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Fei Luo of Liven Proteins Corp. Wins VWS Pathfinder Pitch Competition

Vegan Women Summit’s Pathfinder Virtual Pitch Competition has come to a close with the announcement of Fei Luo of Liven Proteins Corp. as this year’s winner, securing a spot to speak at the 2024 Vegan Women Summit (VWS).

Established to provide key investment in early-stage plant-based women founders, VWS Pathfinder enlisted an expert panel featuring industry investors such as Caroline Cormier of Upfield, Beatriz Franco of Vita Vera Ventures, and Mariliis Holm of Sustainable Food Ventures to judge the competition and offer the opportunity for one female founder to showcase their expertise and products at the VWS in NYC next year.

“Despite a 20% drop in investment in women-led startups […] the women in our program continue to defy the odds”

Toronto-based Liven Proteins Corp uses precision fermentation to produce animal-free proteins from upcycled agriculture and food byproducts to enhance the taste and texture of plant-based foods. Using synthetic biology and large-scale fermenters, the company creates protein ingredients from underutilized plant-based materials, supporting a circular economy in the food industry. Additionally, the company addresses food waste by transforming side streams from food processing into valuable protein ingredients.

Fei Lui winner of Vegan Women Summit Pathfinder Pitch Competition
© Vegan Women Summit

Luo’s triumph was attributed to several factors, notably Liven’s pioneering use of pea starch, which the judges believe is poised to disrupt market dynamics by rendering pea protein more accessible and cost-effective. The company’s alternative protein approach was underscored for its potential to counter the environmental implications of deforestation linked to the collagen industry, particularly in the Amazon. The jury commended Liven for its incorporation of cutting-edge technology, showcasing a novel process with scalable and impactful potential.

Defying the odds

Despite a challenging investment landscape for women-led startups, the VWS Pathfinder remains a beacon of support for resilient women committed to building groundbreaking companies. Jennifer Stojkovic, the founder of VWS, emphasized that “Despite a 20% drop in investment in women-led startups, from $2.4 to $1.9 billion, the women in our program continue to defy the odds and build groundbreaking companies. The landscape may be challenging, with investment declining, but the level of innovation and new companies emerging is inspiring.” 

Liven Proteins
© Liven Proteins

VWS Pathfinder presents a platform for women entrepreneurs from diverse sectors, including food, fashion, beauty, and biotechnology. The top ten finalists for this year’s VWS Pathfinder Virtual Pitch Competition Summit also included:

  • Asha Wheeldon, KULA Foods, Vancouver, Canada
  • Jasmine Byrne, Big Mountain Foods, Vancouver, Canada
  • Michelle Lee, Lypid, San Francisco, California
  • France Emmanuelle Adil, Tiamat Sciences, Durham, NC
  • Majbritt Byskov-Bridges, Alver, SaintAubin, Switzerland
  • Julia Kirouac, nud fud Inc., Toronto, Canada
  • Sònia Hurtado Piñol, Poseidona, Barcelona, Spain
  • Sharon Cryan, FoodNerd Inc., Buffalo, NY
  • Saskia Tersteeg, Time Travelling Milkman, Wageningen, The Netherlands

Luo took to her socials to express excitement for the win, stating, “Winning the Vegan Women Summit Pathfinder pitch competition is so surreal. The event was such a wonderful platform to be in a great ecosystem to fight for a sustainable future with delicious and nutritious food alongside other women entrepreneurs, Canadian women-led businesses, and mum-founded, plant-based companies looking for solutions for their little ones’ generation! I hope this is also a proof point that the potential huge impact of animal-free collagen is seen in food and nutrition. We will make it happen at Liven Proteins!”

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