The Strange Attractor

Creating Regenerative Materials Economies: A Conversation with Tina Funder from Alt.Leather

November 02, 2023 Co-Labs Australia Season 1 Episode 4
The Strange Attractor
Creating Regenerative Materials Economies: A Conversation with Tina Funder from Alt.Leather
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Imagine a future where materials like leather are sustainable, ethical, and biobased, harming no animals in its production. Imagine a world where your leather handbag could be thrown in your garden at the end of its life, where it could decompose and actively regenerate the soil.

Luckily for us, this vision of an entangled future where nature-grown and human-made collide is closer than you think. (Hat tip to pioneers like Neri Oxman, Materiom and Blue City Lab, biodesign

Join us in discussion with one of our members, Tina Funder, as we explore her journey from the founder of the successful sustainable fashion label Life on Mars through to the founding of Alt. Leather, a next-gen materials startup pushing the boundaries of what is possible with regard to circular, bio-based leather alternatives.  

As successful entrepreneurs know, the path to innovation is filled with countless challenges. Tina shares her experience of fundraising for her startup and outlines the importance of building a strong network along the way. She also shares how narrative can build rapport with investors and why due diligence is crucial before entering partnerships. 

Want to know more about Alt? Here are some links: 





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This experimental and emergent podcast will continue adapting and evolving in response to our ever-changing environment and the community we support. If there are any topics you'd like us to cover, folks you'd like us to bring onto the show, or live events you feel would benefit the ecosystem, drop us a line at hello@colabs.com.au.

We're working on and supporting a range of community-led, impact-oriented initiatives spanning conservation, bioremediation, synthetic biology, biomaterials, and systems innovation.

If you have an idea that has the potential to support the thriving of people and the planet, get in contact! We'd love to help you bring your bio-led idea to life.

Otherwise, join our online community of innovators and change-makers via this link.




Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome to the Strange Attractor, an experimental podcast from Colapse, a transdisciplinary innovation hub and biotechnology co-working lab based in Melbourne, australia. I'm your co-host, sam Wines, and alongside my co-founder, andrew Gray, we'll delve deep into the intersection of biology, technology and society through the lens of complexity and systems thinking. Join us on a journey of discovery as we explore how transdisciplinary innovation, informed by life's regenerative patterns and processes, could help us catalyze the transition towards a thriving future for people and the planet. Hello and welcome to Episode 4.

Speaker 1:

This week we sat down with Tina Funder from Ault Leather. So Ault Leather is a next-gen materials organisation working on a biobased home, compostable circular alternative to leather. So they've been in the lab for geez it feels like probably six months now. It's been such a pleasure watching this project go from ideation to actualisation, from prototype now through to raising her first round of funding. Yeah, I guess it's just super nice for us to be a part of this journey. It's the whole reason why Colapse exists to be able to support impact-oriented innovation. And, yeah, tina's paving the way for the emergence of an Australian biomaterial ecosystem, which is super cool. Anyway, I'll stop talking now and let you enjoy the conversation with Tina Funder. We don't even have to have a formal way of getting into the conversation. We can just start having a chat and sort of see where it goes. This is intentionally more real and less polished than a lot of other conversations.

Speaker 1:

It kind of plays into the living lab, sort of thing. So you find you can also twist this here, so you could pull it over and then twist it so that it can be facing you rather than. Okay, it's definitely more of an art than a science getting these things right. There we go.

Speaker 2:

I think that's fine, isn't?

Speaker 1:

it yeah that's good. I can definitely hear you.

Speaker 2:

So your lady's back.

Speaker 1:

Oh my gosh.

Speaker 2:

Yay.

Speaker 1:

It's just been like three months, so cool. Yeah, no, it was really nice to have her back. It's one of those strange things where it's like faster alone but further together. Like I noticed that I managed to get a lot more done, but I don't know, it just wasn't as fun or nice Not having that other being that you share time and space with was. Yeah, it was noticed. The impacts were noticeable.

Speaker 2:

Definitely. I think, it goes throughout life, in every aspect, work, play, two heads are better than one.

Speaker 1:

Oh, absolutely, it's kind of like that's a really good, I guess, metaphor that we kind of tap into here. It's like harnessing the collective intelligence of a network of bright minds and warm hearts. It's like that's really where the money's at. As a social species, no individual person will have the whole map of the territory. It's kind of like collaboratively and collectively we can figure things out much better than individually.

Speaker 2:

Definitely, I think I'm going to be around myself with experts who are? Way smarter than me, and then you get the benefit of learning too, and I think for curious minds that's a massive factor. I agree.

Speaker 1:

I mean that's like with I don't know if you've met Adrian, yet so we've got a new impact member, adrian, who so he's doing some work with one of my favourite sort of thinkers, daniel Schmuck de Murgere, and so he's interested in. He did climate science and he's interested in global catastrophic risk and how we can try and mitigate things that might be caused due to a changing climate, that might be human caused or not. And how do we kind of address these sort of things? And just having someone who comes from like a applied mathematics background in the space who's interested in the same sort of stuff that we are, like complex adaptive systems, and how do we try and like, I guess, phase shift our operating system away from the linear take-make ways to kind of into a circular, biobased and maybe even regenerative way of being and doing, having people around who so he's totally in the mathematical and the abstract, but in a really beautiful way which it can speak to like what we're interested in from a mathematical point of view, and you're like, oh wow, that's.

