Bill Gates-backed Beyond Meat raises $17m Series E

Obvious Ventures, the VC firm set up by Twitter founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone, is understood to be the investor.

Beyond Meat, the Bill Gates-backed synthetic meat company, has raised $17 million in a Series E round of funding.

A spokesperson for the company confirmed the financing but declined to disclose the investor. The tech database Crunch Base lists the investment as coming from existing backer Obvious Ventures, the venture capital firm started by Twitter founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone.

Other backers of Beyond Meat, which closed a Series D last July, include venture heavyweights Kleiner Perkins and S2G Ventures, which this week closed its debut fund on $125 million.

California-based Beyond Meat creates meat from plant sources, a technique being used by a growing number of companies attracting significant venture funding.

Last month Impossible Foods, another Californian company that makes meat and cheese from plant ingredients, raised a $108 million Series D round, which Bill Gates also participated in, alongside venture firms like Khosla Ventures and Horizon Ventures. Horizon Ventures also led a series A round in Modern Meadow, which grows meat and leather products in labs. And in January food tech company Soylent, which produces engineered animal protein-free meals, raised $20 million in a series A led by VC Andreessen Horowitz.

The push to create non-animal proteins is a response to consumer demand for healthier sources of protein produced with less environmental impact than raising livestock for meat. Greenhouse gas emissions from the livestock sector are estimated to account for 14.5 per cent of the global total, more than the emissions produced by all forms of transport, according to a 2013 United Nations report.

While much investment in alternative protein producers is being made by venture firms, activity is not limited to early stage, with the market also seeing buyouts. Last November the US private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners sold meat alternatives producer Gardein Protein International for $154 million to Pinnacle Foods, the New York-listed owner of consumer foods giant Birds Eye.