This Y Combinator startup is taking lab-grown meat upscale with elk, lamb and Wagyu beef cell lines

By Jonathan Shieber

Last week a select group of 20 employees and guests gathered at an event space on the San Francisco Bay, and, while looking out at the Bay Bridge, dined on a selection of choice elk sausages, Wagyu meatloaf and lamb burgers — all of which were grown from a petri dish.

The dinner was a coming out party for Orbillion Bio, a new startup pitching today in Y Combinator’s latest demo day, that’s looking to take lab-grown meats from the supermarket to high-end, bespoke butcher shops.

Instead of focusing on pork, chicken and beef, Orbillion is going after so-called heritage meats — the aforementioned elk, lamb and Wagyu beef to start.

By focusing on more expensive-end products, Orbillion doesn’t have as much pressure to slash costs as dramatically as other companies in the cellular meat market, the thinking goes.

But there’s more to the technology than its bougie beef, elite elk and luscious lamb meat.

“Orbillion uses a unique accelerated development process producing thousands of tiny tissue samples, constantly iterating to find the best tissue and media combinations,” according to Holly Jacobus, whose firm, Joyance Partners, is an early investor in Orbillion. “This is much less expensive and more efficient than traditional methods and will enable them to respond quickly to the impressive demand they’re already experiencing.”

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What startup founders are saying on creating sustainable work cultures

BY JASON SPINELL

The Director of Slack’s Venture Capital Arm shares advice and insights from its group of startup founders for 2021.

The start of this new year marks an opportune time to reflect. While we’ve all happily waved goodbye to 2020, business leaders still face a great deal of uncertainty as we turn the corner.

In my role as the head of Slack Fund, Slack’s venture capital arm, I have the pleasure of speaking with and supporting entrepreneurs and startup founders, as part of our mission to to invest in and collaborate with the next great wave of enterprise software companies. Since starting up the fund in 2015, we’ve made more than 85 investments across North America and Europe, including companies like performance management software Lattice, virtual event platform Hopin, and digital whiteboard Mural.

In recent weeks, I’ve spent additional time with many of our founders in the Slack Fund portfolio, digging in on the issues that are top of mind as 2021 starts to take shape. As we consider what the future of work looks like—whether permanently remote, in-person, a hybrid format, or something else entirely—these conversations took shape as incredibly vibrant, including many unique perspectives on the “next normal.”
Moreover, the survey acted as a barometer of advice and insights for all the founders. These results revealed the biggest lessons each founder learned in 2020, as well as the opportunities that lie ahead.

Here are what founders considered at the top of their list of priorities this year.

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India is in the middle of a much-needed start-up revolution

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India now has 38,756 officially-recognised start-ups –– with 27 unicorns, eight of which achieved this status in 2020 –– and is the third-largest tech start-up hub globally.

Entrepreneurs today are utilising the unprecedented advances from technology, operating on the demands of our demography, and inadvertently steering citizen welfare.

Five years since Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Start-Up India initiative, we are witnessing a golden chapter in the history of Indian entrepreneurship.

India now has 38,756 officially-recognised start-ups –– with 27 unicorns, eight of which achieved this status in 2020 –– and is the third-largest tech start-up hub globally.

According to Praxis Global Alliance, start-ups are growing at an average rate of 12–15% annually. Start-ups have raised $63 billion between 2016–20 in funding, $20 billion of which was raised in 2019 over 1,854 deals. Investments in start-ups are growing incrementally each year ($12 billion, $25.2 billion, $26.3 billion, and $34 billion invested in the last four years, respectively), with $16.7 billion till May 2020. Start-Up India kickstarted an entrepreneurship revolution. Several policy interventions were since announced, giving the entrepreneurial ecosystem a much-needed launchpad. The overhaul of the digital payments ecosystem is being led by State innovation, with Aadhaar, Jan Dhan, UPI, and India Stack. The Atal Innovation Mission, Niti Aayog, has built an ecosystem of 8,800 tinkering labs, 4,000 mentors and over two-and-a-half million students, and acted as a conduit for over 3,500 innovations while supporting 1,500 start-ups.

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Small rocket company Rocket Lab aims for orbital reusability

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California-based Rocket Lab plans to make its orbital Electron rocket, pictured before a launch from New Zealand in June, reusable.

