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MycoWorks, making leather from fungi, closes $125M to scale production

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MycoWorks, a company making a fungal-based biomaterial that can replace leather, brought in a fresh round of funding — $125 million in Series C financing — to fund a production plant for scaling the manufacture of its flagship product Reishi.

CEO Matt Scullin says what his company is doing in terms of fabrics is different from its competitors, touting the company’s Fine Mycelium process as “a biotechnology platform that engineers mycelium to grow the only made-to-order, made-to-specification luxury material.”

“A lot is happening in this space,” he added. “Mycelium is a tunable material, and a lot of folks are entering the space because they see opportunity for it. However, their main approach is taking fibers and embedding them in plastic, which results in a low-quality material like ‘pleather.’”

Indeed, the California-based company, founded in 2013 by Philip Ross and Sophia Wang, is among a hot trend of companies working with fungus and other plant-based materials to make fabrics for fashion. When we previously profiled MycoWorks in 2020 for its $45 million raise, we pointed to companies like Bolt Threads (mushrooms), Ananas Anam (pineapple fibers) and Desserto (cactus leather) doing similar things.

In addition to using plant-based materials for fashion, other companies are finding success with fungi-based technology. Nature’s Fynd, which raised $350 million in a Series C round in 2021, created Fy, a vegan protein that can be used as a solid, liquid or powder to make sustainable foods, like meat and cheese. Atlast Food is doing something similar, making meat alternatives from gourmet mushroom mycelium. Meanwhile, MycoTechnology, which is using a fermenting process to make — among other things — a mushroom extract that blocks the undesirable flavors of other foods, closed on a Series D round of over $120 million in 2020.

Meanwhile, the Series C was led by Prime Movers Lab, with participation from new investors, notably SK Capital Partners, Mirabaud Lifestyle Impact and Innovation Fund, which joined a group of other new and existing investors. To date, the company raised $187 million in total.

MycoWorks launched its first partnership with Hermès in early 2021 and now has contracts in place with a range of major global luxury brands. Scullin told me that if it is a luxury brand you have heard of, the company is probably partnering with them.

Despite its initial workings in the luxury space, MycoWorks also aims to move toward mass scale production that would enable products at a range of price points. The funding will enable the company to do this, Scullin said.

MycoWorks

Blue rack trays of MycoWorks’ fungi. Image Credits: Lindsey Filowitz

The company’s new production plant will be built in Union, S.C. and comes on the heels of a successful pilot plant in Emeryville, California. That’s where MycoWorks was able to validate its tray-based process and demonstrate scalability of the Fine Mycelium process when it met a production milestone of 10,000 trays processed. Scullin expects the plant to be operational in the next 12 months and will initially be able to produce volumes of several million square feet of Fine Mycelium per year.

To meet the demand for sustainable goods driven by consumers, Scullin also plans to invest the financing into expanding the team, R&D and technology development. The company received thousands of inbound requests from brands to be selected to be the first to use Fine Mycelium.

He estimates that $150 billion of leather products are sold each year, which means the opportunity is big, especially as that consumer tailwind continues to be “one of the powerful forces in the economy right now,” he added.

When choosing Prime Movers Lab and others to invest in the round, Scullin said that all of them had a common expertise in biotechnology and manufacturing scale-up, which was needed by the company right now.

“What MycoWorks has achieved with its Fine Mycelium platform is not just a breakthrough, it is a revolution for industries that are ripe for change,” said David Siminoff, general partner at Prime Movers Lab, in a written statement. “This opportunity is massive and we believe that unrivaled product quality combined with a proprietary scalable manufacturing process has MycoWorks poised to serve as the backbone of the new materials revolution.”

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Match restructures executive leadership, hires former Snap VP of Product as new CTO

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Match Group, the parent company of several popular dating apps, including Tinder and Hinge, has announced a revamped executive leadership team. Most notably, the company is bringing on former Vice President of Product at Snap Will Wu as its new chief technology officer in a newly created role. Wu will oversee product innovation across Match’s portfolio of apps, the company says.

During his time at Snap, Wu led the team charged with the creation and commercialization of Snap’s developer platforms. Wu led the creation of many of Snap’s popular features, including the “Discover” content platform, the “Chat” messaging feature and Snap’s social gaming initiative. Match says Wu will now work directly with its executives to launch new features, emerging technologies and innovative products.

“Will is truly a product savant,” said Match Group CEO Bernard Kim in a statement. “For nine years, he has forged new technologies at scale that have redefined user experiences and expectations of social products, particularly amongst Gen Z. I’ve known him for a long time, and have seen the massive impact he’s had on the way people connect at Snap, and I can’t wait to see what he will bring to the dating experience. This leadership team has a deep bench of knowledge, proven track records, and we are all ready to collaborate and capitalize on the opportunities ahead.”

The company also announced that Gary Swindler, who was previously the chief operating officer and vhief financial officer of Match, will become the president and chief financial officer of Group. In addition, Malgosia Green, who was previously CEO of Plenty of Fish, will become chief executive officer of Match Group Asia.

Another leadership change will see Hesam Hosseini, the CEO of Match and Affinity brands, taking on a newly created role as Match Group CEO of Evergreen & Emerging Brands. In this position, Hosseini will oversee Match, Meetic, Plenty of Fish and OkCupid, in addition to emerging brands such as The League, BLK and Chispa. Last, Justin McLeod, the founder and CEO of Hinge, will now report directly to Kim.

Match says the new changes are designed to maximize profitability, enhance growth, streamline operations and prioritize new business opportunities. The move comes as Match is looking to grow its business beyond traditional, swipe-based matchmaking and into the so-called “metaverse.” Match has spoken previously about its plans for a dating metaverse, complete with a virtual goods-based economy, real-time audio and the ability for online daters to meet up in a virtual space to have conversations.

