Despite A Failed Kickstarter Campaign, M’sian Startup For Insect Protein Gets Seed Funding
In an interview with Kevin, the Founder and CEO of Ento, he said the funding from RAPZO gives them credibility because Singapore is a vastly international market. RAPZO looking for deals outside of Singapore has given Ento a platform to reach out to regional markets with their extensive market access, exposure, coverage and networks.
While Kevin declined to reveal the exact amount of funding Ento received, he said that the funding will be used for further expansion and to improve their capacity.
Back in May, they were producing about 1,000 packets of crickets a month. Since then, they have quintupled the amount and now produce about 5,000 packets a month now. They are even thinking of tripling that number to produce about 15,000 packets a month and they hope to achieve this within 12 months.
With that target in mind, the team is also looking to release their new product to the masses soon—Cricket Granola Protein Bites. They also hope to develop more product lines and move their products across different channels while educating customers about the benefits of consuming crickets.
Aside from snacks, Ento has also been supplying some B2B manufacturers with their very own cricket powders. Ento is also in talks of collaborating with Taylor’s University and Nestlé at the moment of writing.
Ento’s Presence In Malaysia
According to Kevin, the public is more receptive of the product now and he did notice a gradual shift of acceptance towards the protein substitute. He believes that this is because more Malaysians are more aware of their health and environmental issues now.
He said some customers even returned for second orders on their powders and snacks, which makes the team feel like they are doing something right. By focusing on their customers and their products, experimenting on different things and keeping at it, Ento has managed to keep growing its customer base.
To engage Malaysians and bring in customers, Ento organised some pop-up shops around Malaysia for locals to try it out if they wanted to. They had stalls in RIUH and co-working spaces as well, namely Common Ground, and some boutique gyms.
It’s Not All Roses
Ento’s growth appears to be on an uphill climb, but they did run into their fair share of issues. One of the major ones that he highlighted was with their failed Kickstarter campaign.
This failed campaign pushed the team back and they realised the need for re-strategising. Kevin said he learned not to overcommit on any particular projects. Instead of being overly ambitious, (to expand globally in a single stage) he now aims to deepen their reach within Malaysia and the SEA region.
With this, they’re looking into the Singapore and Thailand market. While there is competition from Thailand, they realised there is a demand for it and the market is big enough for them to enter competitively. He did say that they are the first Malaysian company to go regional with their products of a healthy and sustainable protein and hopes that Malaysians will rally behind them as they take on the regional market.
New Additions To The Ento Team
Kevin noted that the team did grow over the past 12 months as they slowly refined their expertise on expansion and efficient farming. While funding was crucial, the talents they’ve added into the team was far more critical because it gives the company a massive boost for their future prospects.
The new additions to the team come in the form of their new COO, Antonnio Hong, who used to be the Head of Strategy & Corporate Planning of Hong Leong Bank. They also brought in Scott Su, the Head of Tech Ventures at Sime Darby Plantation as an advisor for Ento.
The two bring invaluable experience and expertise in their prospective fields and Kevin hopes that Ento will be on par with Sime Darby Plantations in terms of volume, scale and reach in the near future.
He then said: “Believing in your product and your mission is the most important thing. I also believe what I was doing and its potential. The investors will see that. It’s hard to put on something that you half-heartedly believe in. The passion and the energy will show through when you’re talking to investors.”
He also believes the investment will give them a lot of room for R&D, which is crucial in the Biotech and Agriculture field. He believes the investors see the potential in what they’re doing even though they’re just a small startup based in Malaysia.
Hoping To Go Global
In the next few years, Kevin hopes that Ento will be a regional leader in their industry in providing crickets for human consumption. He also hopes they’ll have a global reach and supply their products overseas in the US, Europe and Australia. He also envisions Ento to be the world’s largest cricket farm in the next few years.
I think the planet needs an alternative and sustainable protein to sustain. The population will hit 10 billion by 2050 and there’s no way we can sustain the amount of food we have for future populations…There are already issues in areas where there’re drought and its hard-to-farm lands…We believe that switching to, considering or supplementing your diet with insect-based protein is a potential solution to solve our future problems.Kevin Wu, CEO & Founder of Ento
- You can read about our previous write-up on Ento here.