Soylent, the drink that’s designed to fulfill a person’s nutritional needs, just raised $1.5 million in seed funding from investors, including Andreessen Horowitz and Lerer Ventures.
Yes, that’s right. The seemingly wacky personal experiment of YC-backed founder Rob Rhinehart and his team is becoming a full-fledged business with $1.5 million in pre-orders.
Chris Dixon led Andreessen’s involvement in the company. “He’s a straight shooter and he thought it had a lot of potential,” Rhinehart said. “They got in there pretty quickly.”
Other investors include Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Harj Taggar and YC venture partner Garry Tan through their fund, Initialized Capital. Then there are Jack and Sam Altman through their vehicle, Hydrazine Capital.
Soylent will use the funding to help bring their manufacturing in-house and to do product development, which includes hiring a culinary director who can work on the taste and mouthfeel of Soylent. (It’s still a bit bland, if you ask me. But that’s by design.)
They’re also relocating the company to Los Angeles because Rhinehart said the costs of operating in San Francisco were too high to have an office and manufacturing facilities. The company also has a lot of connections to Caltech down south.
Soylent is a meal replacement that Rhinehart personally designed for himself after he became fascinated by inefficiencies in the industrial food system.
Last year, Rhinehart stopped eating regular food and lived exclusively off his Soylent mixture for 30 days. The experiment drove enough interest that Rhinehart decided to do a pivot, and change his YC-backed startup from working on wireless networking to making Soylent full-time.
Now his diet is 90 percent Soylent and 10 percent “recreational eating,” or what he calls eating regular food.
He gave it the self-deprecating name Soylent — after the dystopian movie Soylent Green where Charlton Heston discovers that society has been living off rations made of humans.
To be clear, Rhinehart’s version of Soylent is not made of humans. It contains a mix of carbohydrates, amino acids, proteins and dozens of other vitamins that are deemed medically necessary by the Institute of Medicine for a person to live. They will release a full nutrient list in December, but you can see working versions of it on Rhinehart’s blog.
Rhinehart’s vision is to create an inexpensive, fully nutritious and ubiquitous food source that any regular person can find anywhere — even in grocery and convenience stores around the world. It would be something that would compete against the cheap snack, junk and fast foods that are everywhere around us.
There are 50 or so beta testers that have been mostly living off Soylent for the last several months. While there haven’t been any major health issues with the beta testers so far, no one fully understands the long-term implications of switching their diet mostly or exclusively to Soylent. Each of the individual ingredients is tested by the FDA and EFSA (European Food Safety Administration), however. It’s also manufactured in a Modesto-based factory certified by the NSF.
Rhinehart says they’ve gotten to version 1.0 of the formula and are looking to ship in December. There have been delays from an early September ship date because of issues with suppliers, he said. They’ve tweaked some of the specific nutritive ratios since then, too, like the Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acid supply. It will cost about $65 for a week’s supply of meals.