EQUO, the Asian and female-founded sustainable startup, announced on Tuesday they just raised $1.3M after completing the seed round led by NextGen Ventures with participation from Techstars and East Ventures. Angel investors also took part in the round including Luke Vigeant of Shed Capital, Jeff Hohner of Tecumseh Capital, Jack Tai of OneClass, Mark Groves of Mine’d, and Dimple Mukherjee.
EQUO intends to use the funds to expand its product line further, develop technical capabilities to scale the business quickly and increase the brand's global awareness and exposure.
Vietnamese Canadian Marina Tran-Vu founded the idea of EQUO in 2019 and officially launched it a year after. She got EQUO’s name from a wordplay of eco and status quo — the idea of creating products with minimal impact on the environment. Her approach to addressing UN Sustainable Development Goal #12 is to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
EQUO’s goal is to disrupt the industry by offering solutions that are easy and convenient to use and won’t require consumers to change their lifestyles or behavior. At EQUO, they're about providing small solutions that have a big impact.
According to Marina, recycling or upcycling single-use plastic is not the best way for us to make an impact; stopping its production altogether is. “EQUO will help do that by offering products made from alternative materials,” she said. “But doing it in a fun and approachable way gets consumers, businesses, and big corporations to pay attention.”
Jimmy Quach, CEO of NextGen Ventures, believes EQUO is a purpose-driven company with a clear mission to rid the world of single-use plastic and give consumers options that better protect the environment. “NextGen is pleased to support Marina and her team in their trailblazing effort to drive her sustainability mission with reach and scale,” he said.
Sunil Sharma, managing director of Techstars Toronto, expressed his confidence that the vision driving EQUO is exactly what the world needs at this time, “and what attracted us was the incredible drive and ambition of the founder.” He added that “Marina has the rarest combination of CPG brand experience, alongside global marketing savvy that is seldom seen in the sustainability space.”
Convincing people by saying, “the planet is going to die,” is no longer effective, or at least unlike before. That explains why EQUO does things differently — “focus on delivering simple and easy products and make sustainability attractive to learn about and fun to actually practice,” Marina told Vietcetera in a previous interview.
Global ambassador + new product line
What started as an eco-straw brand has now expanded to a whole new level — enter a new global brand ambassador and more comprehensive sustainable product options.
Professional golfer and entrepreneur Michelle Wie West is EQUO’s new global brand ambassador. Michelle and Marina first met and secured a deal on the TV show Front Office, by the first-ever athlete-owned media network, Players TV.
As a fellow Asian woman, Michelle is thrilled to be on this journey with Marina and the EQUO team. "I was so happy to meet Marina and experience first-hand her passion and unique vision for making sustainable solutions easy, convenient and exciting!”
Michelle is a mother of a 21-month-old baby girl, and having EQUO straws and utensils that are safe for the baby and the environment makes her more excited for their future adventures.
“I believe sustainability and wellness go hand in hand, and being an advocate for building a more green future for generations to come is a cause that is near and dear to my heart, so partnering with EQUO was a perfect fit,” reads Michelle’s statement in the press release.
Marina also shares the same elating emotion saying Michelle is an impeccable entrepreneur driven by their shared goal of a more sustainable future. “Michelle is a pioneer for women and the Asian community in professional sports, and with her as our partner, we can see EQUO becoming the sustainable brand of choice for golf clubs, resorts, sports stadiums, and sporting events around the world,” she said.
After two years of operation and a year in the market, EQUO is finally expanding to provide more sustainable solutions with the same vision: “to replace all single-use plastic on the planet.”
“We are excited about the new products we are delivering this year to show the world all the things we can do WITHOUT single-use plastic and (in some cases) paper,” Marina said. “EQUO has since added to its portfolio, announcing an upcoming line of utensils made of coffee and wood, sugarcane food containers and cups, reusable totes, and compostable bags for grocery, retail, and home use.”
While investors and a new global ambassador support EQUO as a partner in producing sustainable materials, the female-led startup was recently recognized and named one of nine winners of the UNOPS S3i Innovation Center Sweden Global Challenge and a Top 18 Finalist in the Ending Plastic Pollution Innovation Challenge by the UNDP.