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Startup Innovation Challenge
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Startup success for Amai Proteins - Ilan Samish [Interview]

Amai Proteins is on a mission to reinvent the Food & Beverage industry with their unique protein design technology. By combining biotechnology with Agile Integrative Computational Protein Design (AI-CPD), Amai produces tasty, healthy and food-compatible proteins, fit for the mass food market.

The company’s name ‘Amai’ means sweet in Japanese. As winners of the Most Innovative Food / Beverage ingredient category at Fi Europe’s Startup Innovation Challenge 2019, we caught up with Dr Ilan Samish, Founder & CEO, to find out just how sweet this victory was.

You won last year’s Startup Innovation Challenge in the Most Innovative Food or Beverage Ingredient Category. Could you tell us what winning the competition has brought you?

“Winning the Fi Europe 2019 Startup Innovation Challenge is an important acknowledgement and validation for a new startup like Amai. As a result, we received collaboration requests from numerous large and medium-size Food & Beverage multinationals, potential producers, distributors and companies who can help in formulation of new products, validate the Amai ingredient portfolio and provide important input on branding, go-to-market strategy, labelling and regulation.”

How has taking part in this challenge benefited you in terms of exposure, advice from our jury members, as well as the networking, both on and after the judging day?

“We received phenomenal exposure from practically all the potentially important players at the top-notch and large Fi Europe event. In most conferences, as a startup, we are used to lead the efforts in meeting partners, but at Fi Europe 2019, due to the selection as finalists and later as winners, it was Amai who was chased by the entire ecosystem.”

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Can you tell us at what development stage your company is?

“We are currently focused on scale-up production of Amai’s hyper-sweet designer protein in yeast and on obtaining regulatory clearance. In parallel, we are working with several large Food & Beverage multinationals on formulating the Amai healthy and sustainable sweetener in megabrand consumer packaged goods. With PepsiCo, Danone and the Technion University, we won a €1M EIT Food grant. With Ocean Spray, we are working on sugar-reduced cranberry juice and with others, we are working on other well-known products to help solve the world's largest global health threat of sugar overconsumption.”

Would you say you have found your way to enter the market? What advantage do you feel your business model has?

“Amai has a dual B2C and B2B market strategy, which is pending regulatory clearance stage, territory and product. The strategy is meant to optimize a fast return on investment and long-term optimized effect on global sugar reduction.”

What advice would you give any startup willing to take part in the challenge?

“The Startup Innovation Challenge is led by experts who quickly focus on the most important aspects of bringing innovations to the industry in terms of product taste (which is always 'the king'), product fitness, affordability, proof of concept within an industrial setting, validation from large industrial partners, IP and scalability.”

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