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Ecoinno co-founder and CEO George Chen Dah Ren. Photo credit: Ecoinno

Alibaba invests $6m in