late for them. When they released their plant-based product, we’ve already captured the people that want to jump into the plant-based. So we didn’t, I would say, lose market share because there were other plant-based from the current mainstream brands releasing product. And that was pretty awesome, because people start defending us, to say, this is what NotCo does, so why you are buying this other brand, if this concept belongs to NotCo. And that was great. And you can see it on the supermarket because I was, you know, as a customer seeing, looking at the aisle with the natural products for 20, 25 minutes and people make choices. And they choose this cool brand from this, how the people define us in the YouTube comment, overeducated hippies, right? That they were creating this concept of plant-based products. 

Gwen: I think that’s a really key point. I’ve actually heard the same thing, uh, from, uh, companies in Mexico, that if the product is made by an international manufacturer outside of the country, they’re not as quick to react, because they don’t have as many boots on the ground and this actually highlights the importance the numerous number of hours spent in the grocery stores, right? Your large international, global competitors didn’t do that. So they didn’t have boots on the ground. They weren’t able to react quickly and they, frankly, maybe you just didn’t care as much. I’m so glad to hear. You’re reiterating a lot of our points that we’ve been teaching our founders. 

On that part, I guess it’s always easier to raise when you’ve seen a lot of success, but any tips on fundraising.

Pablo: Yes, I’m helping right now because I’m not part of NotCo management team anymore. So I’m helping companies because I’m in Chile and my co-founders they’re in the U S growing this beautiful business. So I’m helping a lot of startups right now with fundraising. 

I think the lessons that we get from NotCo to exercise the strategy of fundraising, I think that the main lessons for me is, of course, not get easy money. First, people at the beginning, I remember giving a conference for a bank in Ecuador, and a millionaire in a private jet came in and said, I want to have 40% of your company. You will have $20 million dollars. And he had no clue on on CPG products, he had no clue about the technology. He had no clue, nothing. And that was the easy part, right? Getting the funding for an attractive idea, in some way, could be very easy. But you need to pick, very well, your investors. And the main strategy that I used, maybe my co-founder thinks differently, but people that are aligned with your purpose: it’s very important, right? People that are not just can understand your business, but aligned with what you want to change. My goal behind startups, and NotCo is one of them, but I co-founder other too, is to change culture in stuff that I believe that are not correct in society. So that notion need to be shared with your investors: they need to be aligned with the goals of your intervention in society in some way, right? This is very important because they will create empathy with you and they will try to fight with the same passion for that change of culture that you are pushing from your end. This the first one. 

And second one, they need to be hands on, your venture [investors] need to be hands-on. I remember that the first investor that we got was Kaszek, the largest venture fund in Latin America. And they were awesome. Not just because they helped us educate ourselves as a management team of a startup, but also they will really helpful in creating and open their own network to hire people, management, positions. If we travel to Buenos Aires for a meeting, we used their office. And we always were very welcomed by their team if we want to talk some strategies. So one dimension is the board of director role that they play, we were looking for people that can really support the operation in many dimensions. And I think VC was key in that role. And also we, we bring other people, right? The Craftory is a brand focused VC. And they were great as well. And keep moving with the rest of the investor. But I think that combination of aligned with your purpose and your goal and your vision is critical, and also that they have the perception that they need to be a partner with you, and they need to help you to grow, not just every month kicking your butt with question and creating new new strategies. 

Sometimes the projection of the company doesn’t accomplish what we promise. It’s normal. And having someone there sitting with you that you can call in the middle of the week without being in a board meeting saying, “man, I’m in trouble. You need to help me make a decision here.” That kind of a partnership role. I think it was critical, for not just to accomplish the economy part of the company, but also to create a culture internally, to create a kind of a way of seeing the business that can really help you to put in their current role as some responsibility of the success of the company. And that was great because if we want to open in Argentina, there will be a venture helping us to do that. If we move to Brazil, we have another connection to do that. So including office space, that is very simple, but imagine being a small company, open a new business in a country that you have no clue, and you don’t speak the same language. So that part of the growing, is with the venture. And I think we made great choices. 

