Memphis Meats raised $161 million from SoftBank Group, Norwest and Temasek

Memphis Meats, a developer of technologies to manufacture meat, seafood and poultry from animal cells, has raised $161 million in financing from investors including Softbank Group, Norwest and Temasek, the investment fund backed by the government of Singapore.

The investment brings the company’s total financing to $180 million. Previous investors include individual and institutional investors like Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Threshold Ventures, Cargill, Tyson Foods, Finistere, Future Ventures, Kimbal Musk, Fifty Years and CPT Capital.

Other companies including Future Meat Technologies, Aleph Farms, Higher Steaks, Mosa Meat and Meatable are pursuing meat grown from cell cultures as a replacement for animal husbandry, whose environmental impact is a large contributor to deforestation and climate change around the world.

Innovations in computational biology, bio-engineering and materials science are creating new opportunities for companies to develop and commercialize technologies that could replace traditional farming with new ways to produce foods that have a much lower carbon footprint and bring about an age of superabundance, according to investors.

The race is on to see who will be the first to market with a product.

“For the entire industry, an investment of this size strengthens confidence that this technology is here today rather than some far-off future endeavor. Once there is a “proof of concept” for cultivated meat — a commercially available product at a reasonable price point — this should accelerate interest and investment in the industry,” said Bruce Friedrich, the executive director of the Good Food Institute, in an email. “This is still an industry that has sprung up almost overnight and it’s important to keep a sense of perspective here. While the idea of cultivated meat has been percolating for close to a century, the very first prototype was only produced six years ago.”

Two Sigma Ventures raises $288M, complementing its $60B hedge fund parent

Eight years ago, Two Sigma Investments began an experiment in early-stage investing.

The hedge fund, focused on data-driven quantitative investing, was well on its way to amassing the $60 billion in assets under management that it currently holds, but wanted more exposure to early-stage technology companies, so it created a venture capital arm, Two Sigma Ventures.

At the time of the firm’s launch it made a series of investments, totaling about $70 million, exclusively with internal capital. The second fund was a $150 million vehicle that was backed primarily by the hedge fund, but included a few external limited partners.

Now, eight years and several investments later, the firm has raised $288 million in new funding from outside investors and is pushing to prove out its model, which leverages its parent company’s network of 1,700 data scientists, engineers and industry experts to support development inside its portfolio.

The world is becoming awash in data and there’s continuing advances in the science of computing,” says Two Sigma Ventures co-founder Colin Beirne. “We thought eight years ago when when started, that more and more companies of the future would be tapping into those trends.”

Beirne describes the firm’s investment thesis as being centered on backing data-driven companies across any sector — from consumer technology companies like the social networking monitoring application, Bark, or the high-performance, high-end sports wearable company, Whoop.

Alongside Beirne, Two Sigma Ventures is led by three other partners: Dan Abelon, who co-founded SpeedDate and sold it to IAC; Lindsey Gray, who launched and led NYU’s Entrepreneurial Institute; and Villi Iltchev, a former general partner at August Capital.

Recent investments in the firm’s portfolio include Firedome, an endpoint security company; NewtonX, which provides a database of experts; Radar, a location-based data analysis company; and Terray Therapeutics, which uses machine learning for drug discovery.

Other companies in the firm’s portfolio are farther afield. These include the New York-based Amper Music, which uses machine learning to make new music; and Zymergen, which uses machine learning and big data to identify genetic variations useful in pharmaceutical and industrial manufacturing.

Currently, the firm’s portfolio is divided between enterprise investments, consumer-facing deals and healthcare-focused technologies. The biggest bucket is enterprise software companies, which Beirne estimates represents about 65% of the portfolio. He expects the firm to become more active in healthcare investments going forward.

“We really think that the intersection of data and biology is going to change how healthcare is delivered,” Beirne says. “That looks dramatically different a decade from now.”

To seed the market for investments, the firm’s partners have also backed the Allen Institute’s investment fund for artificial intelligence startups.

Together with Sequoia, KPCB and Madrona, Two Sigma recently invested in a $10 million financing to seed companies that are working with AI. “This is a strategic investment from partner capital,” says Beirne.

Typically startups can expect Two Sigma to invest between $5 million and $10 million with its initial commitment. The firm will commit up to roughly $15 million in its portfolio companies over time.

