I meet and work with a lot of female-founded businesses but this one stands out! I wanted to put this in a post, but I have too many amazing things to say about them and it was too long... so I had to write an article.
Full disclosure: I have had the privilege of working with the founders over the last few months. Normally I go into these relationships confident that I can use my experience and expertise to help early-stage founders. This time I got a humility hit - I have taken away as much as I could, if not more. They are already doing things it took me years to learn and be confident enough to put into practice. They have constantly impressed me with their razor-sharp sense of business AND fairness, of science AND social, of feminism AND sustainability.
Here are ten reasons why I believe that the female-founded business, Vyld, is the startup to watch 2023:
- “We are on the cusp of a Seaweed revolution” UN Global Compact 2022. Vyld is doing more than producing tampons, it is actively investing in groundbreaking RnD to mainstream the use of fibres made of seaweed in consumer products. Whilst seaweed is already used in 70% of processed foods, it is massively underused in other areas.
- The only thing that should be found floating in the ocean is seaweed. Whilst tonnes of used period products end up in the ocean every year, seaweed is a fantastically sustainable natural resource because, unlike cotton, it doesn’t require water, fertiliser or land to grow. And it is completely biodegradable!
- Period products haven’t been revolutionised for decades. Many of them still contain plastic(!) which is in contact with sensitive mucous membranes for hours on end. Toxic chemicals are regularly found in all kinds of period products - even period pants. Whaaat?
- Most menstruators put up with irritation and leakage as an inevitability - seaweed is incredibly absorbent and anti-inflammatory. Trust me, you want this product!
- Ines and Melanie, the two co-founders, are working with the industry’s top research institutes and factories around Europe - and educating them on seaweed as a natural resource - they are travelling (literally) great lengths every month - mostly by bus and train of course.
- Typically for every female-owned startup I know, they are incredibly resourceful with limited cash. Not a single euro is wasted #noego. With a tiny team, and a pre-seed, six-figure investment (from some very smart impact angels and funds), they have been able to produce the first prototype of their tampon, ready for user-testing. A world-first.
- Half the co-founding team and most of the other early employees (from bio-scientists to BWLers) are mothers but nobody is trying to be a #supermum. They have genuinely built an inclusive culture which makes everybody feel welcome, valued and workload flexible and manageable even when kids are sick for what feels like most of the winter. #representationmatters
- “Considering all of the crises we are facing as a global society, the VC world with its hyper-growth approach seems increasingly out of touch. We are in the process of developing an economy that is non-exploitative, regenerative and inclusive. We’re inviting investors to build this new world with us." They have come up with their OWN non-extractive funding instrument #FPPA, which mean that investors get a fair return but they are capped - so that profits can flow back into the mission.
- They have already attracted investment from some of Europe’s top entrepreneurs, family offices and funds on these terms, in fact they developed them together.
- Ines and Melli are so committed to building a regenerative, inclusive business, the impact they will generate with the money invested in them will be world-changing, whether seaweed tampons are the next big thing or not. This I know.
This is not a recommendation to invest - I would get in trouble with the financial authorities for that. But if you are an impact fund, impact angel, or family office, it is a heartfelt nudge to get to know Ines and Melanie, for your sake, and the ocean’s.