San Francisco-based Rubi Laboratories, pioneering carbon-negative cellulosic textiles, has announced that it has raised £3.3 million ($4.5 million) in seed funding headed by Talis Capital and Necessary Ventures.
Rubi, founded by twin sisters Neeka and Leila Mashouf, is currently developing its first prototype in order to give a carbon-negative, zero-water, zero-land alternative to viscose in order to decarbonize the fashion industry's supply chain.
To achieve carbon-negative cellulosic textiles, Rubi captures CO2 from waste streams of manufacturing facilities using its patent-pending enzyme technology to transform it from a gas input of any concentration into cellulose, which can then be used to manufacture a viscose-based yarn. Rubi can convert 100% of the CO2 entered into the end product with zero waste by using enzymes as the catalyst.
The funding will enable Rubi to conduct research and development as well as commercialize its textile product, which is meant to address the textile demands of big fashion brands as they strive to become more sustainable.
The first textile samples from Rubi are likely to be released in the coming weeks. The biotech textile company states that it has verified its technology through the development of a successful prototype and has agreed on test plans with a number of tier-one global retail and fashion companies. Rubi is also in talks with a number of global energy and manufacturing businesses about supplying CO2 to help scale up production.
Neeka Mashouf, chief executive and co-founder of Rubi Laboratories, said that they're at a key juncture in time where mature modern technology and breakthroughs in biotech can meet to establish a world where human prosperity and economic progress are planet-positive. With rising consumer and government pressure to reduce fashion's reliance on carbon-heavy materials, textile innovation has the potential to have a significant impact on lowering carbon emissions. As a result, they're seeing brands demonstrate a willingness to pay a premium for these materials - as long as there's a clear path to price parity with traditional materials eventually - both because they know it will drive costs down in the long run, but also because it helps them achieve their sustainability goals. They’re thrilled to be collaborating with Talis, Necessary Ventures, and other key funds and angels in this field to bring Rubi's vision to fruition!
Rubi's objective is to manufacture high-quality natural textiles that are utilized in the industry today solely from carbon emissions, bypassing current agriculture and manufacturing to create a product that is carbon-negative, water and land-neutral, and naturally biodegradable.
Currently, approximately 35% of major fashion brands' products are created from viscose, which is primarily sourced from wood pulp, and the industry's use of textile is projected to expand at an annual rate of 8% through 2025. Rubi aims to give a carbon-neutral, zero-water, and zero-land alternative to fashion designers and merchants.
While Rubi's first focus will be on the garment industry, the company's long-term goals include applying the same technology to other industries such as food, packaging, and building materials.
Cecilia Manduca, associate at Talis Capital, said that as opposed to the great venture stories of the last decade, they believe that the next trillion-dollar companies in this space will not be creating new markets as Airbnb and Uber did, but rather will replace existing trillion-dollar markets with better, cheaper, and cleaner sustainable alternatives. They’re confident that Neeka and Leila's unique combination of experience in scientific academia, product development, and retail will enable Rubi to be a market leader in this field. They're excited to see how this money can catapult them into the next chapter of their adventure, and they're honored to be a part of it!
Climate-focused funds such as Climactic and Climate Capital Collective, as well as Plug & Play, Incite Ventures, Darco Capital, Cayuse Partners, Axial VC, Climate Capital Collective, and CapitalX, joined the lead investors.
There were also several retail angels present, including James Reinhart, CEO and Founder of thredUp, Manny Mashouf, CEO and Founder of Bebe Stores, Nicolaj Reffstrup, CEO and Founder of Ganni, Alexander Lorestanti, CEO and Founder of Geltor, and Rei Wang, CEO and Founder of The Grand and Former CEO of Dorm Room Fund. The National Science Foundation also contributed $250,000 to the round.
Neil Devani, managing director at Necessary Ventures, said Neeka and Leila are building something the world actually needs. Many businesses are focusing on more sustainable, cheap, and logistically flexible supply networks. This is something they've seen with Solugen in the chemical business. There is also a palpable response from customers taking up the climate fight with Rubi and textiles, which is fueling excitement in the fashion and apparel business. Even after only a few weeks of testing, the team's TikTok videos are garnering a lot of interest. They've already begun to attract top talent and inbound interest, and he is honored to be a part of this essential effort.
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