Dimpora from Switzerland competed against more than 180 startups, making it to the Green Alley Award finals! Their idea: to make outdoor activities completely natural again. Producing outdoor wear that is breathable and protects you from wind and water, usually involves toxic chemical processes and comes with high costs for human health and the environment. Dimpora has now developed a high-performing alternative to conventional toxic membranes that does not use any toxic chemicals at all in the production process. The membrane can also be made biodegradable and can be added to any kind of garment.
In their Green Alley Award 2021 pitch the founders will reveal how they plan to stand out in the outdoor market.
Your startup is a university spin-off. Why did you decide to turn your academic research into a business? How much support did you get on entrepreneurial aspects?
During Mario’s PhD, the membrane project attracted a lot of media attention as well as possible customers lining up to see where this was going. The idea was that it would be a waste to do nothing about it, from a business point of view but also from a personal development aspect. The idea to create something new with a big potential for sustainability advances was really appealing and we decided to jump in the cold water.
Help from ETH (our university) is strong when it comes to passing from scientist to entrepreneur, financially but also by using offices, labs and equipment. Switzerland in general brings easy access to early non-dilutive funds and help with coaches and support. It’s about giving a start-up a fair chance of success without demotivating the founders by losing too much shares in their first year of existence. Without this system, we would not be where we are right now.
Sustainability becomes more important for brands like Jack Wolfskin or Vaude and they might come up with similar solutions. How will you compete with the big players on the outdoor market?
For the majority, brands do not have the necessary resources and knowledge to develop a brand new technology such as a membrane on their own. They are usually working with innovation by design and rely on manufacturers to bring them new things to try in their collections. We are rather worried about other membrane manufacturers but even in that case, if they are developing sustainable membranes it’s a win for everyone. Brands customers are coming to us in the search of the next big innovation, where they can set themselves apart from each other. They trust our technical background and are usually open to trials and innovations hiccups before we get the perfect solution for them.
What are your next steps? What do you need to replace textiles like Gore-Tex with your membrane?
The high-end functional membrane field is currently led by fluorinated membranes. This polymer constituting the membrane is polluting, firstly, by its production where they use toxic PFCs, secondly, during its product life where during wear & tear, some microplastic could be released and are almost impossible to degrade due to the chemical nature of the material and iii) at its end of life where such a polymer, which is usually used for fire resistance needs to be burned at much higher temperatures. Gore-Tex is one example of a membrane manufacturer, which uses fluorinated polymer. Our next steps is the commercialization of our first fluorine-free membrane and its continuous upscaling to be able to enter bigger collections and the development of our second portfolio product, which will be circular; bio-based and/or biodegradable.
Want to see these six startups with their outstanding circular economy ideas live and ask them some questions? Register now https://greenalleyaward2021.w.tame.events/ and meet our finalists online on 22nd April 2021, 5pm CET.
Source Green Alley Award