Temasek-backed Big Idea Ventures has hit the $50 million final close of its debut alternative protein fund. The food tech investor closed the New Protein Fund 1 in March this year, according to its founder and managing general partner Andrew Ive.
The US- and Singapore-based venture firm raised capital from new investors including Le Groupe Bel, the French cheese manufacturer and distributor behind The Laughing Cow; AAK, a Sweden-based global producer of vegetable oil and fats; and Meiji Co, a Japanese food confectionery.
They joined existing limited partners (LPs) such as Swiss plant equipment manufacturer Bühler, US meat processing giant Tyson Foods, Temasek Holdings, Enterprise Singapore, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, two Asian high net worth families closely linked to the food sector, and one high net worth individual (HNWI) from England advocating animal welfare.
“We’ve had much more corporate interest than we had in previous years… During COVID-19, a number of them stepped up quickly, started to evaluate the fund and got involved,” said Ive.
“We’ve seen an increase in demand for products in the alternative protein category over the last 12-18 months. In fact, none of this investment would have really mattered if consumers weren’t already ahead of the curve in terms of looking for great products, changing their consumption patterns and being prepared to pay for them,” he added.
New Protein Fund 1 writes seed cheques for promising startups in the alternative protein space globally. Companies it has backed include Shiok Meats, the cell-based shrimp producer from Singapore; Y Combinator-backed lab-grown meat company Orbillion Bio and Sweden-based plant-based tuna and fish maker Hooked.
The fund also backs an accelerator programme in New York and Singapore, which identifies and nurtures top talent in the foodtech space in the US and Asia. Ive added that the firm will bring this accelerator into Paris in Q2 this year, which will see Big Idea Ventures set up its European headquarters in the French food capital.
“We’re turning into a very global network. One surprise for us was how well our teams have been collaborating across markets. When we started, we expected to have independent teams and programmes in Singapore and New York. We didn’t expect our portfolios to be in front of each other all the time, actively comparing notes and figuring out how to leverage resources and work together more effectively. It’s turned out extremely well,” he said.
Big Idea Ventures also manages two other funds.
Generation Food Fund 1 is a $250 million Series A+ fund focused on technologies seeking to reduce plastics, water, waste and carbon emissions through the supply chain. Its other fund is the $125 million Generation Food Rural Partners Fund focused on commercialising university-developed intellectual property in food, protein and agriculture.
According to Ive, Generation Food Rural Partners Fund is nearing its first close which will see it raise about one-third of its corpus within the next 2-3 months. The firm is in the midst of finalising its anchor LPs and is in active conversations with corporates, local state government bodies, and university endowment funds.
The fund will operate much like a venture builder, where Big Idea’s team will adopt a hands-on approach to build portfolio companies up from inception. It plans to recruit seasoned management teams and provide capital and partnership support to set up, launch and run these companies. About 20 US universities have so far agreed to partner with Big Idea Ventures for the fund.