Startups Venture

Last Week In Venture: Refreshed Threads, Floating Ideas, And Lending To Latinx Businesses

Hey! It’s Last Week In Venture, back from a short break with another rundown of deals that may have flown under your radar this week.

The world is a rapidly changing place, and entrepreneurs are identifying opportunities to launch new businesses which aim to capitalize on new trends. Investors, by turn, are eager to park their money with teams building a future that aligns with their strategic advantage and financial interests.

The thing is, though, that there are so many companies out there that it’s hard to keep track of ‘em all. Plenty of ventures are operating outside the unicorn and public company spotlight, but their stories are still worth sharing. In them we find the opportunity to peek around the corner, to see what’s next, and to suss out what’s happening close to the economic metal.

Come along for the ride, won’t you? Let’s take a look at some deals from the week that was in venture-land.

Reduce, Reuse, Renew

Stare into the yawning abyss of some of the world’s biggest industries, and you’re bound to find a lot of waste and inefficiency. Clothing and accessories manufacturing and retail results in stuff that’s sold, but also lots of stuff that’s not, or can’t be bought.

Environmental consciousness, the rising cost of living, and other factors are contributing to the growing trend of “circular commerce,” or “recommerce.”

Headquartered in Oregon, The Renewal Workshop is a company which helps brands reduce waste (and economic write-downs) by reclaiming, renewing, and ultimately reselling clothing and gear that was otherwise unsellable. The company’s website explains that not all of its merchandise is used. Otherwise unsellable clothing “comes from a larger pool of returned items, damaged items, customer take-back programs or other production sources.”

The Renewal Workshop “renews” all clothing and gear through a cleaning, repair, and certification process prior to shipping out to the next owner of the garment. Its brand partners include outdoor and athletic brands like Nau, Osprey, and North Face Renewed, as well as workwear brands like Carhartt.

The Renewal Workshop raised a $5.5 million Series A led by Dutch firm Social Impact Ventures NL, in which several prior and new investors participated. According to a press release announcing the round, the company used part of the capital to open its first European facility, in Amsterdam, “offering [the company’s] entire suite of services to European apparel brands, from circular business model strategy to garment and textile renewal services and recommerce management.”

A huge percentage of clothing ends up in landfills or in the incinerator. Hats off to those diverting a potentially profitable stream from what would otherwise have gone to waste.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Small and medium sized businesses typically rely on the full faith and credit of their owners to keep the company going. That’s doubly true for minority-owned businesses, which for a variety of unfortunate structural reasons haven’t had access to the same type of financial access enjoyed by other business owners privileged by race, gender, or socioeconomic background.

In disparity, there’s an opportunity to fill the gaps. LA-based Camino Financial is a lender specializing in servicing small businesses started and led by Latinx people. This week, the company announced $8 million in Series A funding led by Mexico-based financial services company Crédito Real, which previously provided a rotating credit facility to Camino. Camino Financial says it will use the new funding to build out statistically-driven business intelligence capabilities and accelerate growth. The company has already issued more than $30 million in loans “while at the same time growing monthly loan originations at 419% year-over-year. The facility’s growth is on track to surpass all other debt funds focused on the Latinx business market within the next 12 months.”

Citing statistics from the Latino Donor Collaborative in its announcement, the company states that the “U.S. Latinx economy generated $2.3 trillion in GDP in 2019, making it the 8th largest economy and the largest Hispanic economy in the world.”

Here’s An Idea To Float

Getting people to make decisions together is really hard. And that’s just when the stakes are low. Try getting you and your friends to agree on dinner plans and you know what I mean. But when there’s money on the line, in business, collective decision-making and feedback gathering becomes an even bigger challenge. Balloon helps facilitate the process of gathering insights from business teams, letting managers ask “flights” of questions, and giving employees the ability to contribute their input anonymously into a shared pool of answers, which are then upvoted. In theory, good ideas should float to the top.

The company announced it raised $2.1 million in seed funding co-led by Jason Calacanis’s LAUNCH and Wavemaker Partners. Automattic founder Matt Mullenweg, Imagination Capital, Streamlined Ventures, XFactor Ventures, and others participated in the deal. The company started as a student project; its first funding was a $3,000 grant from the Olympus Spark Grant Fund at Carnegie Mellon back in 2013.

And with that we’re done for the week. See you back here real soon!

Image Credits: Last Week In Venture graphic created by JD Battles. Photo by Ian Dooley, via Unsplash.

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