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Tesla’s Denholm supports substitute leather startup with $1.1M in funding.

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**TLDR:** Melbourne-based startup Alt. Leather has raised $1.1 million in an angel round, with investment from Tesla chair Robyn Denholm’s family office Wollemi Capital Group. Alt. Leather aims to replace petroleum-based synthetic leathers and animal leather with its plant-based leather substitute. The global synthetic leather wholesale market is estimated at over AUD 100 billion, with 97% of production relying on petroleum-based plastics. Alt. Leather plans to use the funding to access advanced equipment and additional research, file a provisional patent, and begin small-scale sample production with prominent brands.

Key points:

  • Melbourne-based startup Alt. Leather secures $1.1 million in an angel round
  • Funding comes from investors including Tesla chair Robyn Denholm’s family office
  • Alt. Leather aims to replace petroleum-based synthetic leathers and animal leather with its plant-based alternative
  • The global synthetic leather wholesale market is estimated at over AUD 100 billion
  • The startup plans to use the funding for advanced equipment, research, and collaboration with brands

Alt. Leather, a Melbourne-based startup, has raised $1.1 million in an angel round to develop its plant-based leather substitute. The company aims to replace petroleum-based synthetic leathers and animal leather with its sustainable alternative. The funding comes from investors including Tesla chair Robyn Denholm’s family office Wollemi Capital Group, as well as Startmate, The Austin Group, and LaunchVic’s Alice Anderson Fund.

The global synthetic leather wholesale market is estimated to be worth over AUD 100 billion, with 97% of production relying on petroleum-based plastics. Alt. Leather hopes to tap into this growing market demand for sustainable and eco-friendly leather alternatives. Founder Tina Funder launched a vegan handbag label in 2022 and observed the need for petrochemical-free alternatives that could meet consumer preferences.

Alt. Leather plans to use the funding to access advanced equipment and additional research through collaborations with leading Melbourne universities. The company also aims to file a provisional patent for its plant-based leather substitute and begin small-scale sample production with several prominent brands. By partnering with industry experts and leveraging strategic investor support, Alt. Leather aims to accelerate its development and commercialization efforts.

Alt. Leather’s chief scientific officer, Dr. Tuan Nguyen, highlighted the company’s focus on green chemistry innovation and using waste streams and regenerative plant derivatives to create a durable and commercially scalable leather alternative. The team at Alt. Leather hopes to make a significant impact on the global synthetic leather market by eliminating millions of tonnes of fossil fuel-derived plastic.

Startmate, an investor in Alt. Leather from its early stages, praised the company’s progress and determination to develop a viable and sustainable alternative to traditional leather. Despite historical challenges faced by solo-women founded hardware companies in fundraising, Alt. Leather’s successful angel round demonstrates its business potential and industry support.

Tina Funder, the founder of Alt. Leather, expressed gratitude for the investors’ expertise and ability to contribute across various aspects of the business. With a team of four researchers and the backing of industry veterans, Alt. Leather is well-positioned to innovate the synthetic leather market and provide sustainable options for fashion and manufacturing industries.

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