Welcome to issue #3 of The Pioneers interview series that meets the most phenomenal founders and investors in climate tech.
This week, we continue in the field of fashion. I had the privilege of chatting with Alina Bassi, Founder and CEO of Kleiderly. Kleiderly is a Berlin-based circular economy startup turning fashion waste into new products. Their first fantastic product line, eyewear, is out!
We talked about Alina’s journey from a scientist into a startup founder, the carbon credits market, fundraising for a science-based hardware startup, and the main learnings on her entrepreneurial journey.
Alina’s interview inspired me to explore the fashion industry in more detail. I recommend reading also the last week’s newsletter “The Expedition #7: Fashion - untrendy disaster” to understand the context where Kleiderly is operating.
Enjoy the read!
Survivaltech.club's newsletter will leave for a 2-week summer holiday today. I'll be back on August 5th exploring climate challenges, solutions, and startups!
The problem that Kleiderly is tackling
The fashion industry has been relying on the “fast fashion”-strategy since the early 2000s. The fast fashion -model offers consumers frequently new low-priced clothing.
The introduction of fast fashion has been lucrative for fashion retailers, but detrimental for the planet and humanity.
Kleiderly, a Berlin-based startup, has developed a patent pending technology to turn clothing waste (like old T-shirts) into new products. As a result, Kleiderly is reducing clothing waste and offering an alternative for fossil fuel-based plastic.
Kleiderly has just launched its first product line of eyewear made out of clothing waste. Get your pair here if you need sunglasses! I think they look super stylish and are a statement piece for sustainability.
Wisdom from Alina
What’s the founding story of Kleidery?
I am a chemical engineer by training and education. The reason I applied to study chemical engineering was that I wanted to work for sustainability. Sustainability has been the guiding force in my life from early on.
A few years ago, I traveled to Tanzania, where my parents are from. There, I saw the problem of fashion waste for the first time with my own eyes. Most fashion waste is exported into African and Asian countries, where it ends up in landfills or is burnt. Fashion waste was something that I wanted to tackle.
I had a good understanding of what the converting process of clothing waste would look like. My background is in chemical engineering, and I had worked with biowaste and waste process design in my previous jobs. Nevertheless, the R&D has required a lot of effort and is still ongoing.
You recently released your first product, sunglasses. Congrats! Why did you choose to produce sunglasses as your first product?
The sunglasses represent a proof-of-concept of our technology. We chose to produce them as our first product for two reasons:
Firstly, sunglasses showcase the concept of circular economy in a concrete way. What once was your T-shirt can now be your new pair of sunglasses. It’s a closed-loop within fashion.
Secondly, sunglasses help industry incumbents to understand our technology and process better. It’s more expressive to show them a pair of sunglasses than raw pellets to explain what can be made of our material.
Next, we are planning to extend our offering to products that have a longer lifetime. We consider, for example, furniture as an exciting option.
Since your products are carbon-negative (= producing them is reducing CO2 emissions), have you considered entering the carbon credit market?
Definitely. The carbon credits market is growing fast and is an intriguing future market to us.
We just recently got certified by Impact Forecast. Our impact reduction potential is -7565 tCO2eq/year. Now that we have a number for greenhouse gas reduction potential, it is easier for us to enter the carbon credits market.
How have you experienced fundraising as a founder of a science-based hardware startup?
It’s been a journey full of learning. We’ve learnt that most VCs are scared of hardware products and that even impact VCs tend to invest mostly in software startups.
Kleiderly fits better an angel investing model, or strategic investment, where the holding time of investment is longer than in the VC model. Kleiderly, however, is entirely bootstrapped. We are lucky that the state of Berlin offers many grants.
What’s not often talked about is that 90% of VC investments happen through 1st contacts. Usually, the founder and the investor know each other beforehand.
I would encourage to be in contact with investors sooner than later. If you are a potential founder that fits the investor’s investment scope, they will for sure regularly catch up with you.
How do you learn the best, and what are your biggest learnings so far as a founder?
I am a big fan of learning by doing - failing fast and learning from that. Unfortunately, many people are afraid of failing.
There are so many learnings that you get when turning from a scientist into a founder. If I had to pick two learnings from my entrepreneurial journey, they’d be the following:
1. Networking is powerful
Networking sometimes has a negative connotation. Networks, however, can help you and your company a lot to get forward. Having founders around you that have done it before and who you can ask for advice is extremely powerful.
2. Believe in yourself
You will hear many “no”s on the way. Furthermore, even people who are on your side will provide you with differing advice on growing the company. You must have the courage to hold onto your vision.
What would you like to say to current and future founders in climate tech?
Find out what truly motivates you rather sooner than later in your life. If you started a business just for the sake of building a business, it will get tough once the hard times hit.
Growing a startup is challenging. However, having and understanding your underlying motivation for building a startup will help you get through those difficult times.
I wish you enjoyed the read adn learnt a ton! As always, I love to hear feedback and ideas. You can send them directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Survivaltech.club's newsletter will leave on a summer holiday for two weeks now. I'll be back on 5th of August exploring climate challenges, solutions, and startups. Enjoy the summer!