Weekly Digest of Venture News 📰⚡️

Japanese Startup Grows Super-sweet Strawberries 🍓 🍰

Oishii cultivates strawberries on three vertical farms: two in New Jersey and one in Los Angeles. The largest of them occupies 0,7 hectares in Jersey City. The farm itself, office premises, and a laboratory are located at the enterprise, where the berries of each harvest are checked for sugar content.

Hiroki Koga, a former vertical farm consultant in Japan, left for California to study at UC Berkeley. When he came to the local market, he noticed that American strawberries were watery and almost devoid of taste.

Therefore, Koga launched a startup to grow the world's sweetest berries and managed to raise $50 million. Strawberries from the vertical farm Oishii cost $20 per box and are on average two to three times sweeter than regular.

Each package contains from six to eleven omakase berries, which grow in the north of Japan. These strawberries are considered a delicacy because of their unusual taste, aroma, and softness.

Oishii supplies strawberries to stores within a 30 km radius of their farms. According to the head of the company, it is already operating at maximum capacity, and long-distance delivery can reduce the quality of goods grown at low temperatures to preserve freshness. At the same time, no pesticides are used in the process and less water is consumed than with traditional farming methods.

"We are confident that we will make farms even more efficient in the next five to ten years and reach the point where vertical farming will become a new standard and even more affordable than conventional products," he promised.

Online Bank Qonto Raised $552M 🏦💸

TechCrunch reported that the French online banking startup Qonto raised €486 million during a Series D round with a market valuation of €4,4 billion.

As the publication notes, the investment round was led by American investment companies Tiger Global and TCV. Other investors include organizations like Tencent, KKRs, and Ashley Flucas.

Qonto is a neobank for entrepreneurs, which serves small and medium-sized businesses, as well as freelancers. Now the company operates in France, Italy, Spain, and Germany. Over 2019, the amount of transactions in the startup amounted to €10 billion.

The company claims that 220,000 small and medium-sized enterprises are listed among its clients. And thanks to the raised funds, the platform intends to hit the mark of 1 million corporate clients by 2025. In addition, Qonto plans to increase the number of employees from 500 to 2,000 people.

Hong Kong-based NFT Game Developer Animoca Brands Raised $359M ㊙️🧸

Animoca Brands is a developer of NFT games F1 Delta Time, The Sandbox, and others. It actively invests in the market of non-interchangeable tokens, including OpenSea, Dapper Labs, Bitski, Star Atlas and Axie Infinity projects.

Apart from the round leader Liberty City Ventures, there were also such investors as 10T Holdings, C Ventures, Gemini Frontier Fund, Pacific Century Group, Provident, Sequoia China, Winklevoss Capital and others.

Before the latest funding, Animoca Brands' valuation was $5 billion. The raised funds are planned to be allocated for the implementation of strategic investments and acquisitions, product development, and licensing of intellectual property objects.

Yat Siu, co-founder and chairman of Animoca Brands, says the company has set ambitious goals to create Web 3.0 and promote an open metaverse that expands financial accessibility.

During 2021, Animoca Brands announced a number of major investment rounds. In May, the developer raised nearly $90 million from the Rothschild dynasty fund RIT Capital Partners, Huobi, and other investors. In July and October the startup attracted $50 million and $65 million respectively being valued at $2,2 billion.