Industrial technologies get a big backer with Anzu Partners’ new $190 million fund

Advances in biology, biochemistry, sensors and automation have the potential to reshape the ways manufacturing in America is done and a relatively new firm called Anzu Partners has just raised $190 million to invest in companies turning these scientific achievements into new products and services.

Far from Silicon Valley, Anzu is investing in technology companies coming from places as disparate as Durham, Omaha, and Santa Fe, in addition to the traditional technology hub of Boston and its surrounding area.

“We started in early 2016 with a focus on venture capital and early stage private equity,” says firm managing partner Whitney Haring-Smith. “The majority of the transactions that we do are minority, but there are a subset that are control.”

One of those acquisitions, for the optical electronics equipment manufacturer Axsun Technologies, yielded one of the firm’s early exits when the Massachusetts-based company was sold to Excelitas in a roughly $80 million transaction. The firm saw at least one other exit last year when Siemens bought its portfolio company MultiMechanics in November.

Co-founded and managed by former Boston Consulting Group leadership David Seldin and David Michael, the leadership team has expanded to include another BCG, alum, John Ho, who was just named partner with the close fo the fund.

Anzu Partners writes checks in the $3 million to $8 million range and follows that capital with commitments of up to $15 million, according to Haring-Smith.

“We focus today on investing in the technologies that enable tomorrow’s industries,” Haring-Smith said of the firm’s thesis. “We don’t know whether this biologic drug or that biologic drug will succeed but we know that all biologic drugs will need certain things.”

Examples include the company’s investment in the Santa Fe-based NTX Bio, which was made not because the startup manufactures particular biologics for the pharmaceutical industry, but because it makes technology which can produce lower cost, higher purity and higher stability biologics. “It doesn’t make vaccines, but makes vaccine manufacturing more cheap and efficient,” says Haring-Smith. 

The firm has already made six investments from its new fund since it first began fundraising efforts last April.

Portfolio companies include the Durham-based BioSkryb, which makes technologies to improve gene sequencing; Boston Microfluidics, which develops blood collection devices; GelSight, which makes 3D imaging systems to improve quality control in manufacturing; immunoSCAPE, which profiles immune systems to provide better data on potentially applicable therapeutics for patients; Sofregen, which tissue support and regeneration products based on a novel process for manufacturing silk proteins, and Solchroma Technologies, which uses a unique manufacturing process to make digital displays.

Anzu operates from offices in Tampa, San Diego, Washington, and Boston and Haring-Smith believes that the geographic diversity gives the company a leg up on deals.

With the new fund, the firm expects to expand its geographic footprint to other under-capitalized regions around the U.S.

 

 

 

In Los Angeles, the Women’s March embraces technology to organize and inspire

The roughly 300,000 marchers that filled the streets of downtown Los Angeles for the third annual Women’s March received more than just an opportunity to hear from some of the state’s high powered politicians, they were also part of a new experiment from local March organizers in bringing technology into the movement.

Using an organizational tool called SameSide, whose launch coincided with the Women’s March and a joint effort with RockTheVote, Women’s March organizers are hoping to transfer excitement about the march into broader political engagement with local and national women’s issues in this Presidential election year.

At the same time, the March organizers were trying to find a way to incorporate art and artists into the event, while being respectful of public spaces. That’s where a new, pre-launch application called Mark, came into the picture.

Mark, a joint venture between the Danish game development firm Sybo and the Chinese mobile game publisher iDreamSky, uses augmented reality to permanent installations of digital street art. The two year old company is still in beta, but decided to work with the Women’s March as an initial test of its product.

The company agreed to donate up to $300,000 in total, and up to $100 per-person for new users who downloaded the application. Mark donated $1 per download and initial share by a user for an account created during the march. Subsequent donations will be made fo consecutive days in app and multiple shares of posts made using MARK, according to the company. Login for 60 straight days and share 20 Mark AR posts and the company agreed to donate $100 to The Women’s March.

Image courtesy of Mark

“Any movement encompasses art,” says Women’s March Los Angeles Foundation executive director Emiliana Guereca. “Social justice art and technology and the movement really melded for us. Even though it’s technology, it’s organic.”

Using Google’s persistent cloud anchors in ARCore, Mark users are able to create permanent images that can be viewed and modified through the company’s app. In Los Angeles, the company worked with American and international artists Amy Sol, Sam Kirk , Faith XLVIILedania, and Fatma Al-Remaihi to create pieces that would be available at specific sites throughout the march route.