Gwen: Yup. I totally underline everything that you’ve said. I always advise founders, “don’t think of it just as money, but as a co-builder with you.” And so it’s really easy to be on the board and demand everything. Much harder to sit side by side with the founder and say, “okay, how do we solve this together? Here are all the intros I’ll make for you. Here are the things I’m going to do to help you,” instead of just saying “you do this.” I totally a hundred percent agree with you. And sometimes I think investors underestimate the power of the intros: if you’ve been in the venture business for 20 years, you have contacts to make a huge difference in a company. And for anyone listening, who’s not from LATAM, Argentinian Spanish is very different from Chilean Spanish. When Pablo says two different language, that that’s what he meant. 

Pablo, Matias sort of scouted you out from the stories that I’ve heard. How did you know this is something that [would work]? The business founders have an idea. They have a grand vision, a CSO is such a key hire. How do you find the right one? And the same, the reverse is true, right? If you’re a scientist, oftentimes a lot of scientists don’t recognize the importance of the business side, especially on the pharma side. How do you find a good business executive that will get your product to market? I see a lot of failures on this part. 

Pablo: Very, very hard. I think it’s very hard because normally most of the venture doesn’t help to recruit good scientists because sometimes some investors [don’t see the science]. And I’m seeing this after my fundraising with NotCo. They see science like an excuse of building a brand. They don’t see a science has a deep part of the soul of a technological company. They love to mention that science is important, but they don’t want to invest because it’s too expensive and it’s too risky. I’m a scientist like you, I recognize that you are also a business woman. I think that we as scientists have some very important problems with ego, and it’s a hard to recognize that we need to build some people on the table to do what we don’t know how to do. And I will make the question on both sides when you are on the  business [side], and you try to convince the scientists, it will be always hard because the scientists will check your resume.

And your resume probably say nothing about what really you are in the business side. So this has happened to me with Matias. When the first time I met Mathias, he said, “Yeah, this is a idea with red hair, and I don’t have too many with red hair in my network, so he could be interesting, but I will contact my one of my PhD students and work with you in what we are planning, but I don’t have the time. And at that time, I was associate director of an innovation center with a forty-five scientists with a huge salary, with many labs. So I was very good in my position, working for UC (University of California) system. So building a new company was not something that I was looking for, because I got everything that I wanted at the time. And I was 35 or 34. Now my career was very crazy. So I was sitting in my lab in floor number 12 in a business district with a lot of brilliant scientists all over the world, and I was having this idea with Mathias and Karim to start something tangible in Chile. So my first reaction was, “yes, we can do this, but I will spend none of my time, I will spend zero time on this until we see if works or not.” So I contact someone in the university, “why you don’t help me to solve these couple of questions and see if that works, I will jump in and I will take the lead on this. And that was exactly what I did. 

And also Mathias remind me that at first, when we went back to Chile, he was calling me and [when I pick up the phone and see the name] Matias, “ah no, I don’t want to talk to this guy” because I was very busy. And I had in my hands a $35 million grant and needed to make too many things. So getting the attention of a scientist is not easy. So at the end, what happened is what we were proposing worked experimentally and they say, well, if this is work, this could be a game changer. So I decided to jump in and dedicate my time and put all my energy and my quality behind it.

This is my experience. And I have been approached by many business people across time. And that was the very first time that I talked to them deeply, to try to understand what they’re looking for. But of course, I was in my personal life. I was a scientist in a university, then I moved into the patents, knowledge and writing patents, then I moved to the private sector. I was leading an Institute of Advanced Research in a company. So my mindset was easy to jump into a startup because I was doing research for four years in the private sector. But if you want to convince someone in a university, [that’s] even harder, because their life is already solved, because they have their tenure track, they receive grants every year, they do whatever they want, they have two months of vacation. So dealing with that part of the scientist, I wouldn’t say is even harder, because maybe they know the science, but they are not familiar with the business. They don’t know how to execute the correct science for delivery, and not go too deep on the science to make papers, realizing what the company requires from you. So I will say that my recommendation for hiring CSOs is like always go to people on middle position in companies, on a startup, people that can really achieve in their minds about how to apply to business, not just apply like at a university, because someone else will take the post, and someone else will make it work. You need someone that has experience of delivering on very very tight budgets, with the right specific experiments that will allow you to move into the next level. And that experience is the private sector. There’s no way that you can have a game-changer CSO from a professor position because he will try to replicate whatever he does in the university, that is absolutely different to the one that you need to accomplish in the private sector. And of course, being a CSO, when you are a startup, you need to be the middle scientists that can learn, have experience, and can jump in into your startup with very good incentives, with stock option and bonus or something that would help him to move on from his current position. 

