Since it began operating, one of Lever’s key goals has been to inspire great Chinese entrepreneurs to launch new alternative protein companies.
In 2018 Lever encouraged and helped businessperson Carrie Chan to create Avant, China’s first cultivated meat company. In 2020 Lever helped directly launch high-quality plant-based meat brand HEROTEIN, and inspired and assisted food industry veteran Astrid Prajogo with launching plant-based chicken company HaoFood. In 2021 Lever persuaded US-based and Chinese expatfounded alternative protein fermentation startup Blue Canopy to expand to China, and helped it secure the funding to do so.
Building on that experience, and encouraged by the early growth of these companies, in April of 2022 Lever launched an expanded venture builder program to help create more new promising alternative protein companies in China. The program uses outbound and inbound recruiting to identify promising potential entrepreneurs and strategizes with them on white space opportunities in the country’s alternative protein sector. Lever then helps the best candidates launch new companies, providing initial investment funding and helping put in place the additional resources the company needs to have a strong start. This includes providing assistance with product development, technical know-how, marketing, branding, financial and strategic planning, incorporation, and fundraising, among other areas.
Leading Lever’s expanded venture builder program is staffer Yoanna Zhang, an MBA and Dartmouth College alum who previously worked on cross-border e-commerce in China for Meta and Alibaba.
One month into the program expansion, Lever helped launch new plant-based desserts and baked goods company Greenice Foods. Founded by Michelle Tseng, a former IKEA food and beverage executive, Greenice quickly secured initial sales contracts for its egg-free and dairy-free mooncakes (a traditional Chinese pastry) and ice creams with several prominent hotel and restaurant groups. The company also landed a cross-promotional partnership with popular Chinese television show This is Hippop.
To recruit more great entrepreneurs, Lever has partnered with several technology centers and startup hubs in the country. Lever joined forces with Dongguan Creation and Health Innovation Center, which is providing Lever access to its comprehensive network of highly-qualified technical talent at Chinese universities as well as a window into emerging food technologies. Lever also partnered with the Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau Youth Entrepreneurship Hub to identify more promising aspiring entrepreneurs.
Lever will continue working to venture-build a more humane and sustainable protein supply chain in China, one newly-created startup at a time.
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