Speaker 2:

That makes sense. Yeah, that's rational.

Speaker 1:

You can't argue with that Exactly and it's just really fun and interesting having all of those different mixes of people coming through the space. So, yeah, that's been pretty cool. Anyway, this is. That's very cool. This is meant to be about you. Yeah, shut up, sam, don't throw it onto me. So yeah, look. So I guess the premise behind wanting to sit down and have a chat we've been wanting to have this chat for a while, but I just thought it would be a really good opportunity to, as we were also in the process of working towards creating a biomaterial report and hopefully like a biobased and circular materials innovation hub here in the space. Remind me, I actually have to have a chat with you about. I had a chat with Courtney from ABCH.

Speaker 1:

Oh, yeah, yeah, she was just in before about one of her business ideas. Right, I said I might connect you guys for a bit of a chat because she was super curious just to hear about your journey on the entrepreneurial journey. Because she's just about to look at potentially getting some funding for one of her new ideas like circular solutions. So like circular materials. So essentially, instead of letting dead stock just go to waste, you can just have a marketplace and people will buy that.

Speaker 2:

Well, she's doing that now. Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah.

Speaker 1:

So I was just chatting with her about that and she's like oh, I'd love to have a chat with Tina about that journey because, yeah, it's like you're swimming in like rivers that are both tributaries to the same, like river system.

Speaker 2:

Yes, definitely I'd love to have Tina talk to her.

Speaker 1:

Great. Again another sidetrack thing, but I guess the point of this conversation was we think you're doing awesome things and we'd love for more people to hear about it, and it's a really exciting journey. So, yeah, it'd be really interesting to start somewhere near the beginning. So what is it that inspired you to develop a bi-verse leather alternative company?

Speaker 2:

Yes, very Interesting journey and sort of semi-linear. I was in creative advertising for many, many, many years and I started my own creative consultancy, but always with product development in the back of my mind and I read, I think, in industry news in about 2019 about cactus leather which was being developed out of Mexico, and got really excited about it and that led me down this rabbit hole of sort of investigating the animal leather space and I had, I mean, you don't think. Well, I didn't used to think, when I put on a pair of shoes in the morning, the background to that pair of shoes, I think you sort of just take things for granted, or when you're in your car, you don't sort of think about the little.

Speaker 2:

you think, oh, the leather seats feel nice, but you don't think too much about where they came from. And I was just completely horrified and blown away by how destructive that industry was and I just went. I've got to do something about this, and so I started a handbag label as you do.

Speaker 1:

So that was the first. That was your first reaction was when you found out about so, was that like a, like a peanut text or something of the likes, similar to that? Yeah, and you're like, wow, how is this not being used already?

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And so that was what spurred you on to start LOM.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and at the time there was only maybe one other person I think that I had found in Australia who was using alternative leather textiles and I thought, okay, well, this is, I love this, and I started ordering samples of all these different materials. And then I went down this, started talking to a designer who was ex-MIMCO and she helped me come up with the designs for the bags. And then, before I knew it, I was producing and selling bags.

Speaker 1:

That explains why they're so nice.

Speaker 2:

But I guess part of that journey as well was then doing deeper research into those materials and what they were actually made from, and I discovered quite soon after I'd launched the brand that they aren't probably as good as what we think they are and that this new bi-based leather industry is in a transition phase where there aren't that many that are being made that are completely plastic-free. And I kept thinking oh, pineapple and cactus. In Australia we've got an abundance of these materials. Why is nobody doing anything about this here? And I decided that I'd take it upon myself to then create the material, given how agrich Australia is and how many amazing research institutes and smart people we have on our continent.

Speaker 2:

I thought it has to be possible and started sort of developing a hypothesis with some other people, and here we are now in. Collabs developing our material.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's very exciting. We were so, so happy. I guess when we first reached out, thanks to I think it was Fiona- Kelby, yeah, finn yeah from Kelby, yeah, she's awesome.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, thanks, finn. Shout out to supporting us. Much appreciated. Yeah, so we'd been so fascinated in this space and we couldn't figure out why there weren't anyone in Australia working on this, especially given the fact that we have some pretty like well-renowned designers and like some quite large organisations in this space. It was interesting that there weren't. Yeah, there was no response here in Australia and it was great to see yourself and there's a few other people swimming around in the space. But it's still very early on and like I'm curious to know, like why do you think there isn't much action in this space in Australia?

Speaker 2:

Well, the big one is because there's not that much on ensure manufacturing. So all products are made well, not all. There is a little bit, and furniture is a big one for here. So there's a lot of large furniture companies that are manufacturing onshore, but in terms of smaller accessories and shoes and apparel, most of it happens over in China or India. So I think that's probably one of the reasons. Is that I think people think, well, if we're manufacturing textiles in Australia, they're still probably going to have to be exported offshore to then manufacture the final product. So I think that's probably one of the big reasons. But what we've found in talking to many of the Australian brands is that because, regardless of the fact that they might be manufacturing in India or Bangladesh or China, they're still importing a lot of their materials from other parts of Australia oh sorry, not Australia other parts of the world.

