One of Hong Kong’s more innovative startups, biotech safety testing system Vitargent, has taken a major step in scaling up by raising its second round of finance from key players as more and more Hong Kong-based startups stretch to new heights.
The new financing breaks ground by pushing Vitargent to unicorn valuation status and by bringing on board an investor with connections to NY-based private equity firm Blackstone. The investment in Vitargent was led by Hong Kong real estate conglomerate Nan Fung Group and its CEO Antony Leung, former Hong Kong Financial Secretary and an adviser and past co-head at Blackstone. Leung joins Vitargent’s advisory board as chairman.
Vitargent got its start in 2010 when founder Eric Chen saw a need for a biotesting service during the 2008 melamine milk powder scandal on the mainland. Determined to build an efficient technology to test and certify the safety of food, drink and cosmetics, he co-developed a system that relies on glow-in-the-dark fish embryos to detect toxins.
Chen, one of a growing group of Hong Kong founders reaching new heights in the city’s fast-growing entrepreneurial ecosystem, relied on an incubator program run by the Hong Kong Technology and Science Park to jumpstart commercialization of his research. His lab is based at HKSTP.
Vitargent has contracted with leading cosmetics groups, F&B conglomerates, testing labs and government departments. The startup reached profitability within its third year, raised $1 million in financing from WI Harper in 2015, and is gearing up to expand overseas.
Chen, a Forbes Asia 30 under 30 winner, spoke at Silicon Dragon’s recent Hong Kong event. See the video of the Silicon Dragon tech chat with founder Eric Chen here.