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Rubi Laboratories raises 4.5 million US dollars in seed funding

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

17 Feb 2022

Business

Image: Rubi Laboratories; co-founders Leila and Neeka Mashouf

San Francisco-based Rubi Laboratories, pioneering carbon-negative cellulosic textiles, has raised 4.5 million US dollars in seed funding, led by Talis Capital and Necessary Ventures.

Rubi, founded by twin sisters Neeka and Leila Mashouf, is currently working on its first prototype to provide a carbon-negative, zero-water, zero-land alternative to viscose to decarbonise the fashion industry’s supply chain.

To achieve carbon-negative cellulosic textiles, Rubi captures CO2 from the waste streams of manufacturing facilities using its patent-pending enzyme system to convert it from a gas input of any concentration into cellulose, which can be used to create a viscose-based yarn. By utilising enzymes as the catalyst, Rubi can turn 100 percent of CO2 inputted to the end product with zero-waste.

The funding will enable Rubi's research and development and the commercialisation of its textile product designed to meet the textile needs of major fashion brands as they look to become more sustainable.

Rubi to introduce carbon-negative cellulosic textiles to the fashion industry

Image: Rubi Laboratories; co-founder Neeka Mashouf

Rubi's first textile samples are expected to be available in the coming weeks. The biotech textile firm confirms that it has validated its technology by creating a successful prototype and has agreed on test plans with numerous tier one global retail and fashion brands. Rubi is also in discussions with various multinational energy and manufacturing companies to provide CO2 to scale up production.

Neeka Mashouf, chief executive and co-founder of Rubi Laboratories, said in a statement: "We're at a pivotal moment in time where mature modern technologies and advances in biotech can meet to build a world where human prosperity and economic growth are planet-positive. With increased consumer and government pressure to solve fashion’s reliance on carbon-heavy textiles, innovation in textiles can have a dramatic impact on reducing fashion’s carbon emissions.

“In turn, we’re seeing brands demonstrating a willingness to pay a premium for these materials - as long as there’s a tangible line of sight to reach price parity with traditional materials eventually - both because they know it will drive costs down in the longer term, but also because it supports them in terms of achieving their sustainability goals. We’re excited to partner with Talis, Necessary Ventures and influential funds and angels in this space to bring Rubi’s vision to commercialisation!”

Rubi’s mission is to make the same high-quality natural textiles used in industry today entirely from carbon emissions, bypassing current agriculture and manufacturing to create a product that is carbon-negative, water and land neutral, and naturally biodegradable.

Currently, roughly 35 percent of major fashion brands products are made from viscose, which typically relies on pulp derived from wood, and the industry’s use of textile is statistic forecast to grow 8 percent every year until 2025. Rubi is looking to provide fashion brands and retailers with a carbon negative, zero-water and zero-land alternative.

While Rubi will initially focus on the fashion market, the company's longer-term plans include applying the same technology to other industries such as food, packaging and building materials.

Image: Rubi Laboratories; co-founder Leila Mashouf

Cecilia Manduca, associate at Talis Capital, added: “As opposed to the great venture stories of the last decade, we believe that the next trillion-dollar companies in this space won’t be creating new markets like Airbnb and Uber did, but instead will replace existing trillion-dollar markets with better, cheaper and cleaner sustainable alternatives.

“We strongly believe that Neeka and Leila’s unique combined experience in scientific academia, product and retail will enable Rubi to become a winner in this space. We’re looking forward to seeing how this capital can supercharge the next phase of their journey and we’re delighted to be a part of it!”

Climactic and Climate Capital Collective invest in Rubi’s carbon-negative cellulosic textiles

Alongside the lead investors, climate-focused funds like Climactic and Climate Capital Collective also took part, as well as Plug and Play, Incite Ventures, Darco Capital, Cayuse Partners, Axial VC, Climate Capital Collective, and CapitalX.

There were also several retail angels, including James Reinhart chief executive and founder of thredUp, Manny Mashouf chief executive and founder of Bebe Stores, Nicolaj Reffstrup founder of Ganni, Alexander Lorestanti chief executive and co-founder of Geltor, and Rei Wang co-founder of The Grand and former chief executive of Dorm Room Fund.

The round also received a 250,000 US grant from the National Science Foundation.

Neil Devani, managing director at Necessary Ventures, said: “Neeka and Leila are building something the world truly needs. More sustainable, affordable, and logistically flexible supply chains are top of mind across many industries. This is something we've experienced with Solugen in the chemicals industry.

“With Rubi and textiles, there's also a palpable response from consumers taking up the climate fight, which is driving excitement in the fashion and apparel industry. Even the videos the team has put out on TikTok are generating strong engagement in just a couple weeks of testing. They've already begun attracting great talent and inbound interest, and I'm proud to be supporting them on this important mission."

Necessary Ventures
Rubi Laboratories
SUSTAINABILITY
Talis Capital
Textiles