Speaker 2:

So you know, they might get their leather alternative from Mexico, or they might get their. They might be manufacturing in China, but they might source their cotton from India. So it's sort of I mean it's a bit messed up, but it wasn't going to be a barrier for us that we were manufacturing in Australia and they would have to import the material into the end into their product manufacturing location.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, it is interesting to think whether or not this six-continent supply chain is inevitably sustainable long-term Like, given the I guess the shocks that we've been having in the past couple of years with things like COVID or the Russia-Ukraine war, even things like the I think the Suez Canal might be like I feel like the water is lowering and so there's, like all of these things, where there's you know, there's potential kinks in the supply chains across the globe.

Speaker 1:

That kind of is showing us that this globalization thing, yes, it's a great idea, but having a complete reliance on other places to be able to produce things and that no one can produce anything themselves is actually maybe not the best. If you think of it from like an ecological design thinking perspective, it makes sense to be able to do what you can locally and have redundancy built in and like I mean that kind of plays into the sovereign manufacturing capability and everything. But even from like a non-sort of nationalist perspective, we're looking at it as a like oh, we've got to just do and buy within Australia. It also just makes sense from like a carbon footprint and sustainability to be able to manufacture locally using what's at hand rather than something exotic from overseas.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah and that's, and we've thought a lot about the way that we're going to produce and one of the things that we're doing is we're making sure that all of the products or all the inputs that go into our material are available abundantly anywhere in the world. So if we have a modular production line, we ought to pick that up and put it in where the sort of the global manufacturing hubs are. So in.

Speaker 2:

India or China, and we'll still be able to source locally, our ingredients locally. So that's been a huge part of the way that we've been designing our inputs into our material.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's really clever. That's not something that I have actually even had a conversation with you about. So you are trying to think about, like what is a context, independent kind of stream of inputs to be able to make this material so that it can be done locally in some of these regions where a lot of manufacturing is being done.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I mean. The multiple benefits of that are obviously you're not sourcing things from all over the world the whole time, but you're also supporting the local communities where things are being manufactured.

Speaker 1:

It's kind of like a win-win, I imagine as well. There would potentially be quite a lot of agricultural waste that might not be being used fully in these sort of spaces and places as well. So it kind of can be a nice way to maximise the utilisation of resources in like and I guess you could say like a productive form.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and making sure as well that we're not relying on one single supply chain, that we've got interchangeable inputs that we can use as well, so that we're never going to have, you know, if there is a flood in one part of the world that has a devastating effect on that input, that we'll be able to substitute that in for something else. There's a lot of thinking that goes into it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, like a proper, you are taking like a resilience-based perspective to thinking how, how can we be adaptive in like a quite a complex and uncertain environment?

Speaker 2:

which we're currently in Absolutely yeah, in fact it will be beyond just having two or three different sort of options from a supplier perspective. We'll have, you know, potentially 10, up to 10 that are going to form different formulas that will work, that will be interchangeable.

Speaker 1:

Right. So kind of looking at making a like a material palette of the future and having different potential options based on what it might be used for ultimately.

Speaker 2:

I think the end result will be very stable in terms of the quality and durability and aesthetic and all of that kind of thing.

Speaker 2:

But it's more about making sure that we're covered from a supply chain perspective and that we're not reliant on one, one supply, because if that supply is cut, then obviously the whole thing falls apart. So it's just making sure that we've got multiple, multiple suppliers and that the end result is going to be the same. Yeah, and that's designed down to, you know, a molecular level, the chemistry behind what we're doing. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Super exciting. So, on that note, like who's been working on this product in the last little bit? What's been happening in the lab, like we've been watching it slowly develop and grow and evolve, and I feel like where you're at now is really exciting. Yeah, what's it been like for five months? How long?

Speaker 2:

have you been in the lab now? Well, we started, I think, in Feb this year, so I don't know how many months of that?

Speaker 1:

What month were we over in?

Speaker 2:

We're in October, September.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so a little while, but the research has been happening for a number of years.

Speaker 2:

So, and I think you know one thing that probably has meant that we've been able to accelerate as fast as we have is that we did a really deep, deep, deep dive into the, into what was going on in the space, and we analyzed every material and sort of discarded the ones that were doing it the wrong way by, you know, still incorporating plastics, and went okay, if we want to eliminate plastics, what are the, what are the hypotheses that can allow us to do that? We did a lot of research and development on the actual hypotheses before we set foot in the lab and we had a fairly structured design mapped out before we came in and started, and so when we did, we sort of had the backbone of the type of testing that we wanted to, that we wanted to kick off with. And, yeah, I suppose the most exciting recent development is that Twan has joined the team who's?

Speaker 2:

now a lead scientist and he's a material material scientist and a polymer specialist, and he's just a. He's a guru.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I remember sitting in on part of that conversation where we sort of pulled together a presentation. I was like, oh wow, this is. I did not expect this. Like I think it's so exciting when you see people so passionate about what they're doing and and I think as well, like, given his, like, his pedigree and his background and what he was doing, that's a perfect fit for the team.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, worse. Yeah, could not be more excited and he's just such a lovely human as well. But he's, he has in his previous roles. He he's just come from a Vietnamese startup where they were doing 3D, 3d printing to design all kinds of prototypes. I mean he could potentially design this pen, or you know, any any number of different products.

