Biotech start-up that uses tech to create milk raises $6.2m with Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed's backing

The cell-based meat market is projected to reach $140bn in the next decade

Fengru Lin and Max Rye with Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud during a visit to KBW Ventures’ Dubai offices. Courtesy KBW Ventures
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Singapore-based food technology start-up TurtleTree Labs raised $6.2 million in a new funding round from new and existing global venture capital investors, including Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal's KBW Ventures.

The pre-A funding round, or seed funding phase, is the first official equity funding stage of a company, was oversubscribed, according to a statement on Thursday. KBW Ventures first invested in TurtleTree Labs in a pre-seed round in January, then a seed round in June and has now committed additional capital to the latest round.

The start-up, which is also backed by the Singapore government, is the world’s first cell-based biotechnology company to create real milk from mammalian cells, without the need for animals.

The cell-based meat market is projected to reach $140 billion in the next decade, according to forecasts compiled by Blue Horizon, which invests in alternative proteins.

“The vision of TurtleTree Labs is to create a truly sustainable and cruelty-free food system,” said Max Rye, co-founder and chief strategist of TurtleTree Labs. “We are grateful to have the support of leading investors from every corner of the world.”

It won the Entrepreneurship World Cup 2020, the world’s biggest start-up pitch competition in Saudi Arabia, and secured a cash prize of $500,000 in October. The EWC received entries from more than 175,000 start-ups from nearly 200 countries.

The company also announced that Prince Khaled will join TurtleTree Labs as an adviser. Other venture capital investors who participated in the pre-A funding round include Green Monday Ventures, Eat Beyond Global and Verso Capital.

TurtleTree Labs raised $3.2m in seed funding from global investors in June. Green Monday Ventures, CPT Capital, Artesian and New Luna Ventures participated in the seed funding round.

TurtleTree Labs raised initial investment, which was led by New York and Hong Kong-based Lever VC, in 2019. Over the past year, the start-up has grown its team to more than 20 full-time scientists and engineers.

The vision of TurtleTree Labs is to create a truly sustainable and cruelty-free food system

The additional capital injected in TurtleTree labs is in line with KBW Ventures’ strategy to invest in companies with transformative technologies and business models with potential for significant financial returns, while also delivering positive social impact. KBW Ventures’ portfolio spans early stage businesses to more established companies looking to expand into the Middle East.

In his role as adviser, Prince Khaled will shape new market growth plans, lend his expertise in the alternative protein and food tech sectors, and liaise with the founding team on other areas of the business, according to the statement.

“TurtleTree Labs’ groundbreaking technology, which allowed our company to win The Liveability Challenge and Entrepreneurship World Cup, has certainly attracted interest from a global and diverse panel of investors and customers,” said Fengru Lin, chief executive and co-founder of TurtleTree Labs.

The start-up, which has offices in San Francisco and Singapore, will use the funds to “accelerate research and production of functional, bioactive proteins and complex sugars found in human milk”.

The $6.2m investment will provide the start-up “with an opportunity to scale in a rapidly changing industry while addressing an extensive global need”, Ana Maria Torres, director at EWC, said.