Tree-free toilet paper startup
Cloud Paper, the Seattle-based makers of tree-free toilet paper, has attracted a host of high-profile investors and raised $3 million in a seed funding round.
Months after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, when Americans emptied store shelves of essential products, Cloud Paper says it has added thousands of U.S. households. The year-and-a-half-old startup has seen an 800% increase in signups for its sustainable toilet tissue made from bamboo and shipped directly to consumers’ homes.
The success has attracted big-name money, too. Greycroft led the round and celebrity investors including Mark Cuban, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary (Sound Ventures), and Hadi Partovi (Code.org) chipped in.
“The most important criteria during fundraising was finding investors and advocates who are passionate about building a tree-free paper movement with us,” said Austin Watkins, who co-founded the startup along with Ryan Fritsch. The two University of Washington grads previously worked together at Seattle trucking technology company Convoy and at Uber.
Cloud Paper says Americans throw away a billion trees worth of paper products every year, and each American will use more than 100 trees worth of disposable paper products, like toilet paper, in their lifetime. Deforestation contributes to climate change and sustainability is the mission at Cloud Paper. The company, which also uses plastic-free packaging, announced in August that it has saved and offset over 1 million pounds of carbon through customers switching to its renewable bamboo TP, and through the Carbon Fund.
During the pandemic, the startup learned key lessons about staying focused on its mission and prioritizing operations. They offered payment grace periods for small businesses, which included many of the team’s favorite restaurants and bars in the Seattle area. Cloud Paper also donated 10,000 rolls of TP to food banks and shelters.
“The importance of owning crucial aspects of [our] supply chain became abundantly clear,” said Tori Kiss, head of operations. “We made the decision to own our operations, warehousing, and fulfillment in-house from the start. This became a critical lever as we shifted priorities from B2B customers to thousands of new household deliveries.”
The $3 million makes up Cloud Paper’s total funding to date. Along with Watkins, Fritsch and Kiss, the four-person team includes operations coordinator Neha Salgaonkar, and there are plans to hire more people.
“This raise allows us to more quickly drive meaningful environmental change and reset the status quo of the multi-billion-dollar paper industry,” Fritsch said.