Seattle beverage startup Atomo Coffee has received $2.6 million in seed funding for what is essentially a seedless beverage business.
Atomo made headlines upon the launch of its Kickstarter campaign earlier this year with the promise of a “molecular coffee” caffeinated beverage that looks and tastes like coffee, but without all the pesky agricultural product.
The company’s pitch is that it has “reverse-engineered the coffee bean to create a uniquely smooth cup of coffee, one that is more consistent and more sustainable than current commercial coffee.”
Of course, any pitch for synthetic coffee begs an existential question — what is coffee? — but the investment community is hardly one to get hung up on matters of freshman philosophy. Here, the investment is being led by the Chinese firm Horizons Ventures, the private investment arm for Chinese billionaire Li Ka-shing, who is believed to be the wealthiest person in Hong Kong.
“The coffee industry is ripe for innovation and change,” Atomo Chief Scientist Jarret Stopforth, who co-founded the company along with Andy Kleitsch, said in an announcement today. “The acceptance of agriculture alternatives has been proven with meatless meats and dairy-free milks, we want to continue that movement in a category we feel passionate about: coffee.”
Although the company has cited the potential impacts of the coffee sector’s potential role in deforestation as part of its sustainability pitch, coffee remains a plant-based agricultural product that is grown, harvested and processed by people, millions of whom depend on the sector for their livelihood.
In addition to the $2.6 million boost, Atomo has named new advisory board members, including Brian Crowley, CEO of the “meal replacement” brand Soylent, and Chahan Yeretzian, a longtime coffee scientist who heads the Coffee Excellence Center at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) in Switzerland.