The start-up world is full of inspirational founders looking to launch the next Uber or AirBnB, but it’s not every day you find a team looking to re-engineer the antiquated laundry service industry from the ground up. That was exactly the pitch from the founders of Oxwash. Their company, founded in 2018 by ex-NASA scientist Dr Kyle Grant and Oxford engineer Tom de Wilton pitched the use of technology typically used in space and hospital sterilisation to clean up the environmentally toxic laundry and dry cleaning sector.
Needless to say, we are thrilled we heard that pitch and now welcome Oxwash as the newest addition to the Vala portfolio. Another great example of brilliant founders using technology to improve people’s lives and positively impact the planet.
We wanted to share our thoughts on why we invested in Oxwash’s vision to become the largest and first net-zero laundry and dry cleaning platform on the planet.
Dirty laundry – behind the unsustainable and toxic industry:
The £70bn garment care industry is broken. Each year it –
- emits 265,000 tonnes of CO2 – just in the UK alone
- releases 14,000 tons of microfibres into the oceans – accounting for one-third of all plastic pollutants
- uses 42% of available drinking water – while adding toxic chemicals to our natural water systems
- disposes of 350,000 tonnes of clothing into landfill – mostly due to stains on otherwise good clothes
Oxwash is here to fix things
Rather than simply being a tech-enabled, traditional laundry model. Oxwash is developing technology that will power their logistics and cutting edge washing facilities, known as lagoons, to further improve services both for consumers and the environment.
Local-gistics: it starts with their app-enabled, on-demand, door-to-door laundry service that utilises electric cargo bikes for hyper-local pickups and deliveries, keeping the process carbon neutral.
H2-low: their laundry system recycles and disinfects water from previous wash cycles, saving up to 60% of the water consumed in a typical commercial washing machine.
Micro-mania: their proprietary microfibre filtration technology removes more than 95% of fibres shed during washing, preventing plastic pollution from reaching waterways and into drinking water. They have calculated this will help prevent over 1 million plastic microfibres from entering water systems per each kg wash.
Trek Tech: space-age ozone technology is used to save water and to sterilize fabrics at lower temperatures, thermal and biodegradable chemical processes. This process is so advanced it reduces 99.99999% of infections, that’s 100 times better than the NHS standard.
That’s Toxic: traditional laundries and dry cleaners use cheap detergents that contain high levels of toxicity. Oxwash only uses biodegradable detergents and emulsifiers that are automatically dosed depending on the weight of the wash. Preventing up to 25% excess chemicals being used in each wash.
The two founders, Dr Kyle Grant and Tom de Wilton met at Oxford while conducting their PhDs. The initial concept for Oxwash involved Kyle on his bike and with backpack, collecting and washing clothes for fellow students. This quickly snowballed into a growing on demand laundry business as interest grew. Kyle & Tom’s passion for tech, sustainability and their tenacious entrepreneurial attitude continue to propel Oxwash to lofty heights. They are now supported by over 20 Lagoon staff across 3 locations and shortly have plans for national coverage.
They have also managed to attract some impressive advisers and backers, including Founders Factory, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Indeed.com founder Paul Forster and institutional investors such as Beyond Meat backers, Future Positive (NYC/SF) and Clean Ventures (NYC), who have together invested over £4.3 million to date.
Oxwash has seen their business experience rapid growth (15% MoM) since the start of the pandemic. This follows the wider industry trend for responsible laundry that has seen an increase of 118% in the last 2 years, with the global “green cleaning” market set to reach $11.6 billion by 2029.
To account for this demand, Oxwash have scaled their operations from one hub in Oxford to three across Oxford, Cambridge and London. With over 5000 consumer customers and business clients including Airbnb, the Marriott Hotel Chain, NHS GP practices, London Marathon, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and UCL.
They have also managed to secure a key brand partnership with Reckitt Benckiser, owners of Vanish. The partnership provides Oxwash exclusive access to their new sustainable product – Vanish Zero – formulated to extend the life of garments and fuel the circular fashion economy, helping to prevent tonnes of clothes from ending up in landfills.
The trend towards green cleaning doesn’t seem to be slowing down with the latest generation of consumers having grown up with increased awareness about sustainability, and the impact their fashion choices have on the environment. We’re excited to welcome Oxwash to the Vala family and look forward to supporting them to become a new market leader in this space.
Jonathon Spanos, Head of UK Investments, Vala Capital.