Biotech & Health

Startup pledges to ‘deliver a cup of coffee’s worth of energy in just three sprays’


VAE Labs caffeine spray
Image Credits: VAE Labs

The past two-and-a-half years have been a roller-coaster ride for the founders of VAE Labs, but today the pre-revenue consumer technology company has some good news: a $2 million seed round that will help boost its sprayable caffeine device into the commercial market.

Draper Associates led the investment and was joined by Midnight Venture Partners and Cartograph Ventures. The new capital gives VAE Labs an $8.5 million post-money valuation, according to co-founder Orri Bogdan.

VAE Labs Chaim Weinerman and Orri Bogdan
VAE Labs co-founders Chaim Weinerman and Orri Bogdan (Image credit: VAE Labs)

Bogdan, Chaim Weinerman and Mohand Khouider, based out of Canada, created VAE Energy Spray a few years ago. Bogdan touts the device as “delivering a cup of coffee’s worth of energy in just three sprays.”

The trio, who were studying neuroscience chemistry at the time, got the idea for the spray after realizing their usual way of caffeinating themselves to study during college was not the healthiest: they found out their preferred coffee brands — the ones they were consuming multiple times on a daily basis — were delivering double the caffeine and about 30 grams of sugar in each cup.

“We found ourselves in this really bad cycle of getting way too over-caffeinated, only to completely crash,” Bogdan told TechCrunch. “We were just kind of done with feeling so terrible all the time.”

Creating a spray

In their search for alternative energy drinks and supplements, it was difficult to find something that not only didn’t have the sugar and chemicals, but was also convenient to carry. That’s when they got the idea for an energy spray.

Bogdan said they liked the idea for two reasons: one, caffeine can be absorbed a lot faster, about five times faster actually, through the tongue, and second, delivery of caffeine by a small, portable bottle would make it more effective.

“If we could find a way to make it taste good, we felt like we had the potential to disrupt the entire energy drink market and really the caffeine market as a whole,” he added.

VAE Labs caffeine spray
VAE Labs caffeine spray (Image credit: VAE Labs)

But what happened instead was that Bogdan and his founders “hit a wall pretty quickly” during their research when they tried figuring out how to develop a caffeine device that was both portable and powerful, saying “it was actually pretty much impossible.”

Bogdan explained caffeine wasn’t soluble enough in water to be effective in small volumes, which took away their small and portable idea. So they tapped into their neuroscience chemistry studies and went back to the drawing board for two years.

What emerged was “patent-pending HyperSoluble caffeine technology,” that enables VAE Labs to “significantly increase solubility of caffeine and liquid,” Bogdan said. Each spray contains 20 milligrams of caffeine, so it only takes three sprays to equal a coffee.

“We’re able to pack over 10 times as much caffeine as our competitor in every spray,” he added. “And with our technology and portability, we feel it is the best energy supplement on the market since it’s the fastest-acting and most convenient.”

You might be asking yourself how caffeine might be considered healthy, and when asked to explain, Bogdan said that the VAE Energy Spray, which comes in icy mint and mango flavors, has zero calories and its core ingredients are based on the key ingredients of matcha, using amino acids L-theanine and L-tyrosine.

He went on to say that those ingredients “have some really synergistic effects with caffeine,” so that instead of the typical boost of energy and a big crash later, there is more focused energy due to the L-tyrosine, which helps with focus, and L-theanine, which helps with the negative effects of caffeine.

VAE Labs is not the only one with this vision: Pzaz created a breath spray with zero calories and caffeine, also. Bogdan said the difference between the two is that VAE Labs delivers 20 milligrams of caffeine versus Pzaz’s 3 mg.

Oh great, just what we need: eau de caffeine

Creating a movement

In 2020, VAE Labs launched its device in an Indiegogo campaign, going after $10,000 — and ended up raising over $55,000, Bogdan said. However, they ran into some problems, as many early companies do: they had to change manufacturers, which delayed the campaign for a full year. And then COVID hit.

So in the summer of 2021, when VAE Labs was finally able to send out its bottles, it began getting comments from customers that bottles were leaking and defective.

“It was a huge disaster and wasn’t the best background to try and raise money on,” Bogdan recalled. “And at the time, we had no money to redo the run, nor to have a fix ready.”

The company decided to take the time to rethink its entire approach with the bottle and the actual formula inside. Ultimately, that took VAE Labs into 2022, and then into 2023, but now the company has a new bottle and formula, and with the $2.1 million in venture capital, is in a position to offer those early Indiegogo investors free replacements, he said.

It is slated to have its first run of 10,000 units for direct-to-consumer this month and launch it by early March. The bottles will be sold for $9.99 and each bottle will have 36 sprays, which is the equivalent of 12 cups of coffee. Bogdan said the DTC experience will test branding, messaging and price-points as it works on launching into retail later this summer. VAE Labs already has a distributor lined up in New York.

Precision Neuroscience is making brain implants safer, smarter and reversible

In addition, the company is developing its next-generation bottle and is hiring some in-house content creators to market on TikTok.

Up next, VAE Labs plans to use a portion of its funds to continue innovating on its spray technology so that it can expand into supplements at large, like CBD, THC, melatonin, vitamins and eventually medicine, Bogdan said.

“Our goal was really never to just disrupt the caffeine market, which is obviously a really big and fun market to play in, but to create the most effective, convenient and healthy way to take all supplements,” he added. “What excites us about the future is that we realized, after working on our first products, that our technology can advance much further and eventually apply to other supplements as well — whether that’s fast-tracking melatonin to get better quality of sleep, CBD for instant relaxation or just vitamins for general health.”

Pitch Deck Teardown: Rootine’s $10M Series A deck


More TechCrunch

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

1 day ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

1 day ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares