2019 POV Entrepreneurial Scientist & Engineer Fellowship
The animal-free foodtech space has recently attracted much attention and funding from leading entrepreneurs and investors but also traditional food companies. The recent and successful IPO of Beyond Meat shows that this is no longer a niche phenomenon but a truly mainstream and global trend. However, demand continues to out-pace supply. Now is the right time to build the next sustainable food companies and we believe that science and deep technology have a key role to play for these companies to succeed. That is why we are launching the Entrepreneurial Scientist & Engineer Fellowship program to encourage more top-notch scientists and engineers to join this exciting movement.
The Purple Orange Ventures Entrepreneurial Scientist & Engineer Fellowship program provides grant money and mentorship for scientists and engineers to explore startup ideas leveraging science and deep tech to create or support the creation of products that mimic the sensory experience and functionality of animal-based food products. This blogpost maps some of the existing startups in the space and provides a better idea of the different scientific/tech approaches that have been explored so far. The program objective is to validate if a project is strong enough to start a company. This means further validating a scientific approach in the lab, testing your assumptions on what the market really needs by getting feedback from potential customers and other relevant stakeholders, iterating on their feedback and ultimately getting closer to a commercially viable concept. We encourage applicants to apply as soon as possible as we only select up to five fellows per year.
Purple Orange Ventures (POV) is an impact seed fund based in Berlin backing early-stage teams leveraging science and technology to remove animals from the global food system. The POV portfolio includes Mission Barns, Wild Earth and NovoNutrients. The fund was started by Gary Lin, an American entrepreneur who scaled his previous tech company (headquartered in Berlin) to 300 employees and $100M in revenue with no outside financing. He successfully sold his company and now exclusively focuses on supporting mission-driven founders devoted to building a sustainable food future.
What We Offer
120K grant funding: We provide you total funding of EUR 120,000 for 12 months so you can be focused on your project. This is a non-dilutive grant and is not expected to be repaid.
Dedicated coaching: The POV team will advise you on all business aspects of your project (competitive analysis and positioning, business model development, go-to-market strategy, etc.). We will introduce you to strong potential business co-founders and to other relevant stakeholders from our global network (investors, entrepreneurs, corporations, accelerators, talents, etc.).
Support from our partners & mentors: Our partners (see below) have committed to one-on-one advisory hours with each fellow every month. They will also provide access to their strong scientific community, introduce you to relevant corporations and invite you to their workshops and events. We will connect you with entrepreneurial scientists that have founded a company in this space (see some of our mentors below).
Work from vibrant ecosystems: We will tailor the program for your particular needs and for you to benefit as much as possible from the right interactions with other fellows and exposure to relevant ecosystems. The standard program we recommend consists of two months in your home city, six months here with us in Berlin and four months working from a state-of-the-art fully equipped foodtech lab in Berkeley, California. You will also have ample opportunity to collaborate and learn from fellow program members.
Potential equity seed funding: If a fellow chooses to incorporate a company at the end of the program, POV will have the option to invest on pre-agreed terms. The POV team will then help you get started (legal entity creation, etc.) and continue to support you along your entrepreneurial journey (introductions to investors, investor materials, recruiting, etc.). If needed, the POV team will act as your business co-founder until you find one.
Ph.D in science, engineering or related field with ideally commercial work experience or Master’s degree with a minimum of 2 years of commercial work experience
Interest and willingness to start a company full time after the program
Experience in managing or supervising teams is a plus
Find a senior scientific/engineering advisor with relevant expertise
Fluent in English
Residing in Europe, UK, Israel or Singapore or willing to relocate and start a company in one of these regions
Our first program will focus on Europe, UK, Israel and Singapore as we believe the program can have a bigger impact in these geographies compared to a more mature ecosystem like the US.
Here are a few topics that we find interesting:
Animal-free seafood and meat products targeting the European or Asian market that exactly replicate the taste and texture of traditional seafood/meat but are much more sustainable and nutritious (e.g. high in omega-3s, low cholesterol) and has a clear path to price parity. Some potential technological approaches include in vitro animal cell culture or the use of innovative ingredients and processes (e.g. the use of novel protein sources such as fungi or recombinantly produced ingredients). Pioneers in this space include Memphis Meats, Impossible Foods, and Beyond Meat.
Animal-free dairy products targeting the European market that mimic the taste and texture of animal-based dairy products (i.e. milk, butter, cream, cheese, yogurt, ice cream) with a clear path to price parity in the short/mid-term. Some potential technological approaches include the use of recombinant DNA technology to express dairy proteins in a microbe or a data-driven selection of bacteria to ferment plant-based substrates. Pioneers in this space include Perfect Day and Ripple.
Robotic platform for high-throughput food chemistry experiments. The formulation of a new animal-free food product involves many possible food chemistry experiments with different ingredient combinations, flavors, processes, etc. and usually relies on manual work and intuition. Automating some of these experiments and use the data from past experiments to inform future experiments could make food product development much more efficient.
