Simulate, a New York startup that makes “simulated” chicken nuggets, founded two years ago by Australian Ben Pasternak when he was just 19, has raised US50 million (A$65m) in a series B.
The round was led by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, husband of tennis champion Serena Williams, through his VC fund Seven Seven Six. Ohanian is a previous investor in the plant-based “meat” venture, along with McCain Foods, which returned for this round joined by Chris and Crystal Sacca, European VC Imaginary Ventures, and US funds NOMO Ventures and Imaginary Ventures.
Ohanian’s other investments through 776 include plant-based meat pioneer Impossible Foods, Coinbase, and Clubhouse. He will join the Simulate board.
The raise reportedly values the foodtech startup at more than US$250 million.
The venture launched as Nuggs, the name of the faux chicken nuggets, in July 2019 with US$7 million seed round led by McCain Foods, which makes the products.
The parent company Simulate, emerged last year when the business raised a further US$4 million in a series A from a who’s who of US business, including 776, McCain, MTV co-founder Bob Pittman, model Jasmine Tookes, Casper founder Neil Parikh, former Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb, and former Tumblr president John Maloney.
The latest raise came as Nuggs launched in Canada, with a product Simulate says is a “hyper-realistic simulation of the texture and flavour of animal-based nuggets”.
The nuggets were first released in 2018 and have been refined over the last few years, ditching ingredients such as MSG, seaweed, and pea protein.
They’re made predominantly from wheat and soy proteins, rice, wheat and corn flours, sugar, salt, breadcrumbs and spices. The company’s pitch to consumers is for futuristic food that now has a cult following.
Simulate calls itself “the Tesla of chicken” in media releases and the business targets millennial generation with meme-based marketing for a TikTok generation.
Pasternak moved to New York in his mid-teens, going on to co-found the social media app Monkey, which he sold in 2017.
The company has no plans to distribute Nuggs in Australia at this point.