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A network of knockoff apparel stores exposed 330,000 customer credit cards

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If you recently made a purchase from an overseas online store selling knockoff clothes and goods, there’s a chance your credit card number and personal information were exposed.

Since January 6, a database containing hundreds of thousands of unencrypted credit card numbers and corresponding cardholders’ information was spilling onto the open web. At the time it was pulled offline on Tuesday, the database had about 330,000 credit card numbers, cardholder names, and full billing addresses — and rising in real-time as customers placed new orders. The data contained all the information that a criminal would need to make fraudulent transactions and purchases using a cardholder’s information.

The credit card numbers belong to customers who made purchases through a network of near-identical online stores claiming to sell designer goods and apparel. But the stores had the same security problem in common: any time a customer made a purchase, their credit card data and billing information was saved in a database, which was left exposed to the internet without a password. Anyone who knew the IP address of the database could access reams of unencrypted financial data.

Anurag Sen, a good-faith security researcher, found the exposed credit card records and asked TechCrunch for help in reporting it to its owner. Sen has a respectable track record of scanning the internet looking for exposed servers and inadvertently published data, and reporting it to companies to get their systems secured.

But in this case, Sen wasn’t the first person to discover the spilling data. According to a ransom note left behind on the exposed database, someone else had found the spilling data and, instead of trying to identify the owner and responsibly reporting the spill, the unnamed person instead claimed to have taken a copy of the entire database’s contents of credit card data and would return it in exchange for a small sum of cryptocurrency.

A review of the data by TechCrunch shows most of the credit card numbers are owned by cardholders in the United States. Several people we contacted confirmed that their exposed credit card data was accurate.

TechCrunch has identified several online stores whose customers’ information was exposed by the leaky database. Many of the stores claim to operate out of Hong Kong. Some of the stores are designed to sound similar to big-name brands, like Sprayground, but whose websites have no discernible contact information, typos and spelling mistakes, and a conspicuous lack of customer reviews. Internet records also show the websites were set up in the past few weeks.

Some of these websites include:

  • spraygroundusa.com
  • ihuahebuy.com
  • igoodlinks.com
  • ibuysbuy.com
  • lichengshop.com
  • hzoushop.com
  • goldlyshop.com
  • haohangshop.com
  • twinklebubble.store
  • spendidbuy.com

If you bought something from one of those sites in the past few weeks, you might want to consider your banking card compromised and contact your bank or card provider.

It’s not clear who is responsible for this network of knockoff stores. TechCrunch contacted a person via WhatsApp whose Singapore-registered phone number was listed as the point of contact on several of the online stores. It’s not clear if the contact number listed is even involved with the stores, given one of the websites listed its location as a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Houston, Texas.

Internet records showed that the database was operated by a customer of Tencent, whose cloud services were used to host the database. TechCrunch contacted Tencent about its customer’s database leaking credit card information, and the company responded quickly. The customer’s database went offline a short time later.

“When we learned of the incident, we immediately contacted the customer who operates the database and it was shut down immediately. Data privacy and security are top priorities at Tencent. We will continue to work with our customers to ensure they maintain their databases in a safe and secure manner,” said Carrie Fan, global communications director at Tencent.

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All Raise CEO steps down again

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Less than a year after assuming the role, All Raise CEO Mandela SH Dixon has stepped down from her position at the nonprofit. The entrepreneur, who previously ran Founder Gym, an online training center for underrepresented founders, said in a blog post that the decision was made after she realized “being in the field working directly with entrepreneurs everyday” is her passion. Dixon said that she will be exploring new opportunities in alignment with that.

Her resignation is effective starting February 1st, 2023. She will remain an advisor to the Bay Area-based nonprofit.

This is the second chief executive to leave All Raise since it was first founded in 2017. In 2021, Pam Kostka resigned as the helm of the nonprofit to rejoin the startup world as well; Kostka is now an operator in residence and limited partner at Operator Collective, according to her LinkedIn. With Dixon gone, Paige Hendrix Buckner, who joined the outfit as chief of staff nine months ago, will step in as interim CEO. In the same blog post, Buckner wrote that “Mandela leaves All Raise in a strong position, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue the hard work of diversifying the VC backed ecosystem.”

Dixon did not immediately respond to comment on the record. It is unclear if All Raise is immediately kicking off a permanent CEO search.

The nonprofit has historically defined its goals in two ways: first, it wants to increase the amount of seed funding that goes to female founders from 11% to 23% by 2030, and, second, it wants to double the percentage of female decision-makers at U.S. firms by 2028.

In previous interviews, Dixon said that the company will work on creating explicit goals around what impact it wants to have for historically overlooked individuals. The data underscores the challenge ahead. Black and LatinX women receive disproportionately less venture capital money than white women; non-binary founders can also face higher hurdles when seeking funding, as All Raise board member Aileen Lee noted in the blog post.  The nonprofit has created specific programs for Black and Latinx founders but has not disclosed a specific goal for the cohort yet. These disconnects can be lost if not tracked. All Raise’s last impact report was published in 2020 and they’re working on bringing that analysis back, Lee tells TechCrunch in an interview.

“All Raise is in great hands with Paige as interim leader and we’ve got a lot of exciting things that we’re shaping and scaling,” Lee said. “We have to all continue to link arms to try and continue to make improvements for our industry…we’ve made good progress that we can’t let up.”

Since launch, the nonprofit has raised $11 million in funding, and opened regional chapters in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, DC and, soon, Miami.

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