First Close of ‘Lever VC Fund I’ at US$23M

Lever VC has identified 10 companies to be backed by Fund I so far

Lever VC, an alternative protein venture capital firm based in the U.S. and Hong Kong, has secured the first close of its Lever VC Fund I with US$23 million in capital commitments, the firm announced in a statement yesterday.

70% of the capital commitments were received from family offices and conglomerates in Hong Kong and the rest of Asia with an interest in the alternative protein sector, the statement said. The firm is continuing to source further capital commitments to flesh out the fund.

It also said that the Lever VC Fund I, which is focused on backing early stage plant-based and cell-cultivated meat and dairy startups, has already built a portfolio of 10 alternative protein startups across Hong Kong, Mainland China, Singapore and others.

The portfolio includes cell cultivation startups Singapore-based TurtleTree Labs and Hong Kong-based Avant, U.S.-based alternative meat protein companies Better Meat Co and Bond Pet Foods, and plant-based food products companies The Good Spoon based in France, and Marvelous Foods based in China.

Further, the firm will continue to scout for investment opportunities in early stage alternative protein companies through a database of 1,200 global plant-based and cell-cultivated meat and dairy companies that Lever VC been tracking.

Lever VC’s Managing Partner Nick Cooney and Partner Lawrence Chu have been investing in alternative protein since 2015, with investments in Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Memphis Meats, JUST, Aleph Farms, and Kite Hill.

Chu also founded the Lever VC GP Venture Smart Financial Holdings Limited (VSFG), a financial services firm focused on the Asia Pacific region, with a record in alternative assets management for both institutional and high net worth clients.

“The alternative protein market is continuing to grow quickly,” Chu noted in the statement.

“With our deep experience and proven record of returns in the sector, as well as the preeminent deal flow across Asia, North America, Europe and beyond, Lever VC is perfectly positioned to deliver value to investors looking for financial or strategic exposure to alternative protein and the broader impact investing market,” he added.

Earlier this year, Lever VC had announced an RMB 200 million (around US$28 million) Lever China Alternative Protein Fund in June, a joint investment fund and accelerator program for plant-based and cell-cultivated meat and dairy companies from China.

Lever VC is catching the investment wave in the alternative protein industry. According to the Good Food Institute, an alternative protein industry NGO, co-founded by Cooney, $930 million was invested in meat and dairy alternatives in Q1 2020 alone, surpassing the total annual investment of $824 million made in 2019 by 11%.

As of 2019, the alternative protein market was valued at around $2.2 billion compared to the $1.7 trillion global meat market. The market is set to expand, however, with interest in dairy-free diets and veganism expected to continue growing.

Header image from Freepik

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