Soylent Closes $1.5M In Seed Funding From Lerer, Andreessen Horowitz
Posted 52 minutes ago by Kim-Mai Cutler
Soylent, the drink that’s designed to be a person’s entire nutritional needs, just raised $1.5 million in seed funding from investors, including Andreessen Horowitz and Lerer Ventures.
Yes, that’s right. The seemingly wacky personal experiment of YC-backed founder Rob Rhinehart and his team is becoming a full-fledged business with $1.5 million in pre-orders.
Chris Dixon led Andreessen’s involvement in the company. “He’s a straight shooter and he thought it had a lot of potential,” Rhinehart said. “They got in there pretty quickly.”
Other investors include Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Harj Taggar and YC venture partner Garry Tan through their fund, Initialized Capital. Then there are Jack and Sam Altman through their vehicle, Hydrazine Capital.
Soylent will use the funding to help bring their manufacturing in-house and to do product development, which includes hiring a culinary director who can work on the taste and mouthfeel of Soylent. (It’s still a bit bland, if you ask me. But that’s by design.)
They’re also relocating the company to Los Angeles because Rhinehart said the costs of operating in San Francisco were too high to have an office and manufacturing facilities. The company also has a lot of connections to Caltech down south.
Soylent is a meal replacement that Rhinehart personally designed for himself after he became fascinated by inefficiencies in the industrial food system.
Last year, Rhinehart stopped eating regular food and lived exclusively off his Soylent mixture for 30 days. The experiment drove enough interest that Rhinehart decided to do a pivot, and change his YC-backed startup from working on wireless networking to making Soylent full-time.
Now his diet is 90 percent Soylent and 10 percent “recreational eating,” or what he calls eating regular food.
He gave it the self-deprecating name Soylent — after the dystopian movie Soylent Green where Charlton Heston discovers that society has been living off rations made of humans.
To be clear, Rhinehart’s version of Soylent is not made of humans. It contains a mix of carbohydrates, amino acids, proteins and dozens of other vitamins that are deemed medically necessary by the Institute of Medicine for a person to live. They will release a full nutrient list in December, but you can see working versions of it on Rhinehart’s blog.
Rhinehart’s vision is to create an inexpensive, fully nutritious and ubiquitous food source that any regular person can find anywhere — even in grocery and convenience stores around the world. It would be something that would compete against the cheap snack, junk and fast foods that are everywhere around us.
There are 50 or so beta testers that have been mostly living off Soylent for the last several months. While there haven’t been any major health issues with the beta testers so far, no one fully understands the long-term implications of switching their diet mostly or exclusively to Soylent. Each of the individual ingredients is tested by the FDA and EFSA (European Food Safety Administration), however. It’s also manufactured in a Modesto-based factory certified by the NSF.
Rhinehart says they’ve gotten to version 1.0 of the formula and are looking to ship in December. There have been delays from an early September ship date because of issues with suppliers, he said. They’ve tweaked some of the specific nutritive ratios since then, too, like the Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acid supply. It will cost about $65 for a week’s supply of meals.
What if you never had to worry about food again?
For many people, on many occasions, food is a hassle, especially when trying to eat well. Suppose we had a default meal that was the nutritional equivalent of water: cheap, healthy, convenient and ubiquitous. Soylent will be personalized for different body types and customizable based on individual goals. It allows one to enjoy the health benefits of a well balanced diet with less effort and cost.
Soylent Version 0.8
For anyone who struggles with allergies, heartburn, acid reflux or digestion, has trouble controlling weight or cholesterol, or simply doesn’t have the means to eat well, soylent is for you.
Soylent frees you from the time and money spent shopping, cooking and cleaning, puts you in excellent health, and vastly reduces your environmental impact by eliminating much of the waste and harm coming from agriculture, livestock, and food-related trash.
There are problems with the current state of food
50% of the food produced globally is wasted, and food makes for the largest component of municipal garbage. If not for this waste there would be plenty of food to adequately nourish everyone alive. 2 million people are killed annually by smoke inhalation from indoor cooking stoves alone. 70% of americans are overweight or obese. 1 in 7 people globally are malnourished, and 1 in 3 in the developing world suffer from deficiency. Countless others are living hand-to-mouth, subsistence farming, hindering economic development. Even in the developed world, agriculture is the most dangerous industry to work in by occupational injuries and illnesses, and obesity is on the rise.
By taking years to spoil, dramatically reducing cost, and easing transportation and storage, soylent could have a dramatic effect on hunger and malnutrition. Proceeds from the purchase of soylent enable us to work with aid partners and reduce hunger and environmental impact both in the United States and the developing world.
Think about what the future of food looks like. Imagine everyone having a customized, efficient, nutritious default diet and the freedom to eat for leisure as desired. It is a bright, healthy future indeed.
What the early adopters are saying
"I’ve lost weight. I have lots of energy…Drinking soylent allows me to feel in a precise manner the difference between actual biologically-motivated hunger and the simple wanting of food."
"The cognitive effects are extremely noticeable, in fact the most noticeable for me."
"So far I’ve noticed a lot of what you all have been mentioning: healthier skin, less fatigue, focus even with less sleep."
"My mood experience! It has improved a lot lately. And by a lot, I mean A LOT."
"The beauty of Soylent is that it is essentially flavorless thus allowing the user to customize from glass to glass. Anything we consume should be enjoyable."
"The taste is awesome."
"The time and money saved is making me really happy. Especially the time."
"As a Biologist/Chemist I approve of Soylent and really want to start using it."
Chan notes that there’s no evidence that the consistency of food, be it liquid or diet, affects health or nutrition.
I asked Mirtallo if I could live a healthy life just drinking medical food from here on out. “You can completely,” he says.
Soylent contains all the nutritive components of a balanced diet but just a third of the calories and none of the toxins or cancer-causing stuff you’d usually find in your lunch of processed foods.
“This is absurd,” [Rob] thought. “Why am I working on wireless networks? People don’t need better wireless networks. People need better food.” Food, he already knew, wasn’t only a problem for the hungry and the sick.
We’re not just too busy to cook and clean up. In Rhinehart’s view, the act of eating is a task that technology can make more efficient—or eliminate entirely. It also reflects fears about scarce resources: the worry that we may not have enough food, or the infrastructure to distribute it, to feed Earth’s growing population reliably.