Daring Foods Aims to Take Faux Chicken Mainstream with $8M Raise

Leslie Ignacio

Leslie Ignacio is dot.LA's editorial intern. She is a recent California State University, Northridge graduate and previously worked for El Nuevo Sol, Telemundo and NBC and was named a Chips Quinn Scholar in 2019. As a bilingual journalist, she focuses on covering diversity in news. She's a Los Angeles native who enjoys trips to Disneyland in her free time.

Daring Foods Aims to Take Faux Chicken Mainstream with $8M Raise

Daring Foods wants to do for plant-based chicken what Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger did for faux meat: Take it mainstream and, in the process, convert a few carnivores.

The Los Angeles-based company just raised $8 million and is about to launch its newest product: Plant-based protein "chicken" tenders.

Originally conceived in the United Kingdom in 2018, the founders moved to New York after U.S. investors showed interest at the end of last year.

Soon after, co-founders Ross Mackay (CEO ) and Eliott Kessas (COO) decided to move full time to Los Angeles, joining El Segundo-based Beyond Meat and other plant-based startups that have found a receptive market in the region's health-conscious residents.

"L.A. is really the capital of health and wellness. And I was very inspired by a lot of CPG (consumer packaged goods) brands here," said Mackay, who moved in March.

Los Angeles has long been a hub of food experimentation, as restaurants and bars embraced vegan options long before chain restaurants like Burger King and Starbucks added faux meat to the menu.

It was here that Mackay and Kessas found a natural fit for their lifestyle.

"We've been friends for more than 10 years and really shared a passion for health, nutrition, but also plant- based diet," Mackay said. "The business was really built for a real need: We were consuming a lot of other plant based meats on the market and thought that there was a gap... particularly in the chicken forum."

Analysts are projecting the plant-based protein and meat alternative market to grow to $85 billion by 2030, and Daring is looking to compete with their plant-based chicken. Beyond and other imitation meat makers have similar products, but none have broken through.

Late last year, Darling struck a distribution deal with Arizona-based Sprouts Farmers Market. Darling's original, cajun, and lemon-and-herb flavored pieces are now sold in Sprouts, Gelson's, Bristol Farms and Fresh Thyme, but the company still offers them to consumers directly through their website.

The fresh round of funding will help Daring expand their 12-person team as they look to establish outposts on the East and West coasts.

Meanwhile the company will boost its marketing efforts as it readies to sell their breaded chicken-like products in stores on October 1st.

The series A funding is led by Maveron with additional support from GoodFriends, Stray Dog Capital, Palm Tree Crew Investments and private investors Mike Smith and Brian Swette.

Daring hopes to use their products to help educate people on the health benefits of consuming plant-based products and promote alternatives to chicken farming, which has been criticized as cruel.

With the pandemic, they see an opening.

"Without doubt, COVID as a whole has placed an emphasis on the importance of health," said Mackay. "And if you double down on that, what we put in our body in particular animal protein has been questioned. So consumers have looked for alternatives to meat. And of course, steering being available both online and in stores, and groceries, it's actually improved our sell through rate in retail."

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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Motional Links With Uber to Make Robotaxis a Reality

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Image courtesy of Motional

Motional, a self-driving taxi startup backed by Hyundai, will partner with Uber to bring its robotic taxis to cities throughout the United States within the next decade as part of its push to get people more comfortable with the concept of taking a ride in a driverless electric vehicle.

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