Though the Women’s March may serve as Mark’s debut, the company intends to avoid picking political sides. “We want to be as politically neutral as possible,” says Mark’s chief executive Jeff Lyndon Ko. The former founder of the publicly traded Shenzhen-based gaming publisher iDreamSky, acknowledged that his new company couldn’t work in China’s tightly controlled social media market.

“This project will have a lot more legs outside of the Greater China reach,” Ko said.  As for the company’s Chinese shareholders (iDreamSky is an investor in Mark), the politics of the women’s movement in the U.S. were a foreign concept. “MyChina team was like, ‘What is that?'” Ko said.

If the collaboration with Mark was designed to inspire, the work that The Women’s March Foundation Los Angeles is doing with SameSide is intended to incite action.

A graduate of the politically focused accelerator, Higher Ground Labs, Sameside is the work of Nicole a’Beckett and her brother, a former Navy Seal. Together the two worked to create a social network that would combine political engagement and social activities to develop communities built around shared ideologies and purpose.

The company offers push notifications and reminders of important dates as well as a database of potentially engaged activists who could be organized around social events. It’s kind of like a politically focused “Meetup” with the added ability to message members about important dates and include calls to action for future activity.

“The Women’s March is the unofficial launch of SameSide, and is making the Women’s March in Los Angeles a catalyst for action by providing a platform for people everywhere to set up affiliated events — things like sign making parties, meet-up coffee parties the morning of the march, house parties for those who can’t attend a march — and delivering a voter registration action kit powered by Rock the Vote to everyone who RSVPs to any affiliated events or the Los Angeles Women’s March,” wrote a’Beckett in an email.

The Women’s March Foundation Los Angeles organizers view political engagement as a crucial next step for march participants. “There is a ‘to-do’ list after marching,” says Guereca. “The draw to Sameside is now people can plug in. How to continue the movement via your phone is critical.”

 

Where FaZe Clan sees the future of gaming and entertainment

Lee Trink has spent nearly his entire career in the entertainment business. The former president of Capitol Records is now the head of FaZe Clan, an esports juggernaut that is one of the most recognizable names in the wildly popular phenomenon of competitive gaming.

Trink sees FaZe Clan as the voice of a new generation of consumers who are finding their voice and their identity through gaming — and it’s a voice that’s increasingly speaking volumes in the entertainment industry through a clutch of competitive esports teams, a clothing and lifestyle brand and a network of creators who feed the appetites of millions of young gamers.

As the company struggles with a lawsuit brought by one of its most famous players, Trink is looking to the future — and setting his sights on new markets and new games as he consolidates FaZe Clan’s role as the voice of a new generation.

“The teams and social media output that we create is all marketing,” he says. “It’s not that we have an overall marketing strategy that we then populate with all of these opportunities. We’re not maximizing all of our brands.”

23andMe co-founder’s new startup, Precise.ly, brings genomics to India through Narayana partnership

Precise.ly, the new genomics startup launched by 23andMe co-founder Linda Avey and Aneil Mallavarapu, is taking its spin on direct to consumer personalized genomics to India through a partnership with Naryana Health, one of India’s leading specialty hospital networks.

Narayana, a company that operates a network of 24 hospitals serving 2.5 million patients, is one of the most fascinating stories in healthcare. By emphasizing efficiencies and cost savings, the hospital network has managed to bring costs down dramatically for many procedures — including providing cancer surgeries for as little as $700 and heart bypass surgeries for $3,000 (as this fascinating article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek illustrates).

Precise.ly’s mission — to collect and analyze genetic data from populations that typically haven’t had access to the services — is one that resonates in a world where the majority of research has been conducted on wealthier populations in wealthy countries. Other startups, like 54Gene, are trying to bring a similar message to the African continent.

“To date, most human genetics research has focused on European populations. But genetic insights need to be tuned to the rest of the world,” said Mallavarapu, in a statement. “We’ve assembled a team of experts who are pioneering advances in genetic analysis and its application to the huge populations of people in south Asia and beyond.” 

