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Better Dairy picks up £1.6M seed funding to produce animal-free dairy

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Better Dairy, a U.K. startup developing animal-free dairy that was founded out of Entrepreneur First (EF), has picked up £1.6 million in seed funding. The London-based company is currently in the R&D stages of developing products that are “molecularly identical” to traditional dairy without using animals as part of the production process.

This seed round was led by Happiness Capital, alongside a number of other investors in the space. They include CPT Capital, Stray Dog Capital and Veg Capital, in addition to various unnamed angel investors. Better Dairy says it will use the funds to accelerate its R&D efforts with the aim of commercialising its first products by early 2022.

Founded in 2019 by Jevan Nagarajah (CEO) and Dr. Christopher Reynolds (CTO), both alumni of Imperial College London but who paired up during EF’s company builder program, Better Dairy is using advancements in technology to address the hugely unsustainable dairy market. Nagarajah has plenty of tech company experience, including stints at Rocket Internet, SumUp, and Ritua, as well as founding early ‘dark kitchen’ startup ShareDining. Meanwhile, Reynolds holds a PhD and a number of post-doctorates across bioinformatics and synthetic biology, and has a degree in natural sciences spanning chemistry and biochemistry.

Nagarajah says animal-based dairy farming is “hugely unsustainable,” noting that it emits the equivalent of over 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year and it takes 650 litres of water to produce just 1 litre of milk. “Dairy products themselves contain several unwanted pollutants such as growth hormones and antibiotics by virtue of the process of milking mothering cows and are thus not the most suitable for human consumption,” he adds.

However, although plant based alternatives are gaining popularity, Nagarajah argues that they are not a complete solution, often lacking in flavour, texture and nutritional profile. And while they might be able to capture market share, he doesn’t believe plant based alternatives to dairy will be successful in “radically” disrupting the existing $700 billion dairy industry and supply chain. That’s where Better Dairy comes in.

“We are instead using yeast fermentation and biology to produce products that are molecularly identical to traditional dairy,” he explains. “We follow a process very similar to beer brewing but the end result in our case is large vats of dairy instead of beer. This production process, while seemingly futuristic, is actually already being used to produce several enzymes for food production, for example rennet, as well as to produce numerous medical products such as insulin, so we are just building on this”.

Better Dairy is still early on in its R&D process, but has already managed to produce its first dairy samples in the lab. The first challenge was to manipulate yeast to produce initial dairy proof of concepts. “Following this, we believe we have identified a clear path to get us to commercially viable products,” says Nagarajah. “While some of our milestones are box ticking exercises, for example the scaling up of our manufacturing capabilities, the major challenges we need to overcome revolve around the optimisation of our end to end production process”.

That’s because, explains the Better Dairy co-founder, dairy is a relatively low cost good. To realistically disrupt the existing dairy market, the startup will need to achieve a certain level of efficiency otherwise it risks succeeding in producing better dairy but will still fail overall due to prohibitively high pricing.

“We are initially focused on dairy proteins with the view of extending our range to fats over time,” says Nagarajah. “The main dairy proteins whey and casein have many structural and nutritional benefits and are used as ingredients across thousands of food products. They are crucial in providing the texture of dairy products like cheese but are also used heavily in soups and ready meals, baked goods and pastries, chocolates and sweets and also pasta and bread. They even find their way into products like beef burgers and chicken nuggets to bolster protein content and add texture.

“While our intention was initially to enable a wave of better dairy products, our ambitions have grown to target the disruption of the entire dairy supply chain across dairy and non-dairy categories. Our vision is to create a world where humans are vegan without even realising it”.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Clubhouse announces plans for creator payments and raises new funding led by Andreessen Horowitz

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Buzzy live voice chat app Clubhouse has confirmed that it has raised new funding – without revealing how much – in a Series B round led by Andreessen Horowitz through the firm’s partner Andrew Chen. The app was reported to be raising at a $1 billion valuation in a report from The Information that landed just before this confirmation. While we try to track down the actual value of this round and the subsequent valuation of the company, what we do know is that Clubhouse has confirmed it will be introducing products to help creators on the platform get played, including subscriptions, tipping and ticket sales.

This funding round will also support a ‘Creator Grant Program’ being set up by Clubhouse, which will be used to “support emerging Clubhouse creators” according to the startup’s blog post. While the app has done a remarkable job attracting creator talent, including high-profile celebrity and political users, directing revenue towards creators will definitely help spur sustained interest, as well as more time and investment from new creators who are potentially looking to make a name for themselves on the platform, similar to YouTube and TikTok influencers before them.

Of course, adding monetization for users also introduces a method for Clubhouse itself to monetize. The platform is free to all users, and doesn’t yet offer any kind of premium plan or method of charging users, nor is it ad-supported. Adding ways for users to pay other users provides an opportunity for Clubhouse to retain a cut for its services.