Speaker 2:

But at that startup he also had first hand experience at going into PU and PVC synthetic leather producers and seeing firsthand the the destructive nature of the production of those materials on the health of the people who are working in the factories and part of what he did was help design systems that would actually make their lives safer. Because it was, yeah, it was shocking, and I think that experience was when he saw the job application come up for this. He knew that his expertise would come into play. But he was also really passionate about creating much more sustainable materials from both an ethical perspective but also an environmental perspective. So, yeah, we're really lucky to have him on board.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's, it's so fascinating seeing how pretty much every startup that's come through I guess the CoLab's ecosystem is kind of simultaneously trying to address the social and the environmental at the same time through their sort of impact-oriented innovations. So yeah, it's, it's fascinating to see that like all the all the innovation that's coming through now really is trying to address those and trying not to acknowledging the interwoven, interconnectedness of all of these problems that you can't just like isolate one out or the other out. And acknowledging that from like a wide boundary thinking perspective is that everything is interconnected and interrelated. And it's interesting hearing you speak speaking to this without I don't think we've ever formally spoken about like complexity or systems thinking or anything like that. But it's fascinating to see that these are things that you're integrating sort of intuitively in your organization.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely. And one thing I think that a lot of people love about what we're doing from an Australian perspective is just the fact that we're using agricultural biomass and that then in turn, supports, you know, rural areas of Australia and yeah, and then obviously having a supply chain that's completely transparent. But also in Australia, obviously, our standards of working are really high, so we know that we're going to have fair working environments and that will set the precedent for future production lines that we might have around the world. So, yeah, look, we're really excited to be having to be creating an Australian made product and setting, hopefully, a global benchmark in terms of the material that we're producing, and it'll be secular and it will be beautiful.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think it's really interesting seeing as well all of these circular innovations that are popping up. I can't help but feel like there are a lot of challenges associated with trying to do things circular. Biobased and is your product? Is it also, is it home compostable or is it commercially compostable? Like what are the? Because there's so many words that are thrown around and I guess what I'm saying is like it's really interesting to for I guess people who might not 100% know what the words mean, maybe you could provide some definitions by what you mean by a biobased leather alternative.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so biobased would basically mean that there's, there's, it's, it's all comes from a bio, a space of bio. So there's nothing synthetic in it, there's nothing toxic in it, there's nothing plastic in it it's, it's, it's plant-based, basically everything every single input comes from a plant.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, biodegradable like it's, that's just it's too hard to it changes from continent to continent. There's there's, for example, I think, to be by a biodegradable in Australia, it has to and home compostable. It needs to happen within 90 days. 30 to 90 days, I think it's a certain amount like it's.

Speaker 1:

it doesn't necessarily have to be the whole thing it's so it's all over the place and I can understand why people don't necessarily know what the heck's going on.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

But I think, kind of if I was to pick up on what I'm feeling you're saying the main things are is that you're just trying to make sure that it's, you know, using green chemistry principles as much as possible so that's non-toxic, not harmful, it's made from agricultural waste, so it's circular and biobased and sustainable in the sense in which it is using things that are again it's that circular side of it and then also not using toxic products when you're factoring that in, and then also sustainable from a resilience perspective, like you're trying to make sure that, no matter what happens, you've got the right inputs about a mix together and make it happen.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, even if we do have maybe floods, fires, droughts, all this sort of thing that unfortunately, will be happening more as time goes on.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, but we are, we are. So we're designing for end of life in two ways. So, if, if products do end up in landfill, as you said, there's no, there's nothing toxic in them at all. So when they do eventually break down, it might take slightly longer than if you were to put it in your home compost, like something that was actually home compostable. It's obviously going to take a lot longer to buy a degrade than that, but nothing. There'll be nothing left of it and it won't affect the earth in any way.

Speaker 2:

So, that's, that's one. But we're also designing it so that it can be recycled back into our system. So, for example, if we're, when we're rolling out our material in rolls, if there is scrap that's cut off to the side, we can then recycle that back into our systems. Eventually, we'll have you know. Obviously, in the early days it's going to be really difficult to do. We'll be focused 100% on getting our premium line out. But when people do return products to us, we'll be able to recycle them back into our system, minus the hardware and anything else that might be attached to it. But yeah, so we're designing for recyclability and for biodegradability not within a certain timeframe, but if it does end up in landfill, it will degrade without leaving a trace.

Speaker 1:

Assuming it doesn't have the metal clips and everything still on Hardware we have too much about.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, that'll have to be removed, but yes, so nothing toxic going in and nothing toxic therefore being left behind.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, no, it's really exciting. Like where do you think, like where do you see this going in the next couple of years? Or where do you sort of see yourself in and say another five years?

Speaker 2:

Well, the next couple of years will be we'll start our manufacturing, so we're, by the end of next year, we'll definitely have a commercially viable product, will be sampling with with, hopefully, global brands. We've got great demand and appetite and then, in five years time, we'll be operating at scale. Absolutely, we'll have our first major production line and then the way that our systems are set up is that we'll have, as I mentioned before, modular production systems. So the first line will fund the production of the second line and it's completely demand based, so we'll only scale with demand.