Some of that work is being done in concert with Narayana health, the hospital network founded by Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty nearly twenty years ago. Dr. Shetty is initially hoping that Precise.ly’s genetic database will be able to help his hospitals build out a stem cell donor registry that could help hundreds of thousands of Indians who need transplants.

“Personal genetic testing is recognized by the U.S. FDA to test genetic risk for Parkinsonism, late onset Alzheimer’s disease and celiac disease. It is only a matter of time before most diseases get added to the list,” Dr. Shetty said in a statement. “Because of the simplicity of genetic testing from saliva samples, it’s possible to conduct large-scale population screening at a reasonable cost. We are working with Precise.ly’s team of researchers to add HLA typing, which has the potential to transform cancer and other disease treatments in India.”

The path to entering the Indian market was slightly circuitous for Precise.ly. When Avey first left 23andMe, she went to RockHealth (an investor in the company’s $1 million seed round), and began exploring ways to organize and store more of a patient’s quantified health data.

As that company failed to gain traction, Avey took another look at the genetics market and found that there were significant opportunities in underserved markets — and that India, with its rising middle class and burgeoning healthcare industry would be a good target.

“We decided we would build on this Helix platform all kinds of apps for people who had specific diagnosis,” says Avey. But the market was already chock full of startups (including 23andMe), so an early investor in the company from, Civilization Ventures, and its founder Shahram Seyedin-Noor suggested that they begin to look globally for growth.

“Precise.ly’s mission is to deliver validated genetic insights to the billions of people living outside the western world. We’re initially focused on India where there are urgent health issues readily addressable through access to personal genomic data,” said Avey, the chief executive officer of Precise.ly, in a statement. “Our partnership with Narayana is vital to delivering on the promise of precise, data-driven health.” 

Plant-based milk substitute market gets frothy with $225 million for Califia Farms

The market for companies developing dairy substitutes is really getting frothy.

In December, the startup Perfect Day Foods announced it had raised $110 million in financing for its dairy replacement and now Califia Farms, the producer of a range of oat and almond milk products (along with a slew of coffees, juices, and non-dairy snacks) has raised $225 million in fresh financing.

Investors in the round include the Qatar Investment Authority, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, Temasek, Canada’ Claridge, and Hong Kong-based Green Monday Ventures (among others).

For Temasek, the deal comes on the heels of an incredibly successful investment in Beyond Meat, the plant-based meat substitute which has partnership agreements with food chains like Dunkin, McDonald’s, and Carl’s Jr. and whose meteoric rise in its public offering was one of the most successful of the IPOs of the last year.

Money from the new investor base, which joins previous investors Sun Pacific, Stripes and Ambrosia in backing the company, will be used to expand its oat-based suite of products and to launch other new product lines. The company said it will also use the money to increase its production capacity, research and development efforts, and geographical expansion.

Founded in 2010, Califia Farms is one of several startups that are making dairy replacements — either using plant-based ingredients or genetically modified organisms to produce the proteins and sugars that make dairy what it is.

Other companies like Perfect Day, Ripple Foods, Oatly have all raised capital to capture some aspect of the over $1 trillion dairy market.

“The more than $1 trillion global dairy and ready-to-drink coffee industry is ripe for continued disruption with individuals all over the world seeking to transform their health & wellness through the adoption of minimally processed and nutrient rich foods thatare better for both the planet and the animals,” said Greg Steltenpohl, Califia founder and chief executive, in a statement.

Barclays served as the financial advisor and placement agent for Califia on the capital raise.

Austin-based FlashParking raises $60 million for parking management technology

FlashParking, an Austin-based developer of parking management software and services has raised $60 million in new financing from the private equity investment firm L Catterton.

The company’s software, first launched in 2011, provides real-time data and variable pricing options for parking space providers.

FlashParking’s chief executive, Juan Rodriguez, envisions his company’s software and services as the cornerstone for a new kind of hub encompassing several different modes of transportation and autonomous or robotic vehicles. The company’s payment, monitoring and management software can extend beyond app-enabled parking or valet services to electric vehicle charging; vehicle servicing and cleaning; drone launch, landing, and maintenance; and hubs for ride-hailing services.

This unique platform has allowed us to configure an operating system that’s not only the best solution for parking infrastructure today but also a model that’s ready for tomorrow,” said Rodriguez, CEO, and co-founder at FlashParking, in a statement.

