Australian B-Corp memobottle is taking another step forward in the march towards sustainability, launching a range of stainless steel reusable bottles alongside its plastic range and once again using crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to help fund product development.
Founded by Jonathan Byrt and Jesse Leeworthy in 2014, memobottle makes flat reusable water bottles about the size of a book or a notepad, designed to slip into bags and briefcases without being too cumbersome.
Over the past seven years, the founders say memobottle sales have diverted more than 100 million single-use plastic bottles from the trash, and in 2016, the co-founders even got their bottles included in the gift bags at the Oscars.
For every bottle sold, memobottle donates enough to provide five months of clean water though US not-for-profit water.org. Through that partnership, Byrt and Leeworthy claim memobottle has provided more than 11 million days of clear water, to date, and within the next two years, they expect that impact to double again.
The new stainless steel products come simply as a response to an “undercurrent” of customer demand, which has been there almost from day one, Leeworthy says.
But the new products also follow a rollercoaster of an 18 months for the business.
In a global pandemic and work-from-home world, there’s understandably less demand for reusable bottles, particularly those designed to slot in next to your briefing docs. And, before COVID-19, 70% of menobottle’s revenue came from in-store sales.
At the same time, pandemic has compounded an existing trend towards environmentally conscious purchasing.
“The eco anxiety of society has increased,” co-founder Byrt explains.
“A lot more people are buying more consciously.”
The founders doubled down on their online business, focused on product development and reaching out to their community of customers and backers.
“Over the last couple of months we’ve actually probably found ourselves coming into a better position than what we may have been,” Byrt says.
Now, the co-founders are reaching out to that community to help fund production of the stainless steel range. At the time of publication, the campaign had already passed its initial target of $27,367, with more than $28,000 pledged by over 200 backers.
This is memobottle’s third Kickstarter campaign, following its first foray into crowdfunding in August 2014. That campaign saw Memobottle exceed its $15,000 goal considerably, with 6,118 backers ultimately contributing more than $260,000 in funding.
Its second campaign hit its target of US$30,000 ($40,580) within nine hours, and went on to raise US$137,238 ($186,896).
In 2018, the startup raised another $383,238 via an equity crowdfunding campaign on Birchal, bringing 398 investors on board.
Including follow-on investments, made after the Kickstarter campaigns closed, the founders have raised more than $1 million in crowdfunding for pre-orders, to date.
While Byrt says he doesn’t want to “put a dollar-figure on it to jinx ourselves” in the current campaign, the pair are feeling ambitious in terms of their stretch goal and expect this to be the company’s most successful campaign to date.
When asked why they’re sticking with Kickstarter, rather than going down the venture capital route, or equity crowdfunding again, Leeworthy points to the “very loyal fanbase” the platform has helped memobottle build.
“We’ve essentially been born from crowdfunding,” he explains.
But equally, he says campaigns that see backers pre-order products essentially put the power is in the customers’ hands.
“Kickstarter is like market research at its finest,” he says.
It means if the team designs a product, but would-be customers are not keen, they simply won’t make it.
“It’s a really nice thing to get the customer base involved in the business and the direction of the business and really help us to grow together.”