Speaker 2:

If demand goes through the roof, we'll have the opportunity to triple that scale. But, yeah, it's a. It's a very much a module production line, but we're not sort of limited to just producing, producing a leather. Alternative we could. Our mother company mother company name is old materials, so old leather is the first thing that we're focusing on, but it might be old plastics, old silks, old cotton. There's a lot of different ways that we can, that we can go and just be constantly developing and designing new and exciting circular biomaterials.

Speaker 2:

So that's the grand plan.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and so off that. How has the product being received thus far by potential consumers or purchases, or yeah brands yeah, brands, that's the word I was looking for. I'm like, oh gosh, I haven't had enough coffee Very very, very great reception.

Speaker 2:

I think, as you said before we've we're at a really exciting point in the journey in terms of having something that we can actually now take in into these meetings and say, hey, look and feel and touch our amazing production. That generates a lot of excitement, whereas before we didn't have anything that we could. We knew where we were going, but we didn't have anything that we could show. So it's a it's is super exciting. We're getting a lot of momentum and traction from both investors and and potential customers, because they can actually see it and they can touch it and they can feel it and they can look at it and go, oh, my gosh, I can't I actually can't believe that this is not animal leather. This entire, this piece of material is made entirely from plants. So, yeah, it's exciting and you've I mean you've seen the leather grain and and then the crocodile, crocodile pattern, it's, it's pretty amazing.

Speaker 1:

And I think you're right there's, there is something to having an artifact, having something that's tangible, physical, that you can see, touch, smell. Even smell is important with this sort of stuff. Feel like that is so important I mean we to use. I guess what we're doing is an example like we. We definitely had that issue to begin with. People like I get that you're wanting to build a lab, but where's the lab?

Speaker 1:

Well, if you give us the money, we'll make you the lab, and I feel like that is a recurring theme that you hear. So, like you know that last year one of our other members, we managed to get across to H&M for the Global Changemakers Award, so it was the one the early bird prize. Unfortunately, that project hasn't continued on since then. Would still love to make it continue on, but that was one of the main things that people were mentioning over there was a big.

Speaker 1:

I guess you could say like a disconnect on wants and needs from the provider and the supply and the buyer, and just saying that a lot of the issues with these sort of projects is that it might take, as you said, five years to get to scale. People love it, but then they go okay, cool, well, I want like 5000 tons of this tomorrow and no this is.

Speaker 2:

This is what this is. We were just talking about this this morning actually because, now that people can touch it and see it and they get really excited about it because they know that we're doing everything the right way.

Speaker 2:

And there aren't that many materials on the market that are doing it the right way. Everyone sort of just the net the very within 10 seconds. So when can I get a one by one meter piece? And we're obviously developing it lab scale at the moment, so our pieces are more like, I don't know, 15 centimeters by 15 centimeters and what. What people don't realize is to get it up to that next size. There's a whole lot of thinking that goes behind that. It's not just as simple as okay, multiply by 100. It's yeah it, you know somewhat nonlinear.

Speaker 1:

It's like a phase shift in how you have to structure and do what you're doing. It's not you can't just like double the. It's like you don't make a cake by just doubling or quadrupling or 10 x in the ingredients like at scale. These things change in a nonlinear way yeah exactly.

Speaker 2:

Well, you need the starters, you need all kinds of bigger machinery, and then from a consistency perspective at scale, it's much more challenging. And then you know if you're using, say, a compression molding system. To do that at a four size you might only need a ton of weight, but to do that at one by one meter you're going to need 24 tons of weight. I'm just throwing these figures around that they're not legit, by the way, but there's.

Speaker 2:

there's so much more to getting from a lab's lab sort of size piece up to a decent size sampling piece, but that's our focus for the next six months.

Speaker 1:

So, yeah, I was going to say, even though that is a big, let's say, gap to transition from and to from the conversations we've had, that sort of, as you said, that's kind of what you're working on right now, and is that something Twine was actually actively working on in the lab in terms of, like, pulling together a pitch of like oh, here's what we need, here's how we get there and here's what we can offer.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so Twine and I talk a lot about timelines where it's constantly sort of mapping out timelines, and and there is two key things that we need to focus on in parallel, and one is designing the chemical formulations so that they're as sustainable as possible, but also so that they're fit for the actual production of them. So, depending on the production systems that you put in place, the chemical formulation will be different. So it's quite a complex thing that needs to work side by side. So, yeah, we're sort of will have multiple meetings throughout the week to talk about okay, this is what we're thinking right now, but that might change next week or it might be slightly different next week, depending on the results of the chemical formulations that are happening in the lab. So, but we are definitely designing the formula for a certain style of production.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so taking on like an iterative design approach, where you're just constantly it's like evolutionary you know you're constantly tweaking and adjusting and striving towards getting at the best you can to that next level, without actually having the next level of infrastructure to support that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So what we do pre-pilot will be probably completely different to what we do in pilot. The formulation won't change because we will have designed it in such a way that it'll work for both of those phases. Yeah, it's complex.