Gwen: How many years in the private sector do you think is enough to have learned those lessons after academia? And also, do you think private sector is sufficient or does it have to be a startup or innovation focused private sector?

Pablo: I would say the private sector will, if he is in a good position, private sector? will be enough. I think because also if you’re in a big company, not as a startup, you can bring your clients, you can bring your network, you can have access to big facilities. But sometimes when you’re a startup, you’re poor for the first 10 years. So you are kind of in a battle position, always fighting for the paying for experiments. So that going from startup to startup, sometimes you don’t have the vision of creating a business around science. So having been a scientist in a real strong consolidated company – of course maybe the person is less creative – but at least he has the view about how the system works, and eventually he will help you to create that kind of vision from your startup to the consolidated company.

So I will center timing for me at six months [to] change my mindset because … 

Gwen: I think you learn a little bit faster than … 

Pablo:  … maybe a few years, three, four years to get a good sense. What you can not do is like bring in a corporate guy that sees science has a commodity, as people in the private sector normally have that view. If you take that profile, you will make a big mistake because he will kill the startup. 

Gwen: Yeah, I think this is the reason why I just love IndieBio, is that one of our core thesis is that science is the asset here. My personal view is that the scientist is the IP, is more valuable than IP. What I’ve seen is that the scientists that wrote the patents, they can always figure out a way to get around it. So if you think that the patents are the assets, you’re wrong, it’s the scientists that are the real IP. So I totally agree with you on that part. So how long did it take for Mathias to wheel you out of your $35 million grant …

Pablo: I think a few months, three or four months. Because at the time, the company didn’t exist, was kind of a concept, but we were iterating. So Karim was doing some things, I was providing some data and helping to collect some data on the repositories, Karim was doing the first iteration, and Matias was experimenting in his kitchen.

So until we get good food, we decided to wait to create a company. When we say this is not disgusting, this tastes pretty good. Wow. This is amazing. So why wouldn’t we take a seat and create a company around it?

So it was funny because our experiments are eatable experiments. If you fail, it doesn’t matter because you eat it and if you don’t like it then move on. You’re not killing anyone, you know? It was funny because in my lab at NotCo at the time, there was no toxic compounds. So everything at the experimental site needs to be edible. So the molecular biology was in another lab, right? So easy because everybody can evaluate the successful experiments. People from marketing, people from the office, can have  an opinion  about it.

Gwen: Yeah, I am very jealous of the future-of-food companies. Their lab is their kitchen, so it sounds like fun. I think you mentioned something about recruiting a business co-founder or a CSO, but it also sounds like you also did a lot of the recruiting once you were in Chile. Any advice on how to build out a team, once you do raise your seed round or your Series A.

Pablo: I think that will depends upon how ambitious you want to be. First of all, if we bring someone from McKinsey and we were not able to pay his salary. The salary of a former McKinsey is the salary of the total team, makes no sense. So much experience at the beginning and so much reputation, sometimes it’s not good because when they perceive that the founders are not mature enough, that they will jeopardize their operation, because they will feel that they know more than the view that is implemented at that moment.

So later on, I will say that in my case, and I think it in any case, because we in some way have some sort of reputation on the science and technology side, we were the ones building our team with people that we really trust from our previous positions. So, I say this correctly because at the initial moments of a startup, you have such a limited budget that you can not make mistakes. And if you made mistake, you need it to be cheap and fast. You can not create very huge deep long-term experiment to demonstrate anything. You need to be very sharp, very efficient. And for that, I will say in my personal experience, I hired people that I most trust in my entire career. So I’d bring people from the US, I bring people from Chile. They were my peers, they were my colleagues, they were my students. And I bring them from everywhere, I [tell them] what we are building is so powerful that you will not regret on that decision. We have no much money to pay you, but you will be playing a role in a game-changer company. And why I’m saying that it’s a game-changer company, this is the data that we get. This is the kind of logic that we have behind the company. This is the technological platform that we want to build. The skillsets are required, but the mindset and the trust are equally important as the skillset.