This is not an exhaustive list and we definitely welcome other projects that could lead to the creation of a successful for-profit startup supporting our mission of removing animals from the global food system.
The Good Food Institute (GFI) is a global nonprofit building a sustainable, healthy, and just food system. Our scientists, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and policy experts are harnessing the power of food innovation and markets to accelerate the transition of the world’s food system to plant-based and cell-based meat, eggs, and dairy.
Established in 2004, New Harvest is a non-profit research institute building the field of cellular agriculture. New Harvest strategically funds and conducts open, public, collaborative research that reinvents the way we make animal products - without animals.
ProVeg is a leading international food awareness organisation working across four continents. Proveg strives for a world where everyone chooses delicious and healthy food that is good for all humans, animals, and our planet. ProVeg’s mission is to reduce the global consumption of animals by 50% by the year 2040.
The ProVeg Incubator is the first incubator in the world to run a programme that supports startups which aim to transform global food culture — by replacing traditional animal-based foods with plant-based and cultured animal products. Based in Berlin, the ProVeg Incubator aims to give emerging entrepreneurs the tools to create, collaborate, grow, and scale.
Do you take any equity in the projects?
We provide EUR 120K of grant money free of equity during the program. At the end of the program, if a fellow incorporates a company, POV will have the option to invest on pre-agreed terms.
Do I have to be incorporated to apply for the fellowship program?
No, in fact the program objective is to validate if a project is strong enough to incorporate a company. This means further validating a scientific approach in the lab, testing your assumptions on what the market really needs by getting feedback from potential customers and other relevant stakeholders, iterating on their feedback and ultimately getting closer to a commercially viable concept.
Can I apply if I have a company already?
We are prioritizing individuals who do not have a company yet, as the objective of the program is to help strong technical talent take the leap into entrepreneurship. We may make a rare exception if an existing company is comprised of only scientists and engineers and has not received private funding.
If you already have a company that supports our mission, feel free to apply for an equity investment here.
Can I participate in the program part-time?
We have a strong preference for applicants to commit to their fellowship project full-time but we may accept certain applicants with other employment commitments. We do, however, expect fellows to commit at least 50% of their time to the program.
What is expected from me during the program?
Fellows are expected to participate in a weekly call with the POV team to share an update about their projects and to discuss how POV can support. The POV team will obviously be available to meet/talk on a more frequent basis if needed.
POV fellows are expected to look for potential business co-founders during the program. The POV team will introduce fellows to strong potential business co-founders from its global network but also expects fellows to leverage their personal networks.
Commitment to complete the project, enthusiasm to learn & share, and openness to get out of your comfort zone is very important.
Do I have to move to Berlin or Berkeley?
No, this is not required but we strongly encourage fellows to benefit as much as possible from the interactions with other cohort members and get meaningful exposure to relevant ecosystems. If possible, we would recommend that you spend time with us in Berlin and time in Berkeley (the heart of the foodtech industry).
Do you provide lab space?
We don’t own lab space in Berlin, but will assist you in securing the right facility for your project. Part of the fellowship budget can be used to cover costs like laboratory supplies and facility usage fees. You will also have access to our office located in the center of Berlin.
In Berkeley, we have secured space in a facility that was recently established by a successful entrepreneur in the animal-free foodtech space. The facility offers a fully equipped biosafety level 1 and 2 lab with capabilities in microbiology, mammalian cell culture and fermentation as well as access to an extruder and a commercial kitchen.
How will intellectual property (IP) be handled?
If a fellow creates a company at the end of the program, IP developed during the program will have to be transferred to the newly created entity. If a fellow decides not to create a company at the end of the program, IP developed during the program will remain with POV who will either open it up to the public or further develop it.
If you use IP belonging to a third-party or develop IP within a third-party organization (e.g. academic or research institution) setting, a formal agreement around permission and tech transfer must be in place before the start of the program.
What’s the timeline for the 2019 program?
Fellows are expected to join the program no later than January 2020 and finish the program 12 months later. We will review the preliminary application forms on a rolling basis and will give a reply to each application within 2 weeks after submission. We encourage applicants to apply as soon as possible as we only select up to five fellows per year. We will accept preliminary applications forms until November 1st, 2019 by 5pm Berlin time the latest.
What’s the application/selection process?
All candidates start by filling out this quick preliminary application form. If the candidate meets the eligibility criteria for the POV fellowship program and the POV team finds the project interesting, the candidate will receive a short project proposal template to be filled out. The proposal will then be reviewed internally by the POV team and its advisors/partners. If the proposal is compelling, the POV team and its partners will organize one or several calls with the applicant to ask remaining questions about the project/technology, evaluate the motivation of the applicant, and potentially refine the proposal. If the proposal is finally approved and all legal documentation signed, the start of the fellowship program for the respective candidate will begin. POV will then proceed with transferring the budget for the first month as described in the contract.
Do I get EUR 120K right at the beginning of the program?
You will receive a transfer every month based on the agreed upon budget plan. The monthly budget and program length will be clearly defined and agreed upon in the project proposal that the fellows will fill out as part of the application process.