Wild Earth, Inc., a biotech startup developing clean protein pet foods, announced July 30 that it has successfully completed its seed round with an investment from Pathfinder, the early stage investment vehicle of Founders Fund, and Peter Thiel. The investment of $450,000 brings Wild Earth's total funding to just under $5 million.
Founders Fund was formed in 2005 to back entrepreneurs pursuing major scientific and technological breakthroughs. The firm invests across all sectors and stages. Founders Fund's largest investments to date include Airbnb, Oscar, Palantir Technologies, SpaceX, Stemcentrx, and Stripe.
Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur and investor. He started PayPal in 1998, led it as CEO, and took it public in 2002. In 2004 he made the first outside investment in Facebook, where he serves as a director. The same year he launched Palantir Technologies, a software company that harnesses computers to empower human analysts in fields like national security and global finance. He has provided early funding for LinkedIn, Yelp, and dozens of successful technology startups, many run by former colleagues who have been dubbed the "PayPal Mafia."
Wild Earth CEO Ryan Bethencourt – himself part of a group of food tech innovators and investors dubbed the "Vegan Mafia" – has invested in more than 70 early-stage biotech companies and cofounded the world's largest incubator of life sciences startups, which included many developers of clean cultured proteins for humans.
"An investment in clean protein is an investment in transformative technology, sustainability and the future of our planet," said Bethencourt. "The pet food industry is a key driver of environmental degradation caused by animal agriculture, and Peter's commitment to Wild Earth shows he is thinking long-term about global trends and the planet's future."
Like food innovators creating cultured meats for human consumption, Wild Earth is developing pet foods that are healthier, more environmentally friendly, and more humane than conventional products. Wild Earth uses an ancient Asian protein, koji (Aspergillus oryzae), an eco-friendly, renewably sourced member of the fungi kingdom with all ten essential amino acids dogs require. Wild Earth cultivates koji in fermentation tanks, and uses proprietary technology to optimize it for nutritional content, texture, and flavor. Wild Earth's first product, a koji-based dog treat, will be available in late summer. Its koji dry food for dogs is scheduled for release in 2019, and cultured meat for cats from mouse cells is in development.
Because it is produced safely in a laboratory, not a slaughterhouse, it lacks risks associated with animal-based proteins such as contamination, and reduces the toll on the planet – 25-30 percent of meat's environmental impact in the U.S. is attributed to pet food.
New shelter data casts doubt on whether the pet population and pet ownership are truly growing.
While the pandemic caused unprecedented suffering worldwide in 2020, the disruptions to dogs, cats and other pets adoption numbers may normalize in 2021.