Jakob Brix Christensen, chief financial officer, Unibio, the sustainable protein company, provides his insights into the firm’s recent bridge financing round and views on how the pandemic has impacted the approach to fundraising.
Unibio is one of the only companies globally that produces alternative, sustainable, protein at an industrial scale. However, we are still very dependent on raising capital for the future development and rollout of our technology to the world – pandemic or not.
Our protein product has significant benefits for protecting global biodiversity, which is currently being depleted from overfishing and deforestation associated with more traditional processes of protein production.
The demand for protein is increasing due to the growing global population and increase in disposable income. In fact, it is estimated that more food production will be needed over the next 40 years than in the past 8,000 years to meet this increased demand. The requirement for alternative and sustainable forms of protein is therefore significant.
The coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdowns across the world created numerous challenges that companies - both large and small - have had to adapt to and seek to overcome. We were no exception to this and adjusted how we work to keep momentum in scaling our business.
To raise capital at an optimum valuation we were dependent on delivering ongoing significant results to the market and effectively communicating them.
Our strategic partnership agreement with Stafilies to grow commercial production of Uniprotein®, our sustainable protein, at the Protelux plant in Russia was one of the milestones for the bridge finance round.
While the negotiations were affected by the fact that we could not meet physically and visit each other’s facilities, a great deal of goodwill on both sides helped us succeed in reaching an agreement in time for the capital raise.
Despite the pandemic, this last year has been highly successful for Unibio.
We have entered into a strategic partnership in Qatar and accelerated our commercial roll-out with a new CEO on-board to take Unibio to the next level.
Our ability to communicate this positive progress to the market was critical to reassuring our investors that we are, and will continue to be, a leader in the exciting alternative protein and future of the food space.
For fast-growing businesses like ours, regularly conducting fundraising is another important part of the journey to support our continued development plans and future objectives and it was with great excitement that we embarked on raising capital in the spring.
In June this year, Unibio successfully completed an £11 million bridge financing round to support our continued rapid growth trajectory.
The pandemic meant that many of what would have been face-to-face meetings and contacts with investors and our partners, were instead conducted virtually. We, like the rest of the world, have adapted our business to operate in an era where remote working has become the ‘new normal’.
Our bridge financing was highly successful and we were able to upsize our initial offer, ultimately raising £11 million along with our partners West Hill Capital.
Demand was very strong, and the round was significantly oversubscribed. It is worth noting that we had great support from our existing shareholders and a significant proportion of this capital was raised among them. It highlights the importance of strong and close relations with our investor base, especially during the most uncertain times.
The fact that demand was so strong has confirmed our belief that companies with innovative and exciting propositions can remain front of mind with the investment community, despite wider global crises and issues.
We also benefited from the timing. Given the fundraising took place earlier this summer, with the world having already lived with the pandemic for over sixteen months, the climate for fundraising was undoubtedly more favorable.
People had learned how to adapt and to live with the virus, whilst the global vaccine roll out, especially across Europe, had been progressing positively. The macroeconomic backdrop and market sentiment at the time of the fundraising was far more optimistic than 12 months ago.
A key trend that has emerged from the pandemic is an ever-increasing focus on companies seeking to solve critical global issues and sustainability challenges. As such, we anticipate that investor interest will remain strong in the high growth alternative protein and ag-tech industries.