New VC Joyful Ventures Will Buoy Alternative Protein Category With $23 Million Fund

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The new venture capital fund, Joyful Ventures, has unveiled a $23 million climate venture fund to propel the transition of the colossal $1.5 trillion global animal protein sector toward sustainable food practices.

The Joyful Ventures fund is helmed by Milo Runkle, Jennifer Stojkovic, and Blaine Vess, who all bring a wellspring of knowledge in alternative protein. According to the release, it marks the first LGBTQ and woman-led protein fund.

Runkle, a prominent advocate for food system reform and alternative protein pioneer, founded and led the nonprofit Mercy for Animals for more than two decades, facilitating partnerships with corporate giants including Walmart, Nestlé, and McDonald’s, bringing welfare improvements to more than 2 billion animals.

Stojkovic, a known figure in food-tech innovation and tech industry circles, has worked alongside stalwarts like Google, Microsoft, and Meta. A best-selling author and founder of the Vegan Women Summit, she is an influential angel investor and advisor to some of the industry’s largest plant-based brands.

Vess is an experienced entrepreneur and investor, who brings a history of startup success and extensive investment experience having backed over fifty early-stage companies.

Pre-seed B2B focus

The launch comes amid a challenging VC climate as 2023 has seen a significant reduction in investor support following an investment surge of $329 billion in 2021 and 2022. But the founders say they see great opportunity amid the down market; hey plan to invest the fund in disruptive and innovative pre-seed and seed-stage global startups specializing in a broad spectrum of technologies including plant-based, precision fermentation, mycoproteins, molecular agriculture, and cultivated technologies, with an emphasis on B2B opportunities.

Bluu Seafood's cultured fish
Bluu Seafood’s cultured fish | Courtesy

“We’re not just passively investing in promising sustainable food technology startups,” Stojkovic said in a statement. “Our team is fully committed to leveraging our expertise, powerful network, and industry insights to nurture our portfolio companies, guiding them towards growth and success. Not many in the industry have access to the industry’s top founders and CEOs at their fingertips like our team. This kind of connectedness and mentorship experience is invaluable for our founders.”

“We believe that the global movement toward food transformation is expanding and accelerating. The future is full of multi-billion dollar, world-changing sustainable protein companies whose founders face critical challenges, particularly in the pre-seed and seed stages,” Vess said.

The fund is supported by an advisory team and LPs, comprising global industry founders and CEOs from diverse backgrounds including Bjorn Oste, Co-Founder of Oatly, Dr. Sandhya Sriram, CEO of Shiok Meats, Ryan Bethencourt, Co-founder of Indie Bio and CEO of Wild Earth, and Arturo Elizondo, CEO of EVERY.

‘Investing in global transformation’

“We are not just investing in companies; we are investing in global transformation,” Runkle said. “We are proud to champion entrepreneurs forging a future where nutritious, sustainable food is universally accessible.”

Ivy Farms cell-cultured meat
Ivy Farms cell-cultured meat | Courtesy

As the climate crisis increases, Joyful will focus on preventing more greenhouse gases “rather than trying to deal with the carbon, methane, and the nitrogen that we’re creating,” Stojkovic said. “[L]et’s prevent it from happening by changing what is on our plates,” she said.

According to data from Boston Consulting Group investing in plant-based protein is 11 times more impactful from a climate investment perspective than EVs, it’s three times more impactful than decarbonizing cement, and four times more impactful than green building, and yet, Stojkovic says “that’s where you keep continuing to see most of the investments go. If you are interested in investing in climate, and you want real, scalable, quick solutions, there’s nothing better than food.”


  • Green Queen Team

    We INFORM. We INSPIRE. We EMPOWER. Founded by serial entrepreneur Sonalie Figueiras in 2011, Green Queen is an award-winning sustainability & impact media platform advocating for social & environmental change in Asia. Our mission is to shift consumer behaviour through our authentic, original and ground-breaking content.

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