Lee Kum Kee family office spreads VC bets in food, tech

Hong Kong-based Happiness Capital ventures into future-proof technologies to keep family businesses at the forefront.
Lee Kum Kee family office spreads VC bets in food, tech

Hong Kong food giant Lee Kum Kee Group’s family office, Happiness Capital, is investing in companies that have synergies with the family business and also technologies that are completely unrelated to it.

Lee Kum Kee, founded in the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai, is a Hong Kong-based food company that specialises in making Chinese and Asian sauces and is best known for its founder's formulation of oyster sauce 135 years ago.

Under the umbrella of the family business, Happiness Capital aims to help the group diversify and find the most innovative ideas, said Jamie Lee, a Happiness Capital associate and a fifth-generation member of the Lee clan.

Jamie Lee, 
Happiness Capital

“From our core operating businesses, we have learned a lot of history in the past … But in terms of looking towards the future, Happiness Capital is the place to do that,” Lee told the Asian Financial Forum in January.

The family has a 1,000-year vision to make the world a healthier place by sharing what its core values are and what it does in business.

“Even with our venture capital, traditionally it's a very short-term time horizon, but I think for us we're all about 'patient capital' and growing with our companies,” said Lee, who has led business development at various start-ups in San Francisco before returning to Hong Kong and joining the family office as a junior associate.

Happiness Capital, a single-family office, invests in start-ups and venture capital funds. Its portfolio companies are spread across China, the US, Europe and Israel.

Unlike many other family offices, Happiness Capital has the purpose of identifying companies that are both highly synergistic with the family business and those whose activities are completely uncorrelated.

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It invests in a number of verticals, including food, space sustainability, healthcare, environment and climate change.

Because of the family’s food industry background, Happiness Capital has a large portfolio of investment related to alternative protein, as it believes the world will experience food shortages in the future.

It also invests in sustainable food systems. For example, it has a significant stake in Israeli firm Redefined Meat, a 3D meat printing company. In 2022, Happiness has also invested in MicroHarvest, a German biotech start-up that makes protein from natural bacteria, as the family believes in the development of insect protein.

In addition, Happiness ventures into new areas such as space sustainability, in which it started by investing last year in a German company named Vyoma, which creates real-time mapping of space objects and safe satellite operations.

Most recently, the family office also invested in ClearSpace, a Swiss space debris removal company.

“Those are just some examples of investments that we’ve made through Happiness Capital that are both very synergistic and correlated to our businesses, but also uncorrelated,” Lee said. She declined to comment on the size of Happiness Capital’s portfolio.

ClearSpace announced on January 19 that it had finalised a €26.7 million ($28.5 million) series-A financing round led by OTB Ventures backed by the European Investment Fund and Swisscom Ventures, with participation from the Luxembourg Future Fund, Lakestar, In-Q-Tel, Happiness Capital and 600 T Space Investments.

Citigroup predicts that the space industry could grow to be worth $1 trillion in revenue annually by 2040.

AsianInvestor will be hosting its Family Office Briefing on March 28 in Hong Kong, which will bring together a select group of family offices. For more details, click here.

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