After announcing the biggest VC firm debut of Q1 2016 and the industry’s largest first-time, single-partner firm launch ever by most accounts, the Los Altos, California-based 1955 Capital recently closed its first deal in a space many may overlook – agriculture.
Founded by former Khosla Ventures partner and Lightspeed Ventures investor Andrew Chung, 1955 Capital officially launched in 2015 Fall to invest in companies in the Americas and Europe that can address the developing world’s most pressing challenges. With 1955’s first close of $200 million in anchor commitments, Chung now continually seeks out high potential companies from the West to bring them to other parts of the world – with the first being Crop Enhancement.
While the hectic land of technology and the idyllic world of farms and crops may seem initially at odds, Crop Enhancement begs to differ. The Cambridge, MA-based company seeks to overcome two challenges that farmers face: the need to increase crop yields, and the reduction or elimination of pesticides. The company tackles both goals at once with a unique polymer chemistry platform developed by serial entrepreneur David Soane, Ph.D. that spawned three cutting-edge products: a microscopic coating that protects crops from pests and environmental damage without the toxicity of industrial pesticide; a tunable range of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and nutrients that can be released in controlled doses without the need for constant re-application; and a thin-film coating that stabilizes those agrochemicals to maximize their efficiency. All of these products work together to make growing crops more sustainable and effective for farmers.
Soane, the inventor behind the cutting edge chemical innovations, has previously founded a number of successful companies, included ACLARA, a manufacturer of diagnostic test products (NASDAQ: ACLA), and is poised to bring Crop Enhancement’s product in China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan.
To Chung, the company falls right into 1955 Capital’s domain.
“Crop Enhancement is a great example of a company that can address two key challenges in the developing world: increasing food production and fostering the development of sustainable agricultural practices,” said Chung.
“Early trials with global food producers have shown phenomenal results, and the company is poised to launch its product in diverse regions where this tech addresses a true survival-driven demand in the developing world,” Chung added, “which is right in 1955’s sweet spot.”
Chung, who is also fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin, is particularly excited to bring Crop Enhancement’s technologies to Greater China. Together with MLS Capital Fund II (co-managed by Spruce Capital Partners and Xeraya Capital), 1955 Capital co-led the $8.5 million Series B funding for Crop Enhancement, with Spruce Capital Partner Greg Young and Chung joining Crop Enhancement’s board of directors.
“This Series B funding is an important milestone for us: we are now well positioned to ramp up development and commercial efforts to capture sizable market opportunities,” said Kevin Chen, Ph.D., CEO of Crop Enhancement.
Separately, 1955 Capital has also made significant progress in building out a strong team and an inbound pipeline.
“We’re developing productive partnerships in Asia in a way not commonly seen in Silicon Valley and reinventing the traditional U.S. venture or growth investing model to more effectively commercialize ‘save the world’ technologies,” said Chung.
Crop Enhancement is 1955’s first attempt at strategically commercializing high-impact technologies around the world, but not Chung’s. With his previous experience in investing in sustainable technologies, Chung is excited to continue his brand of high impact venture capital with 1955 Capital.
This piece was originally published on Breaking Hoops, a blog about innovators making a positive impact in the world. Sign up for the monthly newsletter here or like the Facebook page to stay up to date with the latest stories.