ORLANDO, Fla., Nov. 4 (UPI) — Small launch company Rocket Lab has a big agenda for the end of 2020, including plans for its first liftoff from U.S. soil and its first attempt to recover a first-stage booster after launch.

The California-based company, known for launching in New Zealand, is on target to tackle both goals this year, founder and CEO Peter Beck said in an interview Tuesday.

If Rocket Lab’s first launch from Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is successful, the company intends to launch regularly from that site.

“We have an agreement to fly 12 times a year from Virginia and we hope to fill those slots,” Beck said. “The pad and the integration facility will house multiple Electron rockets at the same time. Our facility there is designed for rapid response launches.”

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The SEC just made crowdfunding way more interesting for small startups

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Tech funding usually happens in one of two ways. In one scenario, a software or service product— think Twitter — usually sells equity to venture capitalists who expect some kind of return on their investment. Hardware products usually go the crowdfunding route, building up a list of pre-orders that they can then use to pay for manufacturing.

Recently, however, a new Securities Exchange Commission ruling allows small companies to crowdfund equity raises, albeit in ways the aim to keep small investors safe from financial sharks. Using something called Regulation Crowdfunding, the companies were able to raise up to $1.07 million from non-accredited investors (aka you and me). Now, thanks to an update in the rules, they can raise up to $5 million in the same way hardware startups can raise millions on Kickstarter, but instead of delivering a product, these Reg Crowdfunding companies deliver profits or equity.

What this means in practice is that the alternative stock market just got a whole lot bigger. Because nearly any company can run a Regulation Crowdfunding round, you can buy a part of a small company in the same way you can invest in Apple or Amazon. Further, the SEC is “removing investment limits for accredited investors” and is now taking into account salary or net worth when it comes to limiting investments by non-accredited investors, meaning it can approve your investment to a certain income level.

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Venture capital at a crossroads : Change or be forgotten

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Railway crossroads serve as a reminder that trains are not the premier form of transportation they once were. The same could happen to venture capital.

Heading into the COVID crisis, Silicon Valley had reached a consensus that venture capital was going to get hit hard. In March, as the market crashed with alarming speed, new investments came to a grinding halt, and the IPO market froze completely, it seemed the most dire predictions were coming true. Today, after navigating months of uncharted waters, it is clear these doomsday expectations could not have been more wrong. However, if the industry doesn’t tread carefully, its short-term gains could pave the way to long-term self-destruction.

Venture capital in 2020 has not slowed down, it has accelerated. Whether you look at median valuation, deal count, early stage rounds, late stage mega-rounds, or IPOs, third quarter metrics across the board have raced back to historic highs. The rebound has been fueled by continued favorable macro conditions, such as tech’s outperformance in the public markets, low interest rates, regulatory tailwinds, and the fact that entrepreneurship historically outperforms in economic recessions.

The real momentum, however, stems from the much-needed structural innovation that thrives in disruption. For an industry that claims to invest in the future, it has been a long time since VC funds have been forced to innovate. Whether it is AngelList’s rolling funds, the rise of YC-style accelerators for new fund managers, or the booming popularity of direct listings and SPACs, COVID has proven to be a platform shift not only for technology, but for venture capital itself.

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New Texas EV startup unveils US-made electric motorcycle with the right specs and price

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Volcon Grunt electric motorcycle unveiled

Volcon is the latest startup hoping to bite off a piece of the growing electric motorcycle pie. The company’s new Volcon Grunt is poised to fill a gap in the market with an interesting mix of specs and pricing.

The Volcon Grunt is a fat tire electric motorcycle of sorts that doesn’t just talk the talk.

The bike also walks the walk, if its spec sheet is to be believed.

The Volcon Grunt’s 37 kW (50 hp) motor offers 102 Nm (75 lb-ft) of torque and propels the bike to a claimed 60 mph (96 km/h) top speed in 6 seconds.

It also comes with a maximum range of 100 miles (160 km), though there is no word on what speed that range is clocked at. Some electric bike manufacturers get away with impressive range ratings by measuring ranges at very low speeds, which require less battery power and thus are more efficient. And with giant tires like those, the Grunt could surely use all the efficiency favors it can get.