The plans around monetization routes for creators appear to be relatively open-ended at this point, with Clubhouse saying it’ll be launching “first tests” around each of the three areas it mentions (tipping, tickets and subscriptions) over the “next few months.” It sounds like these could be similar to something like a Patreon built right into the platform. Tickets are a unique option that would go well with Clubhouse’s more formal roundtable discussions, and could also be a way that more organizations make use of the platform for hosting virtual events.

The startup also announced that it will be starting work on its Android app (it’s been iOS only for now) and that it will also invest in more backend scaling to keep up with demand, as well as support team growth and tools for detecting and prevuing abuse. Clubhouse has come under fire for its failure in regards to moderation and prevention of abuse in the past, so this aspect of its product development will likely be closely watched. The platform will also see changes to discovery aimed at surfacing relevant users, groups (‘clubs’ in the app’s parlance) and rooms.

During a regular virtual town hall the app’s founders host on the platform, CEO Paul Davison revealed that Clubhouse now has 2 million weekly active users. It’s also worth noting that Clubhouse says it now has “over 180 investors” in the company, which is a lot for a Series B – though many of those are likely small, independent investors with very little stake.

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SpaceX sets new record for most satellites on a single launch with latest Falcon 9 mission

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SpaceX has set a new all-time record for the most satellites launched and deployed on a single mission, with its Transporter-1 flight on Sunday. The launch was the first of SpaceX’s dedicated rideshare missions, in which it splits up the payload capacity of its rocket among multiple customers, resulting in a reduced cost for each but still providing SpaceX with a full launch and all the revenue it requires to justify lauding one of its vehicles.

The launch today included 143 satellites, 133 of which were from other companies who booked rides. SpaceX also launched 10 of its own Starlink satellites, adding to the already more than 1,000 already sent to orbit to power SpaceX’s own broadband communication network. During a launch broadcast last week, SpaceX revealed that it has begun serving beta customers in Canada and is expanding to the UK with its private pre-launch test of that service.

Customers on today’s launch included Planet Labs, which sent up 48 SuperDove Earth imaging satellites; Swarm, which sent up 36 of its own tiny IoT communications satellites, and Kepler, which added to its constellation with eight more of its own communication spacecraft. The rideshare model that SpaceX now has in place should help smaller new space companies and startups like these build out their operational on-orbit constellations faster, complementing other small payload launchers like Rocket Lab, and new entrant Virgin Orbit, to name a few.

This SpaceX launch was also the first to deliver Starlink satellites to a polar orbit, which is a key part of the company’s continued expansion of its broadband service. The mission also included a successful landing and recovery of the Falcon 9 rocket’s first-stage booster, the fifth for this particular booster, and a dual recovery of the fairing halves used to protect the cargo during launch, which were fished out of the Atlantic ocean using its recovery vessels and will be refurbished and reused.

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Watch SpaceX’s first dedicated rideshare rocket launch live, carrying a record-breaking payload of satellites

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SpaceX is set to launch the very first of its dedicated rideshare missions – an offering it introduced in 2019 that allows small satellite operators to book a portion of a payload on a Falcon 9 launch. SpaceX’s rocket has a relatively high payload capacity compared to the size of many of the small satellites produced today, so a rideshare mission like this offers smaller companies and startups a chance to get their spacecraft in orbit without breaking the bank. Today’s attempt is scheduled for 10 AM EST (7 AM PST) after a first try yesterday was cancelled due to weather. So far, weather looks much better for today.

The cargo capsule atop the Falcon 9 flying today holds a total of 143 satellites according to SpaceX, which is a new record for the highest number of satellites being launched on a single rocket – beating out a payload of 104 spacecraft delivered by Indian Space Research Organization’s PSLV-C37 launch back in February 2017. It’ll be a key demonstration not only of SpaceX’s rideshare capabilities, but also of the complex coordination involved in a launch that includes deployment of multiple payloads into different target orbits in relatively quick succession.

This launch will be closely watched in particular for its handling of orbital traffic management, since it definitely heralds what the future of private space launches could look like in terms of volume of activity. Some of the satellites flying on this mission are not much larger than an iPad, so industry experts will be paying close attention to how they’re deployed and tracked to avoid any potential conflicts.

Some of the payloads being launched today include significant volumes of startup spacecraft, including 36 of Swarm’s tiny IoT network satellites, and eight of Kepler’s GEN-1 communications satellites. There are also 10 of SpaceX’s own Starlink satellites on board, and 48 of Planet Labs’ Earth-imaging spacecraft.

The launch stream above should begin around 15 minutes prior to the mission start, which is set for 10 AM EST (7 AM PST) today.

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