In recent years, many cities have banned plastic bags, plastic straws and other common types of waste, which has given a huge boost to environmentally conscious alternatives – including Loliware, a supplier of fine disposable goods made from seaweed. The high demand and smart sourcing led to a large first round of financing.
I started looking at Loliware early on when it was one of the first companies the Ocean Solutions Accelerator invested in, a program launched by the nonprofit Sustainable Ocean Alliance in 2017. Founder Chelsea "Sea" Briganti told me about the new funding for SOA's strange but quite successful "Accelerator at Sea" program late last year.
The company mainly produces straws from seaweed along with other planned products. If you are not familiar with seaweed, it is a common type of seaweed (also called seaweed) that can grow quite large and is known for its robustness. It also grows in large quantities in many coastal towns and creates “seaweed forests” that preserve entire ecosystems. The intelligent management of these rapidly growing seaweed stocks could make them a much better source than maize or paper, which are currently the most biodegradable straws.
A proprietary process transforms the seaweed into straws that feel plastic, but that simply degrade (and not in your hot drink – it can withstand a lot more stress than corn and paper-based straws). Of course, the taste that is desirable in certain circumstances, but not when drinking a selter, is also eliminated.
Briganti told me that it took a lot of R&D and fine-tuning:
"None of this has ever been done before. We have led the entire development from material technology to worldwide engineering of machines and manufacturing processes. In this way, we ensure that all aspects of product development are really scalable. "
They have gone through more than a thousand prototypes and are being repeated over and over again as progress allows for things like greater flexibility or different shapes.
"Ultimately, our material is a massive departure from the paradigms that other companies are using to approach the development of biodegradable materials," she said. "They start with a problematic paradigm that is forever derived from fossil fuels and try not to make it bad – this is a gradual development and too slow and grumpy to really make a difference."
Of course, it doesn't matter how good your process is if no one buys it. This is a fact that troubles many ethical processes. In fact, demand grew so quickly that Loliware's biggest challenge was to meet the requirements. The company has grown from a few million to a hundred million in recent years and is expected to deliver one billion straws in 2020.
“It takes us about 12 months to get full automation [from the lab]"She said." Once we have full automation, we license the technology to a strategic plastic or paper manufacturer. That means we don't make billions of straws or the like in-house. "
This is of course just as useful as outsourcing your PCB or plastic mold or what you have. Briganti wanted to have a global impact, and to do this, the existing global infrastructure must be used.
After all, Briganti was always mindful of a sustainable ecosystem, because the entire company is based on the idea of reducing waste and applying fundamentally ethical processes.
"Our products are based on an extremely sustainable supply of marine algae that is monitored and regulated by local governments," said Briganti. “In 2020, Loliware will launch the very first Algae Sustainability Council (ASC), which will allow us to oversee the development of and oversee the development of these new global supply chain systems for seaweed to ensure sustainable practices and equality. We are also pioneers in the development of the Zero Waste Circular Extraction Methodology, which is a new paradigm in the processing of marine algae and uses all the components of the biomass as the proposal provides. "
The $ 5.9 million "Super Seed" round has many investors, including some who were on board the Accelerator at Sea in Alaska last October (as SOA Seabird Ventures). The CEO of Blue Bottle Coffee has also invested like New York Ventures, Magic Hour, For Good VC, Hatzimemos / Libby, Geekdom Fund, HUmanCo VC, CityRock and Closed Loop Partners.
The money is used for scaling and other research and development work. Loliware plans to launch several new types of straw (such as a curved straw for juice boxes), a cup, and a new utensil. 2020 may be the year you see the company's straws in your favorite cafe, rather than a few early users here and there. You can track where to find them here on the company's website.