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Taking a load off the planet: Oxwash's green tech secures £2.08 million to accelerate laundry sector cleanup
Putting a sustainable spin on laundry, Oxwash, the UK-based startup backed by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, has raised £2.08m ($3M) in seed expansion investment, to clean up the traditional and environmentally-costly washing and dry cleaning sector with its space-age technology.
Launched in 2018, while ex-NASA scientist and Forbes's Europe's 30 under 30 alumni, Dr Kyle Grant, was completing his Synthetic Biology PhD at the University of Oxford, Oxwash was born out of his frustration with the perpetually broken washing machines on campus.
Armed with a Deliveroo backpack spray-painted blue, he began collecting and washing clothes for fellow students. Things quickly snowballed - and as interest grew, Oxwash developed into the growing, on-demand laundry business, which Dr Grant still runs along with co-founder, Oxford engineer Tom de Wilson.
Raising £5.2M ($7M) to date, the company uses water-saving ozone technology to sterilise fabrics at lower temperature, thermal and biodegradable chemical processes to achieve higher than medical-grade disinfection and dissolvable laundry bags, using electric cargo bikes for hyper local pickups and deliveries.
All riders (couriers) are fully employed and like the rest of the team are paid more than the National Living Wage.
The on-demand service that has re-engineered the cleaning process from the ground up by introducing technology typically used in space and hospital sterilisation, has experienced rapid growth (15% MoM) since the start of the pandemic. And with the global 'green cleaning' market set to reach US $11.6 billion by 2029, Oxwash believes there is a lot to win in purging and decarbonising what it says is 'the unsustainable and toxic laundry industry'.
It says that its state-of-the-art washing technology, cleaning methods and door-to-door laundry service are driving towards net zero carbon emissions, significantly reducing the environmental impact of existing laundry processes.
And it's not just carbon emissions the company is reducing' Global laundry usage also releases a seismic 14,000 tons of microfibres into the oceans each year - meaning a third of all plastic found in the ocean are microfibres from clothes. Oxwash's proprietary microfibre filtration technology removes more than 95% of fibres shed during washing, preventing plastic pollution from reaching waterways and drinking water.
Further, In April 2021, Reckitt announced a new strategic partnership between its heritage clothes care brand Vanish and Oxwash. The 'Oxwash, powered by Vanish' partnership means Oxwash uses the new Vanish sustainable formula - Vanish 0% - in its cutting edge washing facilities, also known as lagoons, to help give old clothes a new lease of life, preventing tonnes of clothes from ending up in landfill.
Killing bacteria through a three-stage approach: ozone disinfection, chemical sterilisation and thermal decontamination, the eco-friendly firm's laundry processes reduce 99.99999% of infections - 100 times better than the NHS standard.
With no-contact delivery and scientifically proven high level of disinfection, Oxwash was chosen to sterilise items used during the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine trial, as well as supporting the NHS frontline. The firm now has more than 8000 individual customers, alongside clients such as the Marriott Hotel Group, and Hurr Collective.
The model is simple, customers place an order online, choose a collection and drop off time and place, and Oxwash collects, washes and delivers, all in house.
'Oxwash is harnessing the power of science to overhaul the industry,' says the company. 'Traditional methods can only go so far, and have taken their toll on the planet. Using ozone technology for disinfection maintains the integrity of the items received, by washing at low temperatures but destroying bacteria, viruses and allergens.'
Dr Grant explains further: "We knew being just another laundry app wouldn't cut it. Developing a model that was hyper local, carbon neutral and tech enabled - that reversed the sector's adverse impact on the planet rather than adding to it was fundamental.
"Partnering with the likes of Reckitt and Founders Factory have given us access to some of the best minds in business which has undoubtedly been a leg-up for the business.
"Our team is not only developing chemistry that works at 20'C better than at 40'C or higher, but we are also integrating water reclamation and reduction technology into our process so that we can save up to 60% of the water consumption versus you washing at home or any other typical commercial washing.
"There is a growing awareness and appetite for green cleaning products - and we're confident that Oxwash can clean up and deliver substantial returns."
Investor and co-founder of Twitter, Biz Stone, adds: "Our world is in unknown territory and people are turning to tech for options to improve their lives. Oxwash is using revolutionary technology that can be utilised to prevent viral transmission on textiles during this period and give people reassurance about their safety and those of their loved ones."
Investors in the initiative include former Pinterest and Beyond Meat backers, Future Positive; Clean Ventures (NYC), Conduit-Ascension EIS Impact Fund, Holly Branson, chief purpose & vision officer Virgin Group; Sam Branson, filmmaker, musician & philanthropist; Pentland Group (Berghaus and Speedo), Leon Lewis (River Island) and founder of Indeed.com, Paul Forster.
As part of the funding round, Oxwash took part in Collective Impact, a five-week investment readiness programme, delivered by Crowdcube and Virgin StartUp, the not-for-profit entrepreneurial arm of the Virgin Group, designed specifically for purpose-led businesses. This covered the essentials of getting investment ready, including legal expertise and marketing support. Oxwash previously secured £2M from a cohort of coveted investors including: FMCG giant Reckitt, TrueSight Ventures, Founders Factory and Twitter's Biz Stone.
The new capital will be used to expand the team and invest in proprietary technology that will power the business's logistics and cutting edge washing facilities, known as lagoons, to further improve services both for consumers and the environment.
Through investing in resources and expertise, Dr Grant is confident that this will accelerate plans for national expansion.
Holly Branson says: "When I met Kyle and Tom, the founders of Oxwash, I knew immediately they were the type of purposeful leaders I love to work with; their passion, drive and enthusiasm for sustainable laundry was infectious.
'Through the Collective Impact programme I get to meet the most inspiring founders and am constantly blown away by their innovative, creative and commercial approach to sustainable business. Oxwash will turn the traditional laundry sector on its head, proving yet again that purposeful business is great business."
Paul Forster, founder of Indeed.com adds: "Oxwash is one of the most exciting businesses I've come across. I love the focus on sustainability, and it's a scalable model so I'm expecting it to grow into a really big business."
24th June 2021