Ethiopian plastic upcycling startup Kubik gets new funding and plans to license its technology

Kubik, a plastic upcycling startup, has raised a $1.9 million seed expansion months after announcing an initial equity investment. The startup's latest investment comes from African Renaissance Partners, an East African venture capital firm; Endgame Capital, an investor with a preference for climate change technologies; and King Philanthropies, an investor in climate and extreme poverty.

The new capital comes as the startup scales up its operations in Ethiopia following the launch of its factory in Addis Ababa, where it converts plastic waste into interlocking building materials such as bricks, columns, beams and mullions. Co-founder and CEO of Kubik Kidus Asfawtold JS that the startup plans to double its operations in Addis Ababa as it lays the foundation for pan-African growth from 2025.

Kubik's approach involves upcycling plastic waste into “low-carbon, sustainable and affordable” building materials using proprietary technology, which Asfaw says it will license for faster pan-African and ultimately global growth.

“What we want to do is solve problems for cities and that is why we are thinking about making our business model truly circular. The way we have set up our business strategy is that we are now in the focus phase of proving this model here in Ethiopia. We will expand it to a few more markets to prove the diversity of contexts in which this business model can work. But over time, we actually want to transition to a company that licenses this technology,” says Asfaw, who co-founded Kubik with Kubik. Penda Marre in 2021.

“We think we can really scale up this way. You don't do that by having factories all over the world, but by having this industry adopt a new way of making materials worldwide,” he said.

He said their product allows developers to build walls without the need for cement, aggregates or steel, speeding construction and reducing costs by “at least 40% less per square meter.” Cost is a major barrier in construction and the availability of affordable or cheaper building materials provides a better option for developers of affordable housing projects.

Asfaw said Kubik's materials have passed safety tests by the European standards agency Intertek, which checked, among other things, strength, toxicity and flammability.

“We don't want to sell something that is harmful to humans. We only started selling when these reports were available,” he said.

The startup currently recycles 5,000 kilos (and can process 45,000 kilos at full capacity) of plastic waste per day. It has formed partnerships with companies and the Addis Ababa municipality for a regular supply of plastic waste. In the short term, product diversification into paving stones and flooring materials is being considered.

It is estimated that the world produces 430 million tons of plastic per year, two-thirds of which is for short-term use. It is clear that the world is choking on plastic waste, and while the situation is exacerbated by consumption trends in developed countries, in regions experiencing rapid urbanization and economic growth, such as African citiesPlastic waste is also getting out of hand and requires urgent action. In the coming days, startups like Kubik will play a leading role in providing sustainable solutions to the menace.

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