- Founders: Jan Anders Karlsson and Barnaby Caven
- Founded in: 2020
- Employees: 2
- Money raised: Subsidies of €250,000; sweat equity (€300,000) and initial product testing
- Ultimate goal: Let´s go radically natural and disrupt petroleum-based synthetics.
Jan Anders Karlsson is a serial entrepreneur. He co-founded Makava, a start-up that launched a mate-based iced tea drink, while still in college. His involvement with alternatives to synthetic textiles began in 2016 on a trip to Scandinavia. At the time, he noticed that people who enjoy the outdoors mostly wear textiles made from petroleum-based synthetics. A contradiction, he found. He wants to ban petroleum-based synthetics from outdoor clothing and give cellulose fibers similar functions. Here is the founder of Freyzein in an interview with Innovation Origins:
What motivates you?
Synthetic fibers began their triumphant march in the 1950s and experienced enormous increases starting in the 1970s. Today, 69 percent of clothing and textiles are made from petroleum-based synthetics. At the same time, fast fashion combined with non-recyclable blended fibers and microplastics is leading to ever-greater ecological problems. Every year, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles enter our oceans in the form of microplastics.
Acetogenic bacteria could provide alternatives to petroleum-based plastics
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring trace gas in the Earth’s atmosphere and plays a crucial role in the Earth’s climate. Its concentration is increasing, particularly due to the burning of fossil fuels.
While some global brands are now making a commitment to avoid using pure polyester, this commitment is being exhausted by the use of recycled polyester. This may be a way out of the current dilemma, but not a holistic solution. When you talk about crude oil as raw material and at the same time use the word sustainability, you need a certain amount of imagination or marketing skills.
Considering that the demand for technical textiles has increased by almost 40 percent in the past eight years (source: Fibre Journal), the fashion and textile industry urgently needs to reduce its dependence on petroleum-based materials.
Our mission is to substitute petroleum-based synthetics by giving natural fibers unprecedented properties. To do this, we are focusing on Bi-Circular™. That is, we aim to combine the technical and biological cycles. Our fibers make it possible to turn textiles back into textiles in closed cycles and compost them end-of-life so that they form new nutrients for the earth. If we succeed in doing that, I think it would be an evolutionary step (laughs).
Can you explain that in more detail?
In our first project, we are working with cellulose, which is biodegradable. But with our technology, we are independent of raw materials and can use the most suitable type of biomass – specific to the project.
Was there a moment when you wanted to give up?
Starting a startup in the COVID-19 pandemic complicates matters like team building. On the other hand, it allows stakeholders to work on solutions in a focused way. Instead of giving up, we prefer to take breaks. That has always helped so far.
What achievements have really made you proud?
The mission per se is fascinating – being able to work as a team on a passion that has social relevance. The cohesion of the team and the work on the important task make me equally proud.
Where does your funding come from?
We are selective in choosing investors and look for a combination of smart money and impact investors. Ideally, these are people who are active in the sector themselves and have an appropriate network. In Austria, it is difficult to find financiers that fit our needs. There is hardly any textile industry here and also little knowledge about it.
We are currently working on an application for Horizon Europe and the European Innovation Council.
Could you imagine a better location for your start-up?
The conditions could be better. There is more willingness to take risks in other European countries or in the U.S. Nevertheless, the funding landscape in Austria does a remarkable job. Money is available. But the state alone can’t do it. We would need help from private investors.
We are unique in our approach. But the few start-ups that are active in a similar field receive investments to the tune of several million euros.
Where would you like to be with your company in five years – what is your ultimate goal?
We will have successfully established our outerwear label Freyzein. In addition, with our innovative technical textiles in b2b, we will also build the bridge in segments other than fashion that is needed to be able to do without synthetics.
We’re talking about licenses.
What makes your innovation better/different than existing things?
We substitute petroleum-based synthetics. With Circular Design and our technology, we give natural textiles unprecedented properties in terms of performance. In doing so, we use secondary raw materials and reduce the use of primary materials, toxic chemicals and water. We call our products bicircular because they achieve a closed loop and are ultimately compostable. It’s possible to do this without waste and microplastics.