The company is already managing 30,000 parking spaces across 34 facilities in the Texas Medical Center alone and has 6 million customers using its services to pay for parking each month, bringing in around $1 billion in transaction revenue, the company says.

BofA Securities served as the financial advisor to FlashParking.

Codagenix raises $20 million for a new flu vaccine and other therapies

Coadagenix, a company developing vaccines and viral therapies for illnesses ranging from the flu and respiratory viruses to dengue fever has raised $20 million in a new round of financing.

The company’s new investment round was led by Adjuvant Capital with additional participation from Euclidean Capital and Topspin Partners .

Codagenix will use the funds to support clinical development of its general flu vaccine and the first RSV vaccine for elderly patients — who are more at risk to serious consequences from contracting the virus.

The company uses a technology called “codon deoptimization” to make versions of viruses and viral therapies that are rendered relatively harmless by replacing more virulent pathogens with milder strains.

Codagenix said it will use the new financing to bring its RSV and flu vaccines through Phase 1 trials and move its oncology program for a breast cancer treatment into Phase 1 clinical trials. It will also launch two new vaccine development programs for what the company called “neglected public health challenges.”

“With the potential to develop optimized, more affordable versions of existing vaccines, Codagenix is poised to solve persistent public health challenges where existing vaccines have made enormous improvements, but still fall short of desired disease control objectives,” said Glenn Rockman, managing partner at Adjuvant Capital. “Equally exciting, the Codagenix technology has an opportunity to succeed where other immunization attempts have failed. We are proud to be supporting the further clinical development of the company’s RSV and influenza programs.”

Founded as a spinout from Stony Brook University in New York in 2012, Codagenix has received backing from government institutions like the National Institute of Health, the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Army for its dengue fever, flu, swine flu, RSV, and food and mouth disease virus vaccines.

In all, the company has raised $38 million from private non-profits, venture capital investors and $11 million in federal funding.

 

Oscar Health now has 400,000 members and expects to bring in $2 billion by the end of 2020

Oscar Health, the upstart healthcare insurance company and technology developer, expects to have roughly 400,000 members insured under its healthcare plans, who collectively will bring in roughly $2 billion in revenue for the company by the end of 2020, according to slides of a presentation from the JP Morgan Healthcare conference seen by TechCrunch.

Those figures, based on the open-enrollment period that just closed, would represent 50% growth both in membership and revenue for the healthcare provider co-founded by Mario Schlosser and Joshua Kushner, founder of VC firm Thrive Capital and the brother of senior Trump advisor Jared Kushner.

Earlier today, Oscar announced that it was partnering with Cigna to provide services to small business owners. Commercial health insurance is a small but growing proportion of Oscar’s total membership, and it’s one area where the company hopes to expand. Essentially, Oscar can bring its technology-enabled healthcare services to small businesses in concert with the large healthcare networks with which businesses are used to working.

To date, Oscar counts around 375,000 individual members on its insurance plans, with another 20,000 coming through small-group insurance and the balance derived from Medicare Advantage customers, according to a person familiar with the company’s business.

Only three years ago, Oscar was a much smaller business, with only 70,000 members after retrenching its coverage and pulling out of markets in Dallas-Fort Worth and New Jersey. From a footprint that encompassed New York, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Francisco, Oscar now expects to operate in 29 markets by the end of 2020.

Fueling that expansion is prodigious capital infusions the company has received over the past few years. In 2018 alone, Oscar raised $540 million from investors including Alphabet, Founders Fund, Capital G (Alphabet’s later-stage investment firm) and Verily, Alphabet’s investment firm focused on life sciences. In all, Oscar Health has raised $1.3 billion to fulfill its vision of providing better healthcare services through technologies like a mobile app for telemedicine, physician consultations, booking appointments, prescription refills and a more concierge-like healthcare experience for its members.

Initially, the company took advantage of the Affordable Care Act’s creation of new marketplaces for individuals to buy health insurance when it launched in 2012, but is now looking to buoy its growth by adding more deals with insurance providers like Cigna for small businesses.

Ultimately, the company envisions a healthcare industry where employer-defined plans will disappear as more consumers turn to Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangements. In that environment, Oscar’s bespoke services — like the recent partnership with the startup Capsule Pharmacy to provide same-day prescription delivery for Oscar’s members in New York — or the company’s tight relationship with providers like the Cleveland Clinic, become competitive advantages.