Why Sie Ventures Invested in Shellworks

Sie
4 min readMar 25, 2024

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The plastics problem is complex. With 8.3 billion metric tons produced, plastic has become the most commonly used material in the world. But of this 8.3 billion, 6.3 billion metric tons become plastic waste and only 9% has been recycled. Shellworks is a producer of Vivomer — the material of the future — made and unmade by microbes. Their vision is to break the reliance on the petroleum industry by building a new standard of packaging that is performant, cost-competitive, and truly sustainable.

Sie Ventures is excited to invest in Shellworks and support the team on their journey to build a more sustainable future for the packaging industry.

Vivomer — the material made and unmade by microbes.

Why is plastic waste a problem?

Plastic waste not only harms wildlife and marine life but also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Plastics are one of the most commonly used materials in the world and their production has been steadily increasing over the years. Unfortunately, this increase has also led to a rise in plastic waste, which can irrevocably damage the environment if not managed properly. Of the 8.3 billion metric tons produced, 6.3 billion metric tons have become plastic waste. Of that, only 9% has been recycled. The vast majority — 79% — is accumulating in landfills or sloughing off in the natural environment as litter.

Infrastructure such as recycling or re-use hasn’t addressed the problem effectively and therefore, material innovation is critical to see significant change. According to UNEP, the volume of plastics reaching our oceans could be reduced by 80% through circular economy measures.

Vivomer tubbies

How is Shellworks reducing the use of plastic?

Shellworks created Vivomer, a completely vegan, compostable material, made with a little help from friendly microbes. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) identifies Vivomer as a non-plastic substitute material in its report ‘Plastic Pollution: The pressing case for natural and environmentally friendly substitutes to plastic’ (Source).

Vivomer is truly remarkable due to its ability to biodegrade in various natural environments. Whether in soil, compost, or marine sediment, this degradation process commences as microorganisms colonise its surface, releasing enzymes that break down the biopolymer to elemental building blocks, which are subsequently assimilated by the microorganisms as carbon sources for their growth.

It can be used for a variety of packaging types, including cream containers and shampoo bottles.

The result?

No micro-plastics ✅
No marine pollution ✅
Vegan friendly ✅
Petrochemical free ✅

Shellworks Team

Why Sie Ventures invested in Shellworks?

Sustainability is one major pillar in our thesis. We are proactively seeking companies developing disruptive technologies and effectively addressing climate change and social inequity. For example, finding innovative solutions to reduce waste, replacing plastic with alternative materials or improving the supply chain in food and agriculture.

Shellworks’ vision is to become the “GoreTex of sustainable plastics” and become a worldwide household name. We have been closely following the progress of Shellworks, led by Insiya and Amir, over the last few years.

Insiya honed her skills in Mechanical Engineering and Product Design at Stanford University and Innovation Design Engineering MA/MSc at the Royal College of Art/Imperial College London. Insiya has a profound knowledge of scaling hardware and a strong foundation in mechanical engineering. She also brings a wealth of experience in manufacturing and operations following her tenures at industry giants such as Apple, Ford Innovation and Bose Corporation.

Amir is a Swiss Army knife of innovation. With a background in architecture and multi-disciplinary design, he fearlessly explores emerging material technologies like mycelium, chitosan, bacterial cellulose, and ceramics. In 2019, Amir earned the Pokémon scholarship for Innovation Design Engineering and the Helen Hamlyn Award for Creativity in inclusive design.

Insiya and Amir have brought together a team of 20 experts from a wide range of fields, including materials science, engineering and biotechnology. They are uniquely positioned to explore problems from multiple angels facilitating a dynamic synergy that allows them to move at an incredible pace.

We believe Shellworks has a huge competitive advantage due to the sustainability verification they can provide, complimented by a compatibility and shelf-life that other solutions can’t offer.

Shellworks is already working with reputable cosmetic companies e.g Haeckels, who are committed to using sustainable packaging to reduce waste, decrease the use of renewable resources, minimise pollution and conserve biodiversity.

Shellworks is backed by LocalGlobe, BoxGroup, Ascension, Founder Collective, Planet Positive, True Global. They have also been awarded multiple grants from Innovate UK.

We look forward to supporting Insiya, Amir and the Shellworks team on their next stage of growth!

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Sie

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