Shiok Meats, a Singapore cell-based meat company said today that it has raised its latest funding round at US$12.6 million that is led by Aqua-Spark, a sustainable aquaculture-focused investment vehicle.
The Series A funding round also saw participation by other investors including Singapore’s SEEDS Capital, South Korea’s tech investing family office Irongrey, Yellowdog, Japan’s Real Tech Fund, VegInvest, Beyond Impact and more.
Mike Velings and Amy Novogratz, the co-founders of Aqua-Spark commented on the investment saying that, “The cell-based animal protein industry has been on our radar for some time as once it is at scale it will have an enormous influence on food production efficiency, food safety, and the environment,”
“Shiok Meats is the first company in our portfolio to focus on shrimp production. We are excited to help shape this new and innovative industry, which we expect to have a huge impact on the future of seafood.”
Founded in 2018, Shiok Meats takes the stem cells from shrimp before multiplying them in a “culture media”, a solution filled with nutrients to create cell-based shrimp. The startup had its first public taste testing of cell-based shrimp dumpling (otherwise known as siew mai) and has received positive reviews for the taste and texture. This technology has also earned them a spot in Fast Company’s Top 10 most innovative companies in the Asia Pacific region.
With the latest round of funding, Shiok Meats said it will sustain the startup for at least 3 years and help in finance research and development.
A large part of the capital will also be used in the construction of its first commercial pilot plant to produce cultivated minced shrimp. This project is expected to be completed in 2022, thus making Shiok Meats the world’s first to introduce cultivated crustacean into the artificial meat market.
“We are really excited to be on the forefront of cell-based meats in Southeast Asia,” said Dr. Sandhya Sriram, one of the co-founder of Shiok Meats. According to the startup, cell-based production of seafood could be the solution to the problems faced in aquaculture industries, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption by as much as 96%.
However, one of the obstacles faced by Shiok Meats and other cell-based protein producers including Blue Nalu, Good Catch, and Wild Type stands at the price of getting products to market. Right now, cell-based protein is simply an expensive process which makes it impossible to get products to price parity with traditional seafood offerings.
Shiok’s prawn meat now costs US$3,500 per kg. But to make it accessible to restaurants and food manufacturers, the startup is looking to lower down the costs to US$50 per kg as it scales up production and finds alternatives of cheaper plant-based ingredients.
Moving forward, the food tech startup is looking to expand its product portfolio beyond cell-based shrimp meat. Specifically, it will also be looking to create cell-based shrimp flavoring paste and powder, a fully-formed 3D structured shrimp product, as well as cell-based lobster and crab in the next few years.
So far, Shiok Meats has reportedly raised US$20.2 million in total funding and a person familiar with the fund-raising said its post-money valuation is about US$50 million.
As more people become more aware and selective about nutrition and the environment, there is an increasing market of consumers looking for alternatives to traditional meat production.
This creates a momentum of startups and food giants like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat that are raising huge fundings to expand into new markets, while other startups are working on laboratory-grown alternatives for customers that want to eat real meat and seafood that do not come from living animals.
“We can see so many new players coming up,” Dr Sriram said of the cell-based meat sector. “The next five years will be about who survives, who makes the cut and who is able to support companies like ours make that step over to large-scale manufacturing.”
Razer, the gaming hardware unicorn company that was founded in Singapore, recently announced that its face mask production line, which is fully automated and located in Singapore, is now up and running.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented crisis that has directly impacted the livelihoods of many people worldwide, and chief executive officer of Razer, Tan Min-Liang has said that the gaming hardware unicorn understands that it has a role to fulfill in fighting the novel coronavirus pandemic. According to Razer, the face masks manufactured by the unicorn company are standard three-layer face masks.
In fact, the gaming unicorn production line and has already started manufacturing fully certified masks that are intended to help fight against the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. The face masks are all manufactured in an ISO 13485 certified facility and will meet both domestic and international standards. The facility is expected to produce upwards of five million face masks per month, which can be scaled up as necessary to meet demand.
The establishment of the face mask production facility, which is Singapore’s first-ever fully automated mask manufacturing line, follows an announcement by the unicorn gaming hardware company on April 1, 2020, that it will endeavor to build a fully automated mask production line within this month with the goal of making several million certified face masks per month.
