Soylent has raised $20 million in funding to further its goal of replacing food with a nutritionally balanced powder. Though the two-year-old company is profitable, it very much needs to take on the additional funding in order to expand its operations. Orders of Soylent have been subject to notoriously long delays, which is why the company plans "first and foremost" to use this money to improve its manufacturing. Soylent says that it's already making progress on that front, adding two new manufacturers that will allow it to produce 50 times more of its food powder than it currently has the capacity to. The goal is to eventually be able to ship out purchases immediately, but Soylent will have to get through its pending orders first.
"In time Soylent will be synthesized directly from light, water, and air with designer microorganisms."
This is a long way to come for Soylent, which launched with a crowdfunding campaign nearly two years ago. The company makes a powder that you mix with oil to create a smoothie-like concoction that tastes a little bit like cake batter and is supposed to have all of the nutrients you need for a healthy diet. Soylent has made adjustments to its recipe since launch, most notably to reduce "digestive issues" that many initially complained of.
Andreessen Horowitz led the funding round, which is the first in the multimillions for Soylent. Chris Dixon, a general partner at the firm, says that Soylent also plans to invest in further research and development, including working on improvements to the current formula and on new products. The plan is also to "dramatically" reduce the price of Soylent. It currently sells for $3 for a meal's worth of powder, but the company wants to get it down to "a fraction of that." As for why Dixon thinks Soylent will succeed, he points to the company's community — it supports a DIY forum of enthusiasts who make their own Soylent-like powders, and Dixon thinks that a community like that is difficult to replicate and will spread the word without requiring Soylent to spend money on marketing.
Soylent CEO Rob Rhinehart doesn't elaborate much on the funding, but he has written a lengthy blog post / manifesto about the future of food. He says that the "dream" is for Soylent to eventually be "so useful it is taken for granted, like tap water or climate control." He imagines that kitchens will eventually disappear from the world as we improve automation and efficiency:
The future of food is not the return to an agrarian society but the transcendence of it. In time Soylent will be synthesized directly from light, water, and air with designer microorganisms. Genetic engineering to enhance our microbiome, and eventually ourselves. I don’t know who was the first farmer, but I want to be the last. We will make food so cheap only the rich will cook.
All of which will take more than $20 million and a weird smoothie, but that's where Soylent's trying to go.
Correction: Soylent launched through a crowdfunding campaign on CrowdTilt, not Kickstarter as previously stated. The latest Soylent formula is also vegan! It switched to using algal oil instead of fish oil back in November.