Some of Australia’s most high profile investors have jumped on board the Who Gives A Crap train as it raises capital for the first time, securing $41.5 million in the process.
The toilet paper startup, founded by Simon Griffiths, Jehan Ratnatunga and Danny Alexander, intends to deploy the funds toward scaling the business, enabling it to expand its social impact as a result.
The company’s first-ever funding round was backed by tech billionaire Mike Cannon Brookes via his investment vehicle Grok Ventures, Verlinvest (whose Executive Director, Raphael Thiolon, will be joining the Who Gives A Crap Board), Craftory, JamJar Investments, Airtree Ventures, and Giant Leap.
Joining them is an array of strategic investors who will help drive the company’s mission of doing good, including former Unilever CEO Paul Polman (via Manatu Partners) and founders from Adore Beauty (Kate Morris and James Height), Culture Amp (Didier Elzinga and Doug English) and Canva (Cameron Adams).
The round was also supported by a handful of Australia’s best athletes via Athletic Ventures from Basketball, Cricket, AFL and Soccer, including Matthew Dellavedova, Mitchell Starc, Alyssa Healy, Nat Fyfe, Josh Kelly, Matt de Boer and Stefan Mauk.
It comes just a month after Who Gives a Crap reached a major milestone, having donated more than $10 million to date to improve global sanitisation.
According to co-founder Griffiths, the money will help Who Gives A Crap scale so it can continue to donate funds to ensure access to clean water for the 2 billion globally who are still drinking from water sources contaminated by human waste.
“We’ve been self-funded since the beginning, which is incredibly unusual for a high-growth startup. Most startups take funding and operate while losing money until the business gets bigger and hopefully becomes profitable,” Griffiths said.
“Because we were donating half of our profits, we wanted to be profitable as quickly as possible to make donations and prove that our business model could work.
“We’ve had to grow very carefully, taking small, calculated steps to ensure we’ve always been able to make a substantial annual donation to our charity partners. With this investment, we can make some bigger bets to grow the business while ensuring our donations have the biggest impact in the long run.”
Griffiths said he wanted to ensure the investors brought on board fit three specific criteria: they had to support the company’s mission, they had to be in it for the long haul, and they had to have experience and expertise the startup could learn from.
“We’re really proud that our new investors check all of these boxes,” Griffiths said.
“So what are we doing with the money? A lot of business-y stuff that we’re still working out. But what we can tell you is that we’ll be entering new countries, making more products, scaling our sustainability initiatives and finding new ways to help our community make a positive impact on the world. All while reaching our goal of toilets and clean water for everyone faster than we’d ever thought possible.”
Ben Black of Verlinvest, the leader of the raise, said Who Gives A Crap’s model of giving back was what the firm is looking for in a partner.
“We invest behind global brands and entrepreneurs driving long-term shifts in consumer behaviour, and believe that enterprise should be a force for good, playing a role in shaping society,” Black said.
“Who Gives A Crap’s ethos and model is exactly what excites us about building a more sustainable business ecosystem. Simon and his team have developed a profitable, consumer-centric business model enabling growth at scale, intrinsic to which is driving a mission to give everyone access to clean water and sanitation – whilst leading the shift away from deforesting virgin paper products.
“We’re excited to support the Who Gives A Crap’s team in accelerating internationally, and setting an example for other disrupting brands to offer consumers ethical solutions to today’s most significant problems.”
Atlassian co-founder Cannon-Brookes echoed Black’s sentiment.
“Who Gives A Crap is an impressive Aussie underdog story,” Cannon-Brookes said.
“Simon and his team have taken something so simple - toilet paper - and turned it into an impactful business, both socially and environmentally.
“I hope other entrepreneurs are inspired by their story of building a profitable, fast growing business that is also environmentally sustainable.”
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