seed funding

Houston VC invests in early stage California biodegradable plastics startup

Algenesis bills its patented Soleic technology as the world’s first renewable, high-performance, fully biodegradable, and backyard-compostable polyurethane made from plants and algae. Photo via AlgenesisMaterials.com

Houston-based venture capital firm First Bight Ventures led a $5 million seed round for Encinitas, California-based startup Algenesis, a developer of biodegradable plastics.

Algenesis bills its patented Soleic technology as the world’s first renewable, high-performance, fully biodegradable, and backyard-compostable polyurethane made from plants and algae. Each year, 25 million tons of hard-to-recycle polyurethane are produced for the footwear, medical, and textile industries. Polyurethane, typically made from petroleum, usually ends up as landfill waste or environmental microplastics.

Algenesis says Soleic can biodegrade in compost within a matter of months and does not contain harmful PFAS chemicals found in other plastics.

Algenesis says the new funding will enable it to expand beyond soft-foam applications, such as midsoles and insoles for footwear, and into injection-molded products such as smartphone cases along with waterproof textiles.

Aside from First Bight Ventures, investors in the seed round are Singapore-based Circulate Capital, India-based MIH Capital, Chesapeake, Virginia-based Diamond Sports Group, and France-based Rhinoshield.

The investment comes on the heels of a $5 million grant Algenesis received from the U.S. Department of Energy to scale up production of biochemicals.

“To save our planet and ourselves, we must move away from petroleum-based plastics and toward bio-based alternatives. Algenesis is clearly at the forefront of making this possible,” says Veronica Wu, founder of First Bight Ventures.

First Bight, which launched in 2022, invests in early-stage startups working on synthetic biology.

“First Bight is investing to bring the best and the brightest — and most promising — synthetic biology startups from around the country to Houston,” Wu said last year.

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A View From HETI

Discovery Green's Earth Day event generated more than 3,800 pounds of garbage — and over 90 percent of it was diverted from landfills. Photo courtesy of Discovery Green

Discovery Green celebrated Earth Day with a major milestone this year — achieving it’s Zero Waste goal.

The nonprofit, along with Citizens’ Environmental Coalition and Houston Public Works, are announced that the 2024 Green Mountain Energy Earth Day, which generated more than 3,800 pounds of garbage, diverted the majority of that waste from landfills. "Zero Waste," as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, is successfully diverting at least 90 percent of waste from the landfill.

On Earth Day, Discovery Green composted 2,200 pounds of waste and recycled 1,300 pounds of trash.

“Part of Discovery Green Conservancy’s mission is to serve as a village green for our city and be a source of health and happiness for all. Our goal is to sustain an exceptional environment for nature and people,” Discover Green President Kathryn Lott says in a news release. “We are beyond thrilled to have achieved Zero Waste certification.”

The achievement was made possible by volunteers from the University of Houston – Downtown.

Steve Stelzer, president of Citizens’ Environmental Coalition’s board of directors, acknowledged how rare the achievement is in a public space in a major city like Houston.

“Discovery Green Conservancy stepped up and made a commitment to weigh, measure and record everything. They should be congratulated to have done this at this scale,” Stelzer adds. “The Conservancy said they were going to do it and they did. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”

The 2024 event included:

  • 31,000 visitors in attendance
  • 60 + exhibitors
  • 100 + volunteers
  • 12 artists
    • 9 chalk artists
    • Donkeeboy and Donkeemom
    • Mark Bradford
  • 25 Mark Bradford artworks made of scrap presented in partnership with Houston First
  • 4 short films shown
  • 3,836.7 pounds of waste collected during Green Mountain Energy Earth Day

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