Interview with Claire Smith about the Beyond Impact Vegan Diversity Rolling Fund – vegconomist

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Claire Smith, image courtesy Beyond Animal

Pioneering investor in vegan, cruelty-free and cruelty-free products and services Beyond Impact (part of the larger vegan investment platform Beyond Investing) is bringing its expertise in selecting high-potential and influential companies to a wider investor audience with the launch of its Vegan Diversity Fund, available on the Angellist -Platform as a rolling fund with first closing on July 1stst 2021.

Beyond Impact has been an active investor in this sector since 2017, participating in the first rounds of cellular agriculture companies such as Mosa Meat and Blue Nalu, deep-tech alternative protein manufacturers such as Geltor and Clara Foods, and plant-based brands such as has Fleischlose Farm- und Pflanzenveda. Since first investing in seeds, the companies have raised hundreds of millions of dollars in their portfolios, launched innovative cruelty-free products, and expanded globally.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Claire Smith, CIO of Beyond Impact and CEO of Beyond Investing, to learn more about the new fund.

Claire, tell us the name of the fund, first, why is it vegan?
The main purpose of this program, and indeed all of Beyond Investing’s investment products, is to accelerate the transition to a friendlier, cleaner and healthier world for the benefit of people, animals and the planet. In their latest definition of veganism, the Vegan Society promotes the development and use of cruelty-free alternatives, and the Vegan Diversity Fund will set up and support companies with further investments whose products replace the use of animals and make the use of animals easier and more enjoyable in a vegan lifestyle to accept. It is therefore appropriate to refer to the fund as “vegan”.

And how do you intend to promote veganism as a lifestyle through the fund?
Since I’ve been a vegan myself for many years, we and members of my team know very well that a lack of acceptable vegan substitutes is a deterrent for people and how important it is that vegan foods taste good, are convenient, and affordable. This will only be achieved by giving consumers more choice and scaling businesses to a size where they can compete with the majors of the food industry. This takes money, and with the growing interest in a plant-based lifestyle and the massive improvements made by Foodtech to create superior and sustainable animal alternatives, the fund aims to promote veganism by helping entrepreneurs bring more quality products to market bring and grow their businesses to gain more market share and make more impact.

And why emphasize “diversity”?
Well, our team is predominantly female and racially diverse, and on top of that, the existing Beyond Impact portfolio offers enviable metrics for diversity and inclusion, with nearly 50% of businesses founded by women and nearly 40% representing minorities in top management. We will be going in the same direction with this new fund and preferably investing in different founding teams, not just for reasons of social impact, but because we have found them at least as motivated, well qualified, resourceful and hardworking as the standard group of white male founders who Preferred by most venture capital firms. This perception is supported by statistics from studies of successful companies that are founded and run by women and minorities.

Tyler Mayoras

Tell us about your team’s investment background.
The Vegan Diversity Rolling Fund, with its focus on US founders, is managed by me in partnership with Chicago-based Tyler Mayoras and supported by the rest of the Beyond Impact investment team. Before leading Investment for Beyond Impact, I spent over 30 years in senior finance and investment roles at leading banks and investment advisory firms. Tyler was until recently a portfolio manager at Advantage Capital Partners, invested in US food and agribusiness companies, and has a 30-year career in finance, private equity and impact investing. He is an active private investor in vegan companies such as Spero and Lavva and is co-founder and CEO of EatCoolBeans, a manufacturer of frozen vegan wraps, and will continue to do so while partnering with this fund. Other members of the Beyond Impact team have experience in the food business, industrial manufacturing, and impact venture funds.

The Vegan Diversity Fund on AngelList has a North American focus – how active was Beyond Impact as an investor in this region? Can you tell us a little more about your current US positions?
More than 1/3 of the portfolio currently advised by Beyond Impact is in companies in the USA and Canada, including some well-known names such as the recently listed Plant Veda, a manufacturer of cashew-based coffee whiteners and lassis (ticker “MILK” at the Canadian Stock Exchange). Synthetic biology companies, Geltor and Clara Foods, based in Silicon Valley, are replacing animal collagen in cosmetics and animal enzymes and proteins, such as those contained in protein in food and industrial products. In 2018, Beyond Impact seeded both San Diego-based Blue Nalu, which cultivates finfish from cells, and upcycling food specialist Renewal Mills, which ingests the by-products of other plant-based foods like tofu and oat milk and makes gluten-free baking mixes. Chicago-based Back of the Yards Algae Sciences, an innovation platform for algae ingredient development and anaerobic digestion of food waste, is another example of how Beyond Impact is driving the future of sustainable food and the circular economy. In the clothing and materials sector, Beyond Impact provided start-up capital for MINK Shoes, a vegan luxury shoe and accessory brand.

Can anyone invest in the new fund? How does the Rolling Fund work in practice?
The AngelList platform accepts investments from US investors who pass the accreditation test which is based on annual income or net worth, and AngelList will apply the same tests to any non-US investor who wishes to invest. The Rolling Fund is essentially a series of mini-funds where the inflow of capital over any three month period funds a group of investments in which investors who invest money during that period participate. For this reason, it is recommended that investors spread their investments over several quarters in order to be diversified across a larger number of deals, as not all deals are invested in a single quarter.

More information and a link to subscribe can be found here on AngelList

The asset lists listed above were selected for the new fund based on their geographic relevance. These lists are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to be a complete list of all investments made. A full list of investments is available upon request.



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