The announcement was made by Tan Min-Liang on his Facebook page whereby the Singaporean entrepreneur urged local and home-grown companies to be the first buyers of its certified face masks as a mark of solidarity against the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
This is not all, the unicorn company has been quite active and engaged in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of Razer’s efforts and contributions include a worldwide donation of upwards of one million face masks to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
In a media statement, the gaming hardware unicorn noted that it was dedicated to establishing a local face mask manufacturing line in Singapore as a response to the dearth of reliable and good quality face masks available on the market, in addition to the fact that Southeast Asia is currently facing a scarcity of protective masks to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.
Razer also mentioned that the efforts by global health agencies and government organizations to equip their citizens with face masks to safeguard themselves has resulted in a substantial increase in the demand for reliable, certified face masks.
At first, the unicorn company had made use of its existing manufacturing lines located in China to produce face masks that are earmarked for donation to provide relief. However, it soon became clear that Razer had to come up with a new solution once requests for the face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) began to overwhelm the company due to the severe lack of the masks and protective gear.
Additionally, most of the existing face masks do not satisfy certification standards and are poorly made, thus providing minimal or non-existent protection to users. In contrast, the face masks manufactured by the unicorn company are made to both international and domestic standards in an ISO 13485 certified facility and will be supplied to both the Singaporean and regional markets.
Lozi, the aspiring unicorn startup that operates Vietnam’s e-commerce platform Loship, is no stranger to hardships, but the recent global COVID-19 pandemic has brought an entirely new set of challenges for the tech company to overcome. Nevertheless, the startup continues to soldier on during this time of crisis, and still maintains delivery services for the people of Vietnam during this difficult time. All the while, Lozi has emphasized that the safety and wellbeing of its employees and driver-partners are of utmost importance.
According to Nguyen Hoang Trung, co-founder and chief executive officer of Lozi, the aspiring unicorn is seeing strong demand for laundry, grocery and drug delivery services in Vietnam during the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of the hardships and burdens the people have to shoulder amidst the coronavirus outbreak, which has drastically affected the livelihoods of many Vietnamese, Lozi has decided to waive all shipping fees. Additionally, the startup has introduced several initiatives to improve the lives of their delivery partners due in part to the increase in demand for delivery services and online ordering.
Lozi makes a point of saying that it will not dismiss any of its employees amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Even when market conditions are volatile, the startup’s first priority is to reassure its workforce that there are no changes to their positions, and no retrenchments. The startup strongly believes that its people are its strongest assets and will not reduce or fire its staff in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, its chief executive officer Mr. Nguyen even stated that the company will continue to work together with its partners and staff to overcome the current crisis, just as how they had worked together in the past to overcome previous challenges and obstacles. While the company has reduced its expenses for marketing and equipment, its personnel will not be affected so that its employees can feel at ease while at work.
In regards to the startup’s delivery driver-partners, Lozi maintains that the safety and protection of its fleet of drivers has always been a top priority even before the emergence of the global pandemic. In order to better protect and ensure the safety of their warriors – as the startup calls their driver-partners – during the coronavirus outbreak, Lozi has provided all of them with free masks, hand sanitizers and regular body temperature checkups whenever they visit the office. In addition, any problems or concerns that the drivers may have are handled by the company’s support personnel in a swift and timely manner. Another measure that the aspiring unicorn has adopted to ensure safety is to suspend cash payments for drivers and to instead pay them online, in order to minimize close physical contact. Meanwhile, drivers who have tested positive for the coronavirus are given financial support by the company so that they can feel financially secure.
Mr. Nguyen also observed that store behavior on their flagship platform Loship has transformed as a result of the ongoing pandemic. While noting that the app has seen a drop in the number of stores still operating on its platform, there are actually many other stores that have seen a spike in the number of daily transactions. He credits this to the fact that certain stores have prepared themselves well for online ordering services, and have a dedicated customer base that continues to seek their services and products even during this time of crisis.
Regarding the aspiring unicorn’s growth prospects for the year 2020, Mr. Nguyen said that the focus of Lozi is on serving their customers well. By satisfying the needs of their customers and ensuring their peace of mind during the COVID-19 outbreak, the company’s growth targets will be achieved naturally as a result. After all, there is no form of marketing more powerful than the recommendation of customers to friends and family about the great services of Lozi.
