The past two and a half years have been a roller coaster ride for the founders of UAE Labsbut today the pre-revenue CPG company has good news: a $2 million seed round that will help bring its sprayable caffeine device to the commercial market.
Draper Associates led the investment and was joined by Midnight Venture Partners and Cartograph Ventures. The new capital earns VAE Labs a post-money valuation of $8.5 million, according to co-founder Orri Bogdan.
Based in Canada, Bogdan, Chaim Weinerman and Mohand Khouider created VAE Energy Spray a few years ago. Bogdan praises the device as “delivering a cup of coffee’s worth of energy in just three sprays.”
The trio, who were studying neuroscience chemistry at the time, got the idea for the spray after realizing that their usual way of drinking caffeine during college wasn’t the healthiest: they discovered their favorite coffee brands — the ones they consumed multiple times at a daily basis — provided double the caffeine and about 30 grams of sugar in each cup.
“We were in this really bad cycle of way too much caffeine, only to completely crash,” Bogdan told australiabusinessblog.com. “We were just kind of fed up with feeling so awful all the time.”
Make a spray
In their search for alternative energy drinks and supplements, it was difficult to find something that was not only sugar and chemical free, but also convenient to take with you. Then they came up with the idea for an energy spray.
Bogdan said they liked the idea for two reasons: First, caffeine can be absorbed much faster, about five times faster in fact, through the tongue, and second, the delivery of caffeine through a small, portable bottle would make it more effective.
“If we could find a way to make it taste good, we felt like we had the potential to disrupt the entire energy drink market and really disrupt the caffeine market as a whole,” he added.
But what happened instead was that during their research, Bogdan and his founders “ran into a wall pretty quickly” when they tried to figure out how to develop a caffeine device that was both portable and powerful, saying “it was actually nearly impossible.”
Bogdan explained that caffeine was not sufficiently soluble in water to be effective in small amounts, which took away from their small and portable idea. So they tapped into their neuroscience chemistry studies and went back to the drawing board for two years.
What emerged was “patent-pending hypersoluble caffeine technology,” which allows VAE Labs to “significantly increase the solubility of caffeine and fluid,” Bogdan said. Each spray contains 20 milligrams of caffeine, so only three sprays are needed for a cup of coffee.
“We can put more than 10 times as much caffeine in each spray as our competitor,” he added. “And with our technology and portability, we feel it’s the best energy supplement on the market, as it works the fastest and is the most convenient.”
You may be wondering how caffeine can be considered healthy, and when asked for an explanation, Bogdan said that the VAE Energy Spray, which comes in icy mint and mango flavors, has no calories and the core ingredients are based on the main ingredients of matcha. , using amino acids L-theanine and L-tyrosine.
He went on to say that those ingredients “have some really synergistic effects with caffeine” so that instead of the typical energy boost and a big crash later on, there’s more focused energy thanks to the L-tyrosine, which helps with focus, and L -theanine, which helps with the negative effects of caffeine.
VAE Labs is not alone in this vision: Pzaz also created a no-calorie, no-caffeine breath spray.
Create a movement
In 2020, VAE Labs launched its device in a Indiegogo campaign, went after $10,000 — and ended up raising more than $55,000, Bogdan said. However, they ran into some problems, like many early companies: they had to switch manufacturers, delaying the campaign for an entire year. And then COVID hit.
So in the summer of 2021, when VAE Labs was finally able to ship its bottles, it started getting comments from customers that bottles were leaking and faulty.
“It was a huge disaster and it wasn’t the best background to try and raise money for,” recalled Bogdan. “And at that point we didn’t have the money to redo the run, nor to have a fix ready.”
The company decided to take the time to rethink its whole approach with the bottle and the actual formula inside. Eventually that brought VAE Labs into 2022 and then 2023, but now the company has a new bottle and formula, and with the $2.1 million in venture funding, it’s able to offer those early Indiegogo investors free replacements, he said.
The first direct-to-consumer run of 10,000 units is planned to be produced this month and launched in early March. The bottles retail for $9.99 and each bottle contains 36 sprays, which is equivalent to 12 cups of coffee. Bogdan said the DTC experience will test branding, messaging and price points as it launches at retail later this summer. VAE Labs already has a distributor in New York.
In addition, the company is developing its next-generation bottle and hiring some in-house content creators to market on TikTok.
Next, VAE Labs plans to use some of its funds to continue innovating on its spray technology so it can expand to supplements in general, such as CBD, THC, melatonin, vitamins and eventually drugs, Bogdan said.
“Our goal was never actually to disrupt the caffeine market, which is obviously a very big and fun market to play on, but to create the most effective, convenient and healthy way to take all of the supplements,” he added . “What excites us about the future is that after working on our first products, we realized that our technology can go much further and eventually be applied to other supplements as well – whether that be rapid melatonin to a to get better sleep quality, CBD for instant relaxation or just vitamins for general health.