So I will say at the beginning, only just two first employees, they were kind of agnostic on the search. The other ones they’re strategic, they are people that we trust and we give to them the role of building the platform that we want, because they are people that demonstrated in the past that they can do it in other positions, whether at a university, at a center, in another startup So I think that was a very, very, very critical: skills, trust and mindset. 

Gwen: Yeah, a hundred percent agree with what you’re saying is that the beginning stages of a startup, especially when you’re a sub 10 people, you’re very likely running on very low capital. So you’re not like a large company where, if the hire didn’t work out, you’ve wasted six months of salary. You don’t have that six months of salary. So it must be somebody that you trust. And also you don’t have the time to deal with personnel issues. I think another thing I’ve advised founders on hiring for a technical role, which is something that they probably don’t have from their own network, is that the person who’s asking you to match their current salary is likely not the right person, because they’re not giving up anything. They’re getting salary plus your stock. So don’t go for the mercenaries, go for the missionaries. 

Pablo: Right. True.

Gwen: Every guest [on the podcast] I always ask them, what topics do you want to talk about? And Pablo, despite being how smart he is, he has a big brain, but he has an even bigger heart. He said, I want to talk about how entrepreneurs founders can give back to their community. So I want to yield the rest of the time for you to talk about that.

Pablo: I think that for me, that is critical, right? If we want to move the economies, I think that startups are at the peak, the margin of the economy, important players. And for that, we need more NotCo’s, we need more, we need more.

And it’s not a matter of concentrated just for concentration, it’s being concentrated to distribute. And I think that the entrepreneurs, we get some kind of success, right? Success in the economical dimension is one type of success, but you need to have a vision that all the people need to come after you, and build that capacity, not just to move the economy, but also to create great jobs, to create knowledge as a pinnacle of moving societies. And for that, for me is critical. So right now I’m working from the municipality of my city, the city that I live. I live in the countryside and I decide to support the municipality and create an innovation department over here, and bring in the best startup that I know to, to try to create impact on the territory that I live.

I’m not saying that that is the way to go, but I think it’s good to read, to perceive that entrepreneurs have a way to go that can really have impact in many dimensions. And startup was one experience, but public policy could be a second one, helping other entrepreneurs could be a third one. Playing with people that are trying to build a business that are not technical, scientific driven companies. It’s important to give some tips. So I think that we need to have a vocation or some kind of empathy with the society and we have some entrepreneurs need to play that game as well. So what I’m doing in my day by day basis, not just sitting on boards and helping entrepreneurs, but also helping my neighborhood. I create a school for instance, for teaching kids, because I think that it’s key. Someone called me from Germany, from Netherlands, from Africa, I will find my time and I will talk to them because I think that is valuable for everyone to receive feedback that is not lessons. I spoke to a woman that is doing peptidomics, and I’m a biochemist, and I have no clue about the strategies for peptidomics for humans, but I think I have some view that can help that founder to shortcut some process that I struggled with myself in the past. So I think that we need to spend time in our life of giving back, and I have four hours a week on my calendar, blocked for anyone that want to talk to me for five or ten minutes. I am open to do it because it’s a great way to give back. And I decided to use the office of the municipality, mot because I’m an employee of the municipalities, because I have so many great people in my network that can support the municipality that in an hour I have a meeting with two startups that they want to pilot their product with this municipality. It’s very poor, I’m not sitting in New York. It’s a place that no one knows, but I think that everybody needs to [give back], it’s like going to military school for people from Israel, right? You hit [it big], you need to go there and you need to spend your time sharing your knowledge. And I think on my end is the only way to really move the engine in our space because people can can say, we rely on the government on pushing these ideas, but the government had no experience in reality of creating innovation on the ground. So the only people it’s the consolidated business: they have no idea of sharing that knowledge because they are concentrating [on business]. And you have this more democratic access to knowledge and capital that is entrepreneurship. And also we need to support each other.