Speaker 1:

It's always complex. It's just part of. I mean, you're moving so fast, right, like to see how quick it's grown, and I know for you, like behind the scenes, it has been a challenging sort of period to navigate, but like you wouldn't know from the outside, like you've done such a good job of holding it all together and pulling it together and growing the team, yeah, it's really exciting seeing you know where you've come from and where you're at now, and now that you're kind of looking for some to raise additional funds to try and get it to that next scale. So would you like to touch on that a little bit? Oh, the raise process.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, how's that been.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's been really good, I think because I have been on this journey for quite a number of years now.

Speaker 2:

I've got people in my direct network, so we've been sort of following along with interest and have seen how hard we've been working at it and are really interested in supporting that. So that's been amazing. And then I would just say that the startup community in Melbourne is an incredible community and I also applied for a number of accelerator programs and through those accelerator programs I've had mentors who are also now potentially going to come on as angels. So we're literally about to open this first raise within the next week. We've got, we've had so exciting.

Speaker 2:

So exciting. We've had, I think, about four or five investor meetings and, yeah, the response has just been overwhelmingly supportive and, yeah, I just feel the network and that's probably one thing that I would say to anyone who is thinking about starting something is just make sure that you have network is everything. Making sure that you've got really strategic players in place for every part of the journey that you're going to be going on, and making sure that the investors that you're talking to are going to be able to add value, just beyond giving you money, because you want people on your team, or an extension of your team, who, yeah sure they're helping you with funds but, more importantly, they can help you with advice for each of those stages that you're going to go through, because every stage is completely different and, yeah, and overwhelming.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that reminds me of I think it's just like basic principles of biomimicry, Insofar as you just you never want to have anything that's only fit for one purpose. You kind of like multifunctionality is essential, and it kind of seems like that is a something that even applies to these sorts of relationships that you're talking about from a finance sort of side of things. It's like yeah, it's great if someone can give you the money, but wanting to make sure that there's other ways in which they can maybe qualitatively contribute.

Speaker 2:

That isn't necessarily just money. Absolutely, and I'm yeah, I guess that's one thing that I think we've done really well is set up those people so that when I've got a manufacturing question I can just go oh, you know, so-and-so, I've got this. What do we do about?

Speaker 2:

you know, I had a conversation with an amazing mentor on Friday about manufacturing and he was just giving me the insights of how to lay out the manufacturing process in a way that is really appealing for investors, so that you can sort of walk them through it, rather, and give them a really clear visual of how it's all going to work, rather than just sort of being a 2D on paper or just a description. Making sure that they've got a visual way of taking it away so that they can go with them, so that they'll think about it and go oh, wow, yeah, cool.

Speaker 2:

So that piece of machinery is where my funds are going to go, but sort of doing that for the machinery but then also doing it for the chemistry, and doing it first so that people can actually get excited, just like they do when they pick up your material.

Speaker 1:

So is that something that you've been doing with, because I know that you send out regular updates to, I guess, your network and is that sort of a place where you do keep that? So it's kind of like an ongoing narrative of what you are and what you're doing, and you're saying that you've found that is an incredibly valuable way of building that rapport with people who have invested and who might potentially look at investing.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, definitely. That's been a great way. And as soon as we started showing visuals of what we were doing, everybody got really excited, because before that it was just words on paper and people going oh it sounds like a great idea, but what are they really doing? And now they can see photos of our team in the lab and they can see the outputs and they can see the wallets that we're making and all of a sudden it's getting really real. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, is there any milestones that have sort of happened recently that you're super proud of?

Speaker 2:

Yes, I think it was. Well, I think, andrew, you might have over been there too, sam, but when we pulled the piece of material out of, you know, the first embossed piece of material out of the oven, and we all just went, oh my God, it looks like leather, like it's. We've actually We've done it. This is amazing. That was, you know, the most exciting by far. And then I think having Twan on board is really exciting.

Speaker 2:

But I've got to say, because we are moving at pace and because every week really is so different I think there's incredible rewards on a weekly basis that, yeah, you know, whether it's a new conversation you've had with someone completely new, or whether it's a new development in the lab, you know, I was down this morning and Twan said hey, you know, come and check this out, look what happened overnight. And it's a new little bit of progress that has happened overnight just by switching out one of the inputs, and it's, you know, potentially stepped us forward another couple of weeks overnight. So yeah, I think we're creating, we're inventing something new and every week is completely different. And you know, I was in with one of the major fashion groups last week and there came to locking a partnership. So then that just spurred you on and you go, wow, okay, every day is different, every week is different, so it's just an exciting time.

Speaker 1:

Nice, that was actually going to be one of my next questions Do you have any prospective partners lined up? But I guess it's probably a bit tight-lipped.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we can't really talk about them. Most of you know, we've spoken to probably over 35 of Australia's leading brands and we have qualitative interviews with all of them, so we work through what their requirements look like and how we can basically create the best material for them to use and learn all about their production processes, the types of volumes that they would be needing us to produce to make it a meaningful partnership, and so we've had lots of those amazing conversations and we're starting to now look at international partners as well. So, yeah, lots of learning and lots of exciting opportunities. On the horizon.

