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monsanto growth ventures

Monsanto’s Venture Arm Could Be Winding Down, Sources Suggest, As Company Looks for New Talent

April 26, 2018

*Updated April 27, 2018, 15:35 to add more context around future of MGV.*

Monsanto Growth Ventures (MGV), the venture arm of Monsanto, has lost all of its dedicated staff after former managing director John Hamer, former investment director Kiersten Stead and former principal Ryan Rakestraw all left within a month of each other.

This news comes amid rumblings that Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto is coming in for a landing, though reports that the deal has been conditionally approved by the US Justice Department in the Wall Street Journal are unconfirmed by either party. 

Monsanto is adamant the venture arm is still fully operational but sources close to the situation, and in the VC community, suggest that it would be very difficult for Monsanto to attract experienced venture capital talent to fill the vacant positions considering the pending merger with Bayer.

MGV was founded in 2011, and for most of its life has operated as a three-person team including Hamer, Stead, and Rakestraw.

Hamer and Stead will continue managing the existing portfolio including committing follow-on investments to the startups in the portfolio when they raise further rounds.

AgFunderNews has confirmed that Hamer and Stead left Monsanto to join San Francisco-based VC Data Collective‘s (DCVC) new biotech-focused fund.

According to an SEC filing, DCVC Bio is looking to raise $250 million for the new fund, of which they have raised nothing as of the filing on April 19. DCVC Bio will invest in agriculture and other biocomputing technologies.

DCVC has made several agrifood tech investments in the past, generally focused on the application of big data analytics to agriculture. These investments include Gro Intelligence, Descartes Labs, Plenty, Zymergen, DroneDeploy, Ginkgo Bioworks, Naio Technologies, Blue River Technology, Pivot Bio.

DCVC also recently invested alongside MGV in Atomwise, a company that develops artificial intelligence systems for molecular discovery.

Rakestraw announced his move to Singapore’s state fund Temasek last month. A venture principal at MGV since early 2015, he will focus on agriculture and food-related venture capital investments in his new role as associate director at the fund. Temasek is an investor in cellular agriculture startups Perfect Day Foods and Modern Meadow, fish feed tech startup Calysta Energy, delivery startup Zomato, plant-based burger company Impossible Foods, and seed company VoloAgri, among others. 

MGV has been one of the more most active corporate venture offices coming from the major strategic players in agriculture. It was the second most active corporate venture office in 2017 behind Syngenta Ventures, according to AgFunder research. 

Monsanto confirmed Hamer and Stead will continue to manage the portfolio but also said the company is searching for replacements.  “We have initiated an internal and external search to backfill these roles. [Monsanto’s] Technology Strategy & Investments Lead, Bob McCarroll, has been a member of the extended MGV leadership team over the last year and will oversee this transition,”  said a Monsanto spokesperson to CrunchBase.

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