One of my goals with the companies that I’m [advising] right now, not related to food of course, because I am pretty respectful of NotCo, but it’s how we hire service of another startup, how we create business with them. If you need to go and screen for your diagnostic, you don’t need to go to the private consolidated Roche. You can go to a business that is equal to you and needs your support. So creating network it’s important. And helping each other is very, very critical for me. This is the way to make this ecosystem more dynamic. And also I am playing, I would say, an important role of building companies, right?

And that’s why I’m sitting in accelerators and company building programs, to help scientists, to change their mind and find co-founders, like exactly what we have been talking, and develop a business around their skills. Last year we create 12 companies that come in directly from universities, and we train scientists, we forced them to learn about business, look for co-founders, help them to create a business, talking with the university changing policies just to create a new company. And that was very successful. And now I’m starting a second process of that: it’s called APTA builder. And we plan to have another 12 companies, scientific based companies that are driven by a lot of fundamental research paid by all the citizens, because these are professors at universities. So I think that we need to, we need to play that role. Absolutely.

Gwen: I love what you said, and I wish there were more Pablo’s or everyone’s a Pablo. There are two quotes that I really like. One is, “service is the rent you paid to live on this earth.” And the second is “to whom much is given, much is expected.” And I think a lot of people, look at that quotation and think that much has given just means you were born rich. No, I think we’re all given so much. The fact that we have intelligence. The fact that we have drive and the fact that we have a willingness to make change, these are all gifts, right? And so it’s up to us to channel these gifts to make a difference. And I totally agree with you that if you want to make a difference in this world, startups actually might be the way to do it instead of waiting for bigger changes, you may be just have to start.

So last question is, what are three people you want to see me interview next?

Pablo:  I think that the three founders that really inspired me, one of them, the first one, we did a mentoring session. But at the end, I learned way more than that. What I teach, I think, or I try to propose to her. It’s a company it’s called Nuritas. It’s a scientist, brilliant scientists with a really great optic about pharmacology and human physiology. Overall. It’s called Nora Khalid. It’s is the first one. She’s great. She’s in the growing stage, but I would have $200 million revenue I still feel this is what I like most. She feel that still need to develop skills. They still need to learn. It’s on the learning curve. It’s a very successful business, but it still has a startup spirit. And that is great. 

The second one is a company that I know, because I’m very familiar with the technology, they are based on fertilizers, Pivot Bio.  They were raising, like I think $400 million for this round. There I worked on a technology exactly in the same one that they are leading here. That is how we can replace the use of nitrogen fertilizer to have very high impact on the environment, and how we reset the microbiome of crops of being not dependent of the nitrogen coming from the fertilizer. Microbes can do that work and fix the nitrogen from the air, like biological nitrogen fixation. And this is very deep revolutionary for agriculture. They call it the holy grail of agriculture. How we can change the way of making food, basically, on a species that they lose the ability of taking nitrogen from the air, because they don’t have the association with the right microbes. Pivot Bio is great. And the person is Karsten Temme, one of the founders, scientist brilliant as well. I have seen some of the lectures that he had done. 

And the third one is the founder of 23andme. They made an IPO like few months ago. I’m a user of 23andme from the very beginning. Speeding on that too, when they were in the first few months that they released when I was in California. And it’s still I’m impressed with what they have been doing, not just in terms of precision snips, like single nucleotide polymorphous, which is a tool for identifying stuff, but also because they train and educate the users. If you go to their webpage and you screen your data, you can look at the papers behind it, the scientists that discovered this. So it’s more than a service of providing you data. It’s a way of changing and bringing in science [to] every person that can use this platform. And that, that for me, it’s great because I think that they are doing better than universities of teaching. 

Gwen: Totally agree. One not well known fact about 23andme is that they actually store your genome for five years so that if they learn new things through GWAS studies and whatnot, they might actually re-sequence your genome or parts of your genome and tell you new things that they’ve learned.

Pablo: Exactly, and it happens very often by the way. 

Gwen: Yeah. So don’t think of it as, I just spent $2-300 dollars, they might update you in a few years with new data as well. Thank you so much, Pablo, for all the great lessons. I’m glad I’m not pointing our founders in the wrong direction. You’ve reiterated some of my advice. So I’ll definitely send this podcast to them as well. And thank you so much for your service to not just to Chile, but the probably globally, the startup world. 

