Sports stars and startup founders have rallied behind Melbourne impact venture Who Gives a Crap in a $14.5 million raise.
The round was led by European family-owned impact investor Verlinvest, which also backed Swedish milk alternative Oatly. Executive director Raphael Thiolon will joining the Who Gives A Crap board.
Also joining the raise were Grok Ventures, Mike and Annie Cannon-Brookes’ family investment firm, Craftory, JamJar Investments, Airtree Ventures and Giant Leap. Other strategic investors include Athletic Ventures, a consortium of sports star investors, as well as Adore beauty co-founders Kate Morris and James Height, Canva’s Cameron Adams, Culture Amp’s Didier Elinga and Doug English.
In a blog post announcing the venture’s first raise in nine years, co-founder and CEO Simon Griffiths said the company’s goal of delivering clean drinking water to more than two billion people currently who don’t have access to it.
The business donates half of its profits to projects delivering on that vision, so far investing $10 million to non-profit partners.
“To reach our ambitious (audacious, even) impact trajectory, we need to scale the business. To do that, we need additional capital – that’s why we started entertaining the idea of investors,” Griffiths wrote.
“We’ve been self-funded since the beginning, which is incredibly unusual for a high-growth startup. Most startups take funding and operate while losing money until the business gets bigger and hopefully becomes profitable. Because we were donating half of our profits, we wanted to be profitable as quickly as possible to make donations and prove that our business model could work.”
Griffiths said they’d grown carefully until now – last year’s pandemic rush to stockpile toilet paper saw the company sell out at one stage, forcing the business to stop taking on new customers – in “small, calculated steps”, and they went looking for investors supporting the company’s mission and in it for the long haul.
The business now sells its products in nearly 40 countries and has 135 employees in seven countries.
Mike Cannon-Brookes said Who Gives A Crap is an impressive Aussie underdog story.
“Simon and his team have taken something so simple – toilet paper – and turned it into an impactful business, both socially and environmentally,” he said.
“I hope other entrepreneurs are inspired by their story of building a profitable, fast growing business that is also environmentally sustainable.”
Ben Black from Verlinvest said the business sets an example as a disruptive brand that offers consumers an ethical solution to significant problems.
“We invest behind global brands and entrepreneurs driving long-term shifts in consumer behaviour, and believe that enterprise should be a force for good, playing a role in shaping society,” he said.
“Who Gives A Crap’s ethos and model is exactly what excites us about building a more sustainable business ecosystem. Simon and his team have developed a profitable, consumer-centric business model enabling growth at scale, intrinsic to which is driving a mission to give everyone access to clean water and sanitation – whilst leading the shift away from deforesting virgin paper products.”