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Rubi Laboratories raises £3.3 million in seed funding to create carbon-negative cellulosic textiles

Camilla Rydzek
17 February 2022

Rubi Laboratories, which is creating a technology that creates carbon-negative cellulosic textiles, has announced that it raised £3.3 million ($4.5 million) in seed funding. The funding will enable Rubi's research and development and commercialization to meet the textile needs of major fashion brands.

The company claims to provide a carbon negative, zero-water and zero-land alternative to the £11 billion ($15 billion) viscose industry. Rubi's first textile samples are expected to be available in February 2022 and the company says it has validated its technology by creating a successful prototype, and has currently agreed test plans with numerous tier-one global retail and fashion brands. It also says it is in discussions with various multinational energy and manufacturing companies to provide CO2 to scale up production.

Sustainable fashion industry players James Reinhart, CEO and founder of thredUP and Nicolaj Reffstrup, founder of GANNI joined the fundraising round as angels, joining the co-founders' uncle Manny Mashouf, the CEO and founder of multi-billion dollar retailer Bebe Stores, Alexander Lorestanti, CEO and co-founder of bio-design firm Geltor and Rei Wang, co-founder of a group coaching platform The Grand. The round was led by Talis Capital and Necessary Ventures with participation of 10 other investors, and included a £184.000 ($250,000) grant from the National Science Foundation.

Rubi Laboratories was founded in 2020 by Neeka and Leila Mashouf and aims to pioneer the creation of carbon negative cellulosic textiles through its patent-pending, cell-free biocatalytic process. Rubi's technology involves capturing CO2 from the waste streams of manufacturing facilities using its proprietary enzyme system, which can capture and convert CO2 from a gas input at any concentration. The CO2 is then converted into cellulose, which can then be used to create viscose-based yarn. By utilizing enzymes as the catalyst, Rubi is able to turn 100% of CO2 inputted to the end product with zero waste. This means that Rubi's technology enables its textile to be net carbon-negative per kg, compared to the 10kg of CO2 per kilo that is generated through today's commonplace viscose processing and manufacturing operations.

Rubi said that roughly 35% of major fashion brands' SKUs are made from viscose, a statistic forecasted to grow 8% every year until 2025. Viscose is also the third most used textile in the world, with key uses outside of fashion in the automotive industry for items like tyres. Rubi said that it will initially focus on the fashion industry but in the long-term it aims to apply its technology to other industries such as food, packaging and building materials.

The founders have a comprehensive background in technology and science, and have experience in fashion and retail as they grew up with their family business Bebe Stores, which is run by their uncle. Both CEO Neeka and CTO Leila started their scientific research at 15, with Neeka earning simultaneous degrees in Materials Engineering and Business at UC Berkeley, while Leila studied biological engineering and novel cancer immunotherapeutics research and is a research fellow at Stanford University Department of Neurosurgery and Bioengineering. Leila also received a B.S. in Computational Neuroscience from the Johns Hopkins University and has an in-progress Medical Doctorate from Harvard Medical School.

Neeka Mashouf, CEO and Co-Founder of Rubi Laboratories, said: "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 commercialization!”

Cecilia Manduca, Associate at Talis Capital, commented: “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!”

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