The tension is very real since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. It has quickly swept our lives, and radically transformed the world and businesses in less than a month; forcing countries to enter into a state of lockdown and the economic downturn changing even large, established companies literally overnight.
We can only imagine the impact it has for smaller businesses and newer ventures that do not have the resources or cash flow to maintain their operations for long periods.
The vast majority of marketers are now putting their marketing on hold to conserve their funds during this financial uncertainty. Almost nine in 10 marketers are now delaying their campaigns in response to COVID-19, according to Marketing Week.
At the same time, press release distribution company MarketersMEDIA stresses that marketing is still, if not more important than ever to remain relevant and competitive.
There will come a time when the coronavirus pandemic is over and the businesses who will come out as winners are businesses that have never stopped their marketing efforts to remain connected with their users and customers.
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The press release service debuted a marketing aid of US$1.5 million in press release credits to help small and midsize businesses get through COVID-19 with one less expense. Businesses can apply for the initiative to receive a First Tier press release where they can use to reach out to their users and customers to ensure business continuity during the crisis.
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Tiki, a Vietnamese business-to-consumer e-commerce platform, is one of the major players in Vietnam’s emerging tech ecosystem and poised to capitalize on the country’s fast-growing e-commerce space.
Besides being Southeast Asia’s third most active startup ecosystem, a report published in late 2019 noted that the country has almost 59 million active Internet users and that more than 75% of Vietnamese Internet users in the 16 to 64 age group have already done some form of online shopping.
A separate study also found that approximately 50 million Vietnamese spent a total of US$2.2 billion to purchase consumer goods online for the year 2018, which is a significant improvement from the previous year. Factoring in Vietnam’s e-travel industry which is worth around US$3.5 billion, the country’s overall e-commerce spending for 2018 by its consumers is approximately US$6 billion in 2018. Vietnam’s online and Internet economy is poised to continue experiencing strong growth, as evidenced by the fact that it is among the three fastest expanding online grocery markets globally.
In Vietnam, Tiki is ranked among the top three e-commerce platforms in terms of mobile web use and website traffic with average monthly website visits of 27 million per month, which places it ahead of Alibaba-owned Lazada but falling just short of regional powerhouse Shopee which averages 34 million website visits per month. Tiki is generally considered the local favorite with the most potential and pedigree to take on the two regional titans Lazada and Shopee in the e-commerce space.
Tiki had its beginning in 2010 when its founder and present chief executive officer, Tran Ngoc Thai Son, encountered difficulties when attempting to buy English books in the country and had the noble idea of selling English books online to Vietnamese customers. From its humble origins as an online platform selling only English books, it has since grown to become a national e-commerce platform giant that offers a wide variety of products ranging from home appliances to fashion accessories, to electronics, to books and literature, to motor vehicles, and more, for Vietnam’s consumers.
Some of the noteworthy entities that have made investments in Tiki include Sumitomo Corporation, which is a leading Fortune 500 global investment and trading company, CyberAgent Ventures, a venture capital firm headquartered in Tokyo with a worldwide presence, and VNG Corporation, Vietnam’s first-ever unicorn tech company.
Along with VNG, the Chinese e-commerce platform JD.com led a Series C funding round for Tiki that saw the Vietnamese e-commerce startup raise approximately US$50 million in funds. JD.com is now Tiki’s largest shareholder, demonstrating just how much faith the Chinese e-commerce giant has in Vietnam’s rapidly growing e-commerce space.
Recently in June 2019, Tiki raised around US$100 million from a financing round that was led by Singapore-based private equity firm Northstar Group. Initially projected to raise only US$75 million, the funding round was scaled up due to support from the e-commerce startup’s Korean investors.
As Vietnam’s e-commerce sector continues to grow by leaps and bounds, buoyed by a burgeoning middle class and boom in Internet usage and growth, aspiring unicorn-to-be Tiki will be poised at the forefront of the e-commerce space. As one of the nation’s top three e-commerce platforms, Tiki is well-prepared to become the region’s next unicorn.