Either way, Volcon claims the batteries will be swappable, so even if the range isn’t quite as good, a spare battery could easily double it.

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The Pandemic Plutocrats : How Covid is creating new fintech billionaires

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In 2015, Nick Molnar was living with his parents in Sydney, Australia, and selling jewelry from a desktop computer in his childhood bedroom. Hocking everything from $250 Seiko watches to $10,000 engagement rings, the 25-year-old had gotten so good at online marketing that he had become Australia’s top seller of jewelry on eBay, shipping thousands of packages a day.

That same year, he teamed up with Anthony Eisen, a former investment banker who was 19 years his senior and lived across the street. They cofounded Afterpay, an online service that allows shoppers from the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada to pay for small-ticket items like shoes and shirts in four interest-free payments over six weeks. “I was a Millennial who grew up in the 2008 crisis, and I saw this big shift away from credit to debit,” the now 30-year-old Molnar says today. Either lacking credit cards or fearful of racking up high-interest-rate debt on their credit cards, Molnar’s generation was quick to embrace this new way to buy and get merchandise now, while paying a little later.

Five years later, Molnar and Eisen, who each own roughly 7% of the company, have become billionaires—during a pandemic. After initially tanking at the start of lockdowns, shares of Afterpay—which went public in 2016—are up nearly tenfold, thanks to a surge in business tied to e-commerce sales. In the second quarter, it handled $3.8 billion of transactions, an increase of 127% versus the same period a year earlier.

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‘A moral dilemma’: Tech startups wrestled with taking coronavirus bailout loans

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Some startup founders hesitated to apply for the SBA’s PPP loans because they feared Main Street businesses may need them more. Now, the pot of money has run out.

In the past few weeks, Silicon Valley startups have grappled with a confusing, ethical quandary: whether to take money from the government to weather the economic downturn brought on by coronavirus.

Congress passed the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27, which included $349 billion in forgivable loans for small businesses to help avoid laying off employees. The Paycheck Protection Program, as it’s called, is run through the Small Business Administration, and the loan applications are processed by banks like Bank of America or Silicon Valley Bank. The SBA will forgive the loans if the recipient uses the money to help keep all its employees on the payroll for eight weeks.

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Why S-curves are probably the most important concept in entrepreneurship

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The world of entrepreneurship is full of buzzwords. We all want to found the next disruptive game-changing hot startup, leveraging our first-mover advantage in deep tech by thinking outside the box, just before pivoting (in an agile way!) after our A/B tests showed concerns with our UX and product market fit, then finally putting our early adopter pick-up speed and monetization unit economics on viral escape velocity, earning us that unicorn-valuation series C term sheet. Don’t we?

With all that noise, it’s very easy to lose sight of the truly important concepts. One of the most important ones, maybe the most important one for startup leadership teams, is the phenomenon of the S-curve. It determines almost everything in innovation, and while it looks simple, it is incredibly hard to grasp in practice.

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Are Millennials the new entrepreneurs?

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The next generation of leaders are making headlines for their entrepreneurial attitude – are millennials driving a new startup revolution?

 Millennials came of age in a world powered by the products of rockstar entrepreneurs – Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Alexis Ohanian. TV Shows like Shark Tank, highlighting the aspirations and potential success of entrepreneurs, drew audiences of over 6 million. Meanwhile, the 2008 recession threw the stability of traditional career paths into question. It’s no wonder, then, that millennials seem to look very favorably upon entrepreneurship. But is this younger generation actually more entrepreneurial than preceding generations? The data is split. In this final article in my series on how millennials are transforming the workforce, I explore what entrepreneurship really means to millennials.

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For entrepreneurs, 45 is the new 25

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Many have argued that entrepreneurship is a young man’s game. Look no further than the storied entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley. Mark Zuckerberg. Evan Spiegel. Elon Musk. Larry Page. Sergey Brin. Steve Jobs. All of these individuals achieved success before turning 30.

But is it really the case that young people are more likely to succeed in entrepreneurial ventures? Or, is there more to the story than meets the eye?

New research forthcoming in the American Economic Review casts doubt on the idea that youth is advantageous when it comes to entrepreneurial success, especially in the case of high-growth entrepreneurship.

A team of researchers led by Pierre Azoulay of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology investigated the connection between age and high-growth entrepreneurship.

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