Pablo: Great. Thank you Gwen. I think that was a very honest conversation. That was perfect. 

Gwen: Always. Thank you, Pablo.

This startup is creating ‘real’ dairy, without cows

Hong Kong (CNN)We’ve grown used to oat milk and soya milk — now a food-tech startup is taking alternative milk to the next level.California-based Perfect Day uses fungi to make dairy protein that is “molecularly identical” to the protein in cow’s milk, says co-founder Ryan Pandya. That means it can be used to make dairy products such as cheese and yogurt.

Today, we welcome our third cohort of world-changing biotech founders to IndieBio NY!

Synthetic biology could help business save the planet

Just five years ago, Uma Valeti, a cardiologist, Nicholas Genovese, an oncologist, and Will Clem, a biomedical engineer, quit their jobs to start Upside Foods in Berkeley. They developed a biological process to grow synthetic meat products by taking stem cells from animals and eggs; feeding those cells nutrients, carbohydrates, minerals, fats, and vitamins; and speeding up their growth in a bioreactor. Using this technique, Upside Foods has been able to produce beef, duck, and chicken at scale. 

Congrats to @animalbiome for closing their Series A led by @Cargill!

Protera Announces Final Close of Its $10M Series A Led by Sofinnova Partners

Protera Announces Final Close of Its $10M Series A Led by Sofinnova Partners. AI-powered startup to use funds to advance its protein platform as company moves towards commercializing its product portfolio. Mexico’s Bimbo Group and the ICL Group join financing round.

Former Hermès CEO Patrick Thomas says alternative leathers could account for at least 10% of the luxury goods industry over the next two decades.

NotCo gets its horn following $235M round to expand plant-based food products

By Christine Hall

NotCo, a food technology company making plant-based milk and meat replacements, wrapped up another funding round this year, a $235 million Series D round that gives it a $1.5 billion valuation.

Tiger Global led the round and was joined by new investors, including DFJ Growth Fund, the social impact foundation, ZOMA Lab; athletes Lewis Hamilton and Roger Federer; and musician and DJ Questlove. Follow-on investors included Bezos Expeditions, Enlightened Hospitality Investments, Future Positive, L Catterton, Kaszek Ventures, SOSV and Endeavour Catalyst.

This funding round follows an undisclosed investment in June from Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer through his firm EHI. In total, NotCo, with roots in both Chile and New York, has raised more than $350 million, founder and CEO Matias Muchnick told TechCrunch.

Currently, the company has four product lines: NotMilk, NotBurger and NotMeat, NoticeCream and NotMayo, which are available in the five countries of the U.S., Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Colombia.

Q&A with the new Managing Director of IndieBio, Po Bronson

Po Bronson
Po Bronson
Po Bronson

Q. Uh, seven bestselling books … you could be retired on some private island … why are you here?

A. It’s simple. I fell in love with IndieBio. I mean, I really love it. I’ve been deeply committed at every level for over two years. I know this isn’t a conventional answer but that’s because most people don’t feel this way about why they do what they do.

Q. SOSV was named the US’s “most active VC” in Q2 — a time when economic GDP fell by 34%. IndieBio’s activity was a huge part of that. Why didn’t you slow down like so many others?

A. Everyone says COVID is the great accelerator — and they’re largely talking about the shift to ecommerce over retail, or the shift to at-home entertainment. But it’s been a huge accelerator in our sectors: scientists are heroes.

Q. What’s unique about leading an organization like IndieBio?

A. That it’s a network. Sure, at the core is our SOSV set of funds. But IndieBio is a community, and it’s been built by founders, by investors, by non-profit advocates, by so many friendly universities, and by fans who pack our rafters at night. They all have a stake in IndieBio. I have experience leading three previous organizations that had this community dynamic. It’s very much about service. I’m here to serve. Not boss.

Q. What’s the most-important-but-least-discussed secret to venture capital?

A. Trust. All financial transactions are about trust and belief at their core. Trust and belief is the foundation of all organizational activity. Derisk, derisk, derisk — but there has to be a nugget of trust and belief.

