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Plantible raises $4.6 million seed round for an egg white replacement that isn’t aquafaba

When California announced a statewide lockdown, Tony Martens and Maurits van de Ven decided to stay put instead of heading home to Amsterdam.

So, the co-founders of Plantible bought two trailers and started living at their HQ: a two-acre duckweed farm in San Diego.

Plantible uses duckweed, a tiny aquatic leaf, to extract a plant-based protein ingredient that will eventually allow food companies to make animal-based products into plant-based products. The offering would be attractive to companies that make baked goods or protein powder, and thus use lots of egg whites as part of their creation process.

The startup is selling a whey or dairy protein replacement, and is still working on FDA approval.

“We are firm believers that whatever is in nature should be sufficient to provide humanity the ingredients they need,” said Martens from the office trailer.

The startup recently did a series of trials with companies, and Martens says that Plantible validated it can be a replacement with baking ingredient companies and plant-based meat sellers. But the startup is not limited to current use cases.

“If the sector we had our eyes on is taking a while, but sports nutrition is taking off really fast, we’ll go there,” said Martens. “We need to prove the feasibility of our company.”

The trailers where Plantible co-founders have sheltered in place amid COVID-19 lockdowns.

Plantible is entering a crowded space. Recently, aquafaba, the liquid made from a can of chickpeas, has regained popularity amid other quarantine cooking hacks. Martens says that aquafaba might recreate foaminess, but it doesn’t recreate gelation (or the sizzle and fry look that comes when you pour a real egg white into a hot pan). Plantible claims to offer an egg-white replacement with no compromises on texture or nutrition.

The startup also has some increasingly well-funded alternative protein competitors. Plantible’s closest venture-backed competitors are Clara Foods and FUMI Ingredients, as both try to create egg-white replacements. Clara Foods uses yeast, instead of chickens, to make egg whites, and similarly sells to businesses that use egg whites in large quantities for items like macaroons, angel food cake and protein powders. It has the backing of Ingredion, a global ingredients solution company.

Plantible needs to have a faster, cheaper and more scalable operation to beat its competitors. From a supply perspective, Plantible is in a good place. Duckweed doubles in mass every 48 hours and grows year-round. Plus, it is more digestible than pea, soy or algae, the company claims.

The real expense comes from the extraction process.

Right now, Martens admits, Plantible is “lab scale, and lab scale is really expensive.”

To bring costs down, the company just raised a $4.6 million seed round, co-led by Vectr Ventures and Lerer Hippeau. Other participants include eighteen94 Capital (Kellogg Company’s venture capital fund) and FTW Ventures.

Plantible co-founders Maurits van de Ven and Tony Martens (from left to right).

Through the new capital, Plantible claims it will be cost-competitive with egg whites. Currently, two pounds of liquid egg whites cost $8 to $10 dollars to make and sell for $15 to $20 dollars.

“In the end it is about developing a scalable and cost-competitive supply chain that produces a desired ingredient. Since it is very hard to compete with nature, we have decided to embrace it as much as possible by identifying a highly functional and nutritional enzyme,” he said.

“The more you can leverage nature, the more scalable you become,” he said.

As with any seed-stage alternative-protein company, the proof that Plantible has legs to succeed will be in sales and capacity to produce. And it’s not quite there yet.

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Los Angeles-based CREXi raises $29 million for its online real estate marketplace

Los Angeles is one of the most desirable locations for commercial real estate in the United States, so it’s little wonder that there’s something of a boom in investments in technology companies servicing the market coming from the region.

It’s one of the reasons that CREXi, the commercial real estate marketplace, was able to establish a strong presence for its digital marketplace and toolkit for buyers, sellers, and investors.

Since the company raised its last institutional round in 2018, it has added over 300,000 properties for sale or lease across the U.S. and increased its user base to 6 million customers, according to a statement.

It has now raised $29 million in new financing from new investors including Mitsubishi Estate Company (“MEC”), Industry Ventures, and Prudence Holdings . Previous investors Lerer Hippeau Ventures and Jackson Square Ventures also participated in the financing.

CREXi makes money in three ways. There’s a subscription service for brokers looking to sell or lease property; an auction service where CREXi will earn a fee upon the close of a transaction; and a data and analytics service that allows users to get a view into the latest trends in commercial real estate based on the vast collection of properties on offer through the company’s services.

The company touts its service as the only technology offering that can take a property from marketing to the close of a sale or lease without having to leave the platform.

According to chief executive, Mike DiGiorgio, the company is also recession proof thanks to its auction services. “As more distressed properties hit the market the best way to sell them is through an online auction,” DiGiorgio says.

So far, the company has seen $700 billion of transactions flow through the platform and roughly 40% of those deals were exclusive to the company.

“The CRE industry is evolving, and market players, especially younger, digitally native generations are seeking out platforms that provide free and open access to information,” said Gavin Myers, General Partner at Prudence Holdings, in a statement. “CREXi directly addresses this market need, providing fair access to a range of CRE information. As CREXi continues to build out its stable of services, features, and functionality, we’re thrilled to partner with them and support the company’s continued momentum.”

CREXi joins the ranks of startups based in Los Angeles that have raised money to reshape the real estate industry. Estimates from Built in LA count roughly 127 companies, which have raised in excess of $2.4 billion, active in the real estate industry in Los Angeles. These companies range from providers of short-term commercial office space, like Knotel, or co-working companies like WeWork, to companies focused on servicing the real estate industry like Luxury Presence, which raised a $5 million round earlier in the year.

Source: TechCrunch