Speaker 1:

Ah, so cool. This is a I wouldn't call it a curveball, but like it's probably a hashtag real talk moment. Is there anything that you think you would have done differently on your journey, or are you kind of happy with the way it's all panned out?

Speaker 2:

I'm happy with the way everything is panned out, but it hasn't been easy.

Speaker 1:

It's like whatever it is when you're trying to do zero to one.

Speaker 2:

When you're trying to set a new global standard and invent something new? I would. I am a very impulsive person and I often say and this is something that I've learnt about myself over the last year I probably always knew that it was there, but I've learnt it firsthand.

Speaker 1:

It's hard when your shadow side is a positive trait, it's much harder to notice the shadow sides of it.

Speaker 2:

I would say so what I've realised that I do is I say yes, yes, yes, yes. People please, people please yes yes, yes, yes, yes, until I'm in this massive kind of yes hole, and then I have to kind of sounds like the opposite of abundance.

Speaker 2:

Find my way out of it. And the problems with that. Well, the major problem with that is that I think once you're in that yes hole, sometimes you have to hurt feelings and, you know, mend things to get out of it. So you think at the time that saying yes is helping the person or making everybody happy, but in actual fact it ends up maybe having a really negative effect.

Speaker 1:

It can be worse in the long term.

Speaker 2:

So I think I was saying this to you the other day, sam, but my new mantra is leave it with me, leave it with me, we'll think about it and then actually do the proper due diligence to you know, to make sure that if, for example, it's going to be a working partnership, or you're adding someone new to the team, or that you actually that it is the right fit and it has to be the right fit for both people and you're not just saying yes because you want to make them feel good at the time, like you know, you need to really do the due diligence and work through and take it really seriously, because this is you know a 10, 15-plus year journey that you're on and you have to trade it like a marriage and make sure that, yeah, it's going to work for everybody, that everybody's going to be happy, and, of course, during that long period things are going to change and there's going to be ups and downs, but you don't want it to backfire within the first, you know, a couple of months, because it's an expensive process to go through and it's you know it's a hard one to fill.

Speaker 2:

I suppose the space that someone exiting leaves but, also. Yeah, I don't know, it's just you just do the due diligence before you enter into something that's Serious, I suppose.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and it's so much easier said than done, depending on where you're at and what's going on in the organization, especially as a startup, and you might have your attention pulled in multiple different directions. It's like finding a way to align, like the intellect, the ego and the heart is not an easy Trinity to find, like a common center of gravity or balance between and it's. I think it's an ongoing and continual process for everyone.

Speaker 2:

So definitely, especially when you're someone like me. You think everybody's amazing. Oh, my god, you're amazing yourself.

Speaker 1:

All my problem the golden retriever approach to startups. It definitely works, though I must say.

Speaker 2:

We're doing okay.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so on that note, as well as any other advice that you might provide to other people like, probably honestly one of the most common things that we've had startups and students coming through, as they are, especially from RMIT, is a very interested in you know, next-gen materials, whether that's mycelium or. We've got a group, agus group, who are looking at using bull rush to make a non-woven fiber. What advice would you give to these people, whether it's students or Just anyone in general, who are trying to get into this space? Is there anything that makes this different to say I don't know a normal startup, whatever that means?

Speaker 2:

I think in, I think just in general, starting any kind of business, yeah, you have to find I know this sounds really cliche and cheesy, but it has to be purpose driven. There has to be something deeper than just going oh, I want to, I want to create this new thing and make lots of money. And you know it has to have a deeper purpose. It has to find. You have to be driven by something that's not just surface, because you are gonna have some really, really, really shit days when you feel like how am I gonna be able to keep going, how can I get out of bed and keep going and keep doing this? Like I've lost all motivation and if you don't have that deeper sense of purpose attached to whatever you're trying to achieve, you probably won't get out of bed, you probably won't continue it.

Speaker 2:

But in all seriousness, like you know what I mean, oh, I do have to be bigger than just I want to be rich and famous and start this thing and it's gonna be really cool, like it really has to. It really has to. You have to feel it in your bones. Basically, and I think for me, climate is that you know, and I've grown up being a very outdoorsy person and I've traveled the world and hiked to some pretty remote places in the Andes and the Rockies and you know, the Amazon jungle, and it is, I Guess it's sort of forms who I am and it's a really big part of who I am, and I think protecting that environment is massively important to me and that's the thing that kind of keeps me going.

Speaker 2:

And you know, something, shit will happen and I'll go oh my god, this is so hard. Like, how am I gonna get? I can't do this by myself, there's too much pressure, it's just crazy. And then you just take a step back and you you hook back into that purpose and it's what keeps you going. So, and I think, also, people, a Really I'm a real people person and I'm I love working with smart people who are, who are passionate about things, and I think that's something that you and Andrew have created here at collabs. That makes such an incredible environment to work in is that it's a. It's a it's a little ecosystem of really smart, passionate people who are all sort of, I suppose, focused on the same end goal, and being a part of that is a really special thing. And, yeah, I'm trying and I would talking about that just a couple of days ago to Love working here.

Speaker 2:

It's just, you know, it's a really great place to be, so.

