Cleanzine: your weekly cleaning and hygiene industry newsletter 8th June 2023 Issue no. 1068
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Oxwash cleans up with £10 million Series A and becomes B Corp certified
Oxwash, the UK's first sustainable on-demand laundry and wet-cleaning startup, has raised £10 million in its latest funding round as it sets out to grow its nationwide footprint of its greener state-of-the-art washing process.
Brainchild of ex-NASA scientist and Forbes's Europe's 30 under 30 alumni, Dr Kyle Grant (31) and Oxford engineer Tom de Wilton (32) in 2017, the startup also unveils its global certification of B Corporation status, the only laundry and wet-cleaning company in the world that meets exacting standards of environmental, social responsibility and transparency, according to the company's statement.
The Series A round was led by Untitled VC, the investment firm founded by lead partners Magnus Rausing (Tetra Pak) and Bertie Crawley (ZuluForest). Long standing supporter Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, also returned for the round, as did Indeed founder Paul Forster, and Holly and Sam Branson.
Born out of humble frustrations with perpetually unreliable washing machines on campus, Dr Grant put his Synthetic Biology PhD (University of Oxford) into action. Re-engineering the entire washing process, introducing technology typically used in space and hospital sterilisation, he says Oxwash has now raised a total of £15.7m to date.
With the latest funding, the business will be able to build a giant facility with the ability to service clients up and down the country.
Achieving and receiving a B Corp impact score of 94.9 - 19% higher than the 80% pass mark threshold - reflects Oxwash's drive to deliver a highly convenient and cost-effective service - that doesn't destroy the planet.
Intent on driving towards net-zero carbon emissions to eliminate the environmental impact of existing laundry and dry cleaning processes, the funding will also be used to fuel the company's mission to widen its national footprint ahead of expansion into the US.
The UK's first sustainable on-demand laundry and wet cleaning service uses a combination of electric cargo bikes as well as its own fleet of electric vans and DPDs electric vehicle service for a nationwide zero-emission logistics footprint.
The convenient service uses next-gen ozone technology to deodorise and sanitise fabrics at lower temperatures, biodegradable chemistry formulations processes to achieve higher than medical-grade disinfection. It also champions an innovative 'wet cleaning' technique which offers a sustainable, chemical-free alternative to harmful dry cleaning. This process includes gentle drum rotation with water showering, meaning less friction and no damage (such as felting or matting) to the fabric. Also, being hypoallergenic, it's better for sensitive skin and has a fresh natural scent. It offers better organic stain removal and is faster too - turnaround is half that of dry cleaning.
The business is also investing in new methods such as acoustic drying, a way of drying textiles which uses soundwaves instead of heat as well as robotics and computer vision.
But Oxwash wants to do even more for the planet, and is targeting the complete elimination of direct greenhouse gas emissions (scope 1) from its operations in the next 12 months.
"This new funding will be used primarily to develop our technology and invest deeply into the complete decarbonisation of our proprietary washing process," says Dr Kyle Grant, chief executive of Oxwash.
"Up to 30% will be used for expanding our software technology capabilities, 30% for the deployment of our nationwide processing facility and the remainder for business development and growth."
In the last 12 months, Oxwash has quadrupled its revenue and achieved operational profitability across its three washing facilities, known as 'lagoons'. That growth is set to continue, as Oxwash focuses on servicing more large commercial clients, primarily in hospitality and circular fashion. Current clients include the Marriott Hotel Group, the NHS, and fashion rental platform Hurr.
"Starting a business just before a pandemic and economic crisis is no one's ideal business plan, and as we all know the needs of consumers and businesses have changed dramatically over the last couple of years,"adds Dr Grant. "For us, this has meant focusing on building out a solution that is frictionless for our business clients - the last thing they need to worry about is how their laundry will get cleaned.
"BCorp accreditation cements our commitment to responsible business and is another assurance to our customers that we are doing business the right way.
"It is undoubtedly the most robust certification available to demonstrate our dedication to sustainability and transparency that Oxwash is taking as a high growth company.
"From our inception in 2017, the business was designed from the ground-up on the principles of the BCorp framework, using the Impact Assessment to inform the structure, governance and mission. It runs through our veins."
Now employing over 80 people, Oxwash is projecting a 50% increase in headcount in the next year, and is on the hunt for top talent to help the service expand nationwide beyond its existing operations in London, Oxford, and Cambridge.
All of Oxwash's riders and drivers (couriers) are fully employed and like the rest of the team are paid in excess of the national living wage.
There is a huge opportunity for the business in cleaning up the toxic and unsustainable laundry industry, with the 'green cleaning' market set to reach US $11.6 billion by 2029.
Magnus Rausing, general partner of Untitled VC, says:
"Oxwash is a perfect example of a company that is using advanced technology to improve the product, while making the world a better place at the same time. By continuing to invest in innovation and bringing the service to more people, there is a huge opportunity here to scale up and take on the traditional laundry sector."
New investors in the round include 8 Dimension Ventures, System Capital Management (Ukraine's largest VC Fund), and Khimji Ramdas. Many more existing investors chose to partake again, including Reckitt venture arm Access VC, Pentland Group, Ascension Ventures, Vala Capital, and Truesight Ventures.
Oxwash uses an innovative technique called WET cleaning - a sustainable alternative to 'dry cleaning' that uses biodegradable detergents rather than the carcinogenic solvents. Loved clothes last, and the superior, gentle care provided by Oxwash will help to extend the life of a garment by up to three times. Oxwash reduces water consumption and saves 4-litres per 1kg of clothes washed, that's 26-litres for your average wash. By using Oxwash for over a year, you'd save a little over all of your drinking water for the whole year!
15th September 2022