Alternative protein investor Lever VC hits first close of new fund at $23m

The completed plant-based hamburger is displayed during a media tour of Impossible Foods labs and processing plant in Redwood City, California. Reuters.

Lever VC, a New York and Hong Kong-based venture capital firm that invests in early-stage alternative protein startups, has reached the first close of Lever VC Fund I with $23 million in capital commitments, it announced in a statement on Monday.

Lever VC, whose partners include early investors in Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Memphis Meats, plans to use the new vehicle to back early-stage, plant-based and cell-cultivated meat and dairy companies.

About 70 per cent of capital commitments to the fund came from Hong Kong and Asian family offices, conglomerates with diversified interest including consumer products, as well as players in the food industry that expect to gain exposure to the high-growth alternative protein sector, according to the statement.

The global market of alternative protein, which generally offers plant-based and food-technology alternatives to animal protein, is estimated to grow by approximately 31 per cent year over year to become an $85-140 billion market over the next 10 to 15 years, according to estimates from Barclays, UBS, and JP Morgan.

Lever VC Fund I has already amassed a portfolio of 10 alternative protein startups in Greater China, Singapore and the rest of the world.

Some of its current portfolio companies include Singapore-based TurtleTree Labs, which is said to be the world’s first company developing cow’s milk and human breast milk from cell cultivation; Hong Kong-based cell-cultivated meat startup Avant; and Better Meat Co, whose plant-based meat protein blend is featured at over 7,000 grocery stores across the United States.

The fund also invested in China’s plant-based yoghurt brand Marvelous Foods; Bond Pet Foods, a Boulder-based firm that uses biotech to make animal-free, protein-rich pet food; and The Good Spoon, a plant-based condiments brand with distribution at several of Europe’s largest retailers.

The development came less than two months after Lever VC told DealStreetAsia that it had kept aside an investment pool of up to 200 million yuan ($28 million) for China’s emerging alternative protein players.

Its China-dedicated fund, Lever China Alternative Protein Fund, will invest 40 million yuan ($5.65 million) over the next four years in entrepreneurs and early-stage alternative protein companies focusing on mainland China. Lever VC Fund I will also allocate up to 160 million yuan ($22.60 million) for follow-on funding.

Lever VC managing partner Nick Cooney had earlier said that Fund I was targeting to collect a total corpus of $50 million.

Lever VC is led by an investment team including Cooney, who co-launched alternative protein industry NGO – the Good Food Institute, and partner Lawrence Chu, founder and chairman of Hong Kong-based investment firm BlackPine Private Equity.

The two partners were investors in the world’s iconic alternative protein companies such as Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Memphis Meats, JUST, Aleph Farms, and Kite.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.