Speaker 1:

Oh, thank you. Yeah, it's um, it's definitely intentional. I think I love Brian. He knows way of describing I don't have. You've heard of the term seniors. No it's a genius of place.

Speaker 2:

Oh right.

Speaker 1:

So, rather than genius being locked within an individual which, yes, obviously it can like, yeah, einstein, oppenheimer, I don't know why I'm only going with physicists- one twine.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, right Like there is these lone wolf geniuses that can kind of like do everything and and whatnot, but the collective intelligence that comes with a Community that has a certain culture, I think there's. There's something really strong in that. I know, like teach Nahan was like one of his Famous quotes was like the next Buddha will be the song and and and the song of being the community that surrounds the spiritual teachings. I think it's kind of take that approach for innovation. It's like the, it's collectively we need to be cultivating an ecosystem of Responses to our times. I wouldn't say solutions, because a lot of the time the solutions end up being the problems of the future. But that's for another time.

Speaker 1:

But yeah, it's like we need to be bringing together people to come up with these ideas and innovations and and through having other Bright minds and warm hearts around, that is actually the really generative like that's, that's where the money happens. It's it's the engineers, serendipity or the things that happen just because and you hadn't like it wasn't yeah, I thought you make that happen. You can only Create the conditions to allow that to emerge. Yeah, and it's been pretty crazy Having that as the intention and then it actually happens.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we've done a great job at that. I mean the number of times that someone's walked past, and you know, we've. We've been trying to solve a problem and They've said, oh, have you thought about this? And you go oh, I thought about that, but we will now. Because, yeah, I think I think, as you say, having a whole bunch of people who are focused on the same end goal, who can sort of help each other along the way.

Speaker 1:

Hmm, yeah, engineering, serendipity is what we call it, but yeah, it's exactly that. It's like we're all. We're all trying to strive towards Supporting and raising social foundations or bringing us within planetary boundaries so that we can, you know, let life continue on this planet. And I think that having that as the thing that, and knowing that, oh cool, magic Valley is doing that through cultivated meat, you know, we all you've got Tina, we're doing that through materials, and then we've got other people who are doing it through improving fertility for females. Like there's all of these different ways in which people are showing up and contributing to impact-oriented innovation and, yeah, just having a space where other like-minded people are around, but still diverse and different. So it's like I know that the, the overlapping of ecosystems is where you get the most Biodiversity, and that's why I was sort of so interested in having so many different people from different disciplines working on things. Hence the transdisciplinary, because that's where cool things happen, like I know Jacob from Magic Valley was helping you with, like he has helped us a lot.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, Jacob is a legend.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we've done. We've done laser, we've done Molding, we've done all kinds of stuff together. He's taught me even how to sew you leather stitching, really yes. He has, I have. I have hand stitched our first laser-cut leather Wallet prototype using Jacob's technique nice.

Speaker 1:

Is that that little? The credit card one that I've seen Stitching? Yeah, that's beautiful.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's great, that was Jacob. Thanks, jacob.

Speaker 1:

Oh, what a legend. He says that he just doesn't like humans. But I don't believe him like he's such a helpful.

Speaker 1:

Exactly, I just don't like people. I'm like, yes, you do. You, you're a closet, nice person. Stop trying to pretend that you don't like humans. No, it's been, it's been and that's this is. This is the thing, this is what's so fun about this space is like, Like I've said to you before, as I, like Andrew and I, we kind of came to the realization that we couldn't like do everything, or it's like we're not going to change the world, but collectively, if you bring enough people together, it's pretty amazing what can happen.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I agree yes.

Speaker 1:

Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?

Speaker 2:

Hmm.

Speaker 1:

I don't really mind, I'm kind of. I'm kind of good, like, if you want to, if you want to jam out on anything else, I'm sure we can throw something in the mix. But um, yeah, I'm also Happy if you want to call, it's up to you.

Speaker 2:

Well, we did just end on saving the world, so that was a pretty good note to end on.

Speaker 1:

Okay, I guess.

Speaker 2:

I guess the only other thing is obviously we are raising so oh yeah cool. If anyone is interested, please feel free to reach out Tina at alt leather Dot com. Great, I should say.

Speaker 1:

Oh, good, good, yeah, well, um, we'll throw some details in the show notes If we end up getting them. I feel like everyone says that, so I just feel like saying it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, podcast. Well, we'll put it in the show notes.

Speaker 1:

Um, yeah, it'll be me putting it together, though it won't be someone else. Like every other podcast actually has people on the team doing things. It's just all me and Andrew, um, but yeah, so we'll pull that together and we'll get some content out. So Thanks so much for dropping in and giving us some of your time. I know that time is scarce for you, so I appreciate Every minute of it. Thanks for having me, no worries, see ya, see ya, yeah. Thanks so much for listening to another episode of the strange attractor. Um, yeah, if you, which means this podcast will continue to adapt and evolve as we strive to make more space, both physical and digital space, available To support the bright minds and warm hearts that are working on bio led design and innovation. Anyway, thanks for listening. Uh, more podcasts will be coming out shortly with the rest of our members. Please do feel free to get in contact if you want to say hello or join our community, and I'll see you here next time. The strange tracked out.

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