Seaweed-based plastics replacement startup ULUU has raised $8 million in a Seed round that’s attracted and all-star cast of investors from music, restaurants and modelling.
The round was led by existing backer, Main Sequence Ventures, supported by Alberts Impact Ventures, Mistletoe and Possible Ventures.
The Western Australian venture, is creating compostable polymers known as PHAs (polyhydroxyalkanoates), made from seaweed, which have the potential to replace all kinds of plastics, from food packaging to durable goods and textiles.
Also backing the idea in the raise supermodel Karlie Kloss and Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker, as well as others from the arts, music and hospitality sectors through Main Sequence’s social impact community Voice Capital, including Melvin Benn, MD of Festival Republic, the organisation behind the Glastonbury, & Reading festivals; Nathan McLay and Future Classic (best known for Flume, Flight Facilities, and G Flip); and Australian chef Neil Perry.
The capital will be used on product development and engineering R&D to develop new ways to scale the production process. ULUU is based at the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre, with co-location support from the University of Western Australia.
Cofounder Dr Julia Reisser that with a UN-led pledge from 20 countries to end plastic pollution by 2040, the need for environmentally friendly solutions is urgent.
“Today’s plastic problem reaches far beyond single-use water bottles and straws. Most people don’t realise that plastic has become a ubiquitous part of every aspect of our lives. From the clothes we wear, through to the beauty products we use and the cars we drive — it’s everywhere, and our planet is suffering as a result,” she said.
“We’ve discovered a way to create a versatile range of natural polymers called PHAs that can mimic the durability of plastic, but have the added benefit of being biodegradable and compostable. Our fermentation process, which is similar to brewing beer, allows us to maintain a clean production process using ocean resources including seaweed and seawater.”
Her cofounder Michael Kingsbury said the backing from Kloss and Parker will help them gain a foothold into industries such as fashion and beauty.
“In order to make a real change in this world, we need powerful voices for good,” he said.
“We are humbled to have their support and look forward to combining our expertise and public reach to make a difference in addressing this planetary problem. Together, we’re helping bring the world into a post-plastic era.”
Main Sequence partner Phil Morle said the world’s plastic problem is one of the biggest crises humanity faces.
“ULUU’s natural polymers have the potential to permanently replace many of the plastics we use today in clothing, packaging, accessories and more,” he said.
“Julia and Michael are incredibly ambitious and perfectly positioned to make this happen quickly.”
Parker and his Tame Impala bandmates have promoted eco-friendly initiatives during their The Slow Rush tour, collaborating with nonprofit REVERB to reduce the environmental footprint of touring and help fight climate change.
“We’ve had many conversations as a band about how we can reduce our carbon footprint and there is so much more we can be doing, both personally and collectively,” he said.
“I’m really excited to be supporting ULUU because I believe that they are bringing sustainable solutions to global problems. And if I can help by using our platform to spread awareness about what they are doing, then I think we can implement some really positive changes.”
Kloss said she was very conscious of the impact the fashion industry on the environment
“There’s a lot of powerful innovation happening with environmental sustainability right now and we must spend time learning about and supporting companies working to find eco solutions to the problems our planet faces,” she said
“That’s exactly why I’m so proud to invest in ULUU and its mission for a greater, greener future.”