Q. How is IndieBio changing?

A. There are not new changes. We’ve been implementing them over the last two years and they are largely in place. 1) We’re not just an accelerator anymore, we’re a bigger fund, investing in our companies for years and years (80% of the money we’re deploying this year is not at the accelerator stage); 2) We opened IndieBio NY, with the help of the State of New York, and have a tremendous team there led by Steve Chambers, doubling the number of startups we’re accelerating; 3) We’re making a little more capital available to each startup through Genesis Consortium. I know this has been a hard year for so many; but it’s been a record year at SOSV.

Q. What’s Genesis Consortium?

A. Many funds and partners have long wanted to invest programmatically into our portfolio at the very early stage — and now there’s a way.

Q. Favorite Arvind quote that inspires you every day?

A. “Alpha is in the Basement.” It means that the greatest value we add to our companies is working really hard with them, one on one, in the first five months.

Q. Why did you and Arvind write a book?

A. It’s said in basketball, “Shooters gonna shoot.” So, “Writers gonna write.” It’s just what we do. I think most people kinda had a sense that Arvind was also an artist, or had been an artist — but I think they’ll be blown away by his chapters. Absolutely blown away.

Q. What’s front of mind these days?

A. Ahh … I have to say, the industrial and manufacturing sector, and how it underlies the deep psychological need for self-sufficiency, self-determinism. We work with a fair number of nations and NGOs who see biomanufacturing of raw materials as a path to self-sufficiency. But this applies equally to the US too.

When the pandemic hit, we couldn’t even make masks. We couldn’t produce test kits. We couldn’t make ventilators. We were out of toilet paper. In some cases, we couldn’t even make drugs.

The only full-stack US manufacturing sectors left are food processing and construction. Products that wear a “Made in USA” label, like our cars, are assembled here from parts made elsewhere. The processing of raw materials we’ve long abandoned. The result is an economy with lots of jobs — but jobs making $5 sandwiches at Subway rather than making the $1,000 phones we use.

Even the food sector has shown incredible vulnerabilities. Milk is being poured out, crops are rotting in fields, hogs are being asphyxiated, all while there’s huge long lines at the food banks. Grocery prices are going up as restaurants are going down.

China didn’t take our jobs. We gave the jobs to them, so our televisions could be bigger and our clothes cheaper and we could decorate our homes with new furniture they built for us. In the ’90s, we decided we wanted to be the manufacturer of digital and virtual products instead. Stuff like movies, and advertising, and insurance. (Except health insurance.) Everyone was going to be a “knowledge worker.” Remember that? It only works when knowledge is reasonably scarce. Then the internet dumped all the world’s knowledge online, and made it free. We soon led the world — in borrowing money. We’re #1 — in incarceration. Nobody can compete with us — in dog and cat ownership. We crush the rest of the world — in plastic surgery. Poor counties stopped hoping for a factory, and started hoping for a casino.

The collective sense that we’ve gone astray may show itself in protests and in a moral divide, but its roots are in the economic system. The intense polarization of this election is just the downstream effect of fundamental economic weakness. America was built on a creed of self determination and self reliance. Then we abandoned it. Now we lead the world — in divorce.

Watching how we’ve gutted our industrial base has been painful. But I would argue the path forward is vividly clear: take advantage of the massive shift to sustainable production, and reestablish our industrial base with cleantech across every sector.

The means of production is undergoing a complete reinvention to address greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, and natural resource constraints. Almost everything we make — from cars to houses to clothes to food — is being stripped down to its raw ingredients and reassembled. Even the very base of the industrial economy, chemistry, is going green. Exxon was the most valuable company in the world as recently as 2013. Exxon dropping off the Dow Industrials in just seven years should ring alarm bells in every boardroom.

I think it’s important to juxtapose “advanced manufacturing” vs “biomanufacturing.” Advanced manufacturing uses automation and robotics to deliver unprecedented precision — it’s still about finished, durable goods. Biomanufacturing is really about new raw materials. For the first time, we can produce superior raw materials that don’t need post-processing — (not just like for like) — in bioreactors at scale. It’s a technology that will change global power, because it allows any country to stop importing. All technological revolutions are also social revolutions, and this one will be wild to live through.

Q. Short answers, please.

A. Check.