Singapore-headquartered biotech startup RWDC Industries announced today that it has closed a US$13 million Series A2 round co-led by venture capital firms Vickers Venture Partners and WI Harper Group.
Finance firm Ridgevale Enterprises and several unknown individual investors also participated in the round.
The money will primarily be used to expand RWDC’s PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) production capacity in Athens, Georgia (US) to 2,000 tonnes per year.
As part of the deal, Vickers Chairman and Founder Dr Finian Tan, along with WI Harper Chairman Peter Liu, have joined RWDC’s Board of Directors.
RWDC Executive Chairman Roland Wee said: “We are a highly capable, passionate, and experienced team of scientists, engineers, financiers and marketers. This team is determined and confident in realising our vision of helping make this planet a greener place for future generations.”
Founded in 2015 by Wee and Daniel Carraway (CEO), RWDC develops cost-effective biopolymer material solutions. In particular, RWDC produces medium-chain-length polyhydroxyalkanoate (mcl-PHA) biopolymers that are designed for use across a broad range of applications.
PHAs are linear polyesters naturally produced by bacterial fermentation of plant-based oils or sugar and are widely recognised as the only commercially viable biodegradable bioplastic. RWDC claims its PHA is fully biodegradable in soil, water and marine conditions (i.e. all potential end-of-life scenarios), fully biodegrading within weeks with no toxic residue.
RWDC’s PHA is suitable for a broad range of applications, including single-use food service articles (e.g. cutlery, drinking straws and cup lids), paper coatings (e.g. cups, bowls, plates and takeout containers), food and beverage packaging, consumer goods packaging, diapers, wipes and agricultural mulch films.
CEO Carraway said: “This facility (in the US) will be a training ground for our staff, provide material for customer trials, and serve as a demonstration of our capabilities. At the same time, we have ambitious plans for the future. We look forward to providing the world with a truly biodegradable, 100 per cent renewable, and highly versatile material.”
“PHA will be a major component in sustainable packaging materials of the future, and RWDC offers a comprehensive technical and material resource for brand owners and converters in the food service, food packaging, and consumer goods packaging industries,” he added.
Tan of Vickers commented: “Every year, the world produces several hundred metric tonnes of plastic, mostly destined for single-use products that persist in the environment after disposal and creates a huge plastic pollution problem that the world is increasingly acutely aware of.”
“While it is unrealistic to curb the massive demand for plastic – especially in emerging markets where consumption is on a constant rise – we can still power innovators such as RWDC to develop a commercially attractive solution to a long- standing socio-ecological problem,” added Tan.
According to WI Harper’s Liu: “From microplastics in the arctic sea ice to once-pristine beaches in Thailand and the Philippines being shut down, not only is plastic pollution at a negative tipping point but the world needs solutions and education on this topic. We are excited to partner with RWDC and their dynamic management team. PHA produced at their pilot facility has already shown purity and yield above expectations.”
“Recycling is still the preferred choice among governments worldwide, as current biodegradable solutions may produce waste that has little value. There are many lobbyists for recycling in government, but not for biodegradability. We look forward to bringing positive change and social impact in sustainability for the future generations to come,” added Liu.
In July this year, RWDC won the inaugural Liveability Challenge, presented by Temasek Foundation Ecosperity, securing S$980,000 (US$710,000) in funding for its proposal to make fully biodegradable drinking straws made of PHA. The company is working towards developing drinking straw prototypes by the end of the year and will produce straws in commercial quantities by mid-2019.
WI Harper is a cross-border venture capital firm investing in early and expansion stage companies across Greater China, Asia Pacific and the US. With offices in Beijing, Taipei, and San Francisco, the firm actively oversees more than US$1 billion in assets under management. Since inception nearly three decades ago, WI Harper has invested in over 400 startups and has successfully experienced more than 100 IPO and M&A exits.
Vickers Venture Partners was founded in 2005 by Tan, Khalil Binebine, Jeffrey Chi, Damian Tan, and Linda Li. It is based in Singapore with offices in Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, Hong Kong, New York, San Diego with an office opening in San Francisco in 2018.
Vickers is focused on early-stage investments in Asia and beyond. The firm’s portfolio covers life sciences, technology, media, and telecommunications as well as consumer and financial services. In October, it announced that it has raised US$230 million to invest in startups across the world, with a particular focus on deep-tech across the globe and impact investments in emerging markets.