SIMULATE, the startup behind mail-order, plant-based ‘chicken’ nuggets brand NUGGS, has raised $50 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Seven Seven Six, the VC fund launched last year by Reddit co-founder and serial tech investor Alexis Ohanian.
Also joining the round were Day One Ventures, Imaginary Ventures, NOMO Ventures, and investor couple Chris and Crystal Sacca.
New York-based SIMULATE concurrently announced its launch north of the border. Canadian frozen foods giant McCain will manufacture and distribute NUGGS and patty line DISCS in the Great White North, and also participated in the Series B round as an investor.
The startup said it will use the Series B funds to triple its headcount and accelerate development of new products and technologies. The capital will also help it to grow its manufacturing capabilities and increase its footprint in both retail and foodservice settings internationally.
“The entire team’s commitment to rapid product iteration and building products that can infinitely scale is why we’re backing SIMULATE,” Ohanian said in a statement.
“The best technology companies that I’ve invested in over the past decade have operated with similar principles, and we’re excited to see SIMULATE grow into one of the highest impact nutrition companies on the planet.”
SIMULATE uses the mindset of software engineering to continually update its product, releasing new ‘versions’ of its nuggets — or ‘simulations,’ as it prefers to describe them — every time it makes improvements to their taste, texture, and other features.
Find out why AgFunder invested in SIMULATE, here
CEO Ben Pasternak, who co-founded the startup in 2018 at the age of 19, had seen an opportunity early on to leverage these principles from the software development community in order to connect more directly with target customers. NUGGS started out as a direct-to-consumer, mail-order product; by keeping track of repurchase rates and keeping in regular contact with customers, the SIMULATE team believes it is able to more rapidly iterate on both its product and its branding than retail-focused competitors.
“Constantly updating and improving our product is a great way to build products that people love, creating an incredible community of loyal consumers,” Pasternak told AFN last year.
“Being transparent on product improvements allows our users to feel more involved in product development, and they are able to see the tangible impact of their feedback.”
As a result of this approach, NUGGS went from a 97% dissatisfaction rating for its first version to a 92% satisfaction rating for “V2.0,” the most recent.
As an online-first brand, SIMULATE has also gained a reputation for using humor, gamification, and alluring photography to amplify its messaging – relying on channels most familiar with its ‘Gen Z’ target audience.
“Historically, our food system has rejected the use of technology, resulting in a system that is highly inefficient and primitive,” Pasternak said in a statement.
“This new funding will be used to create and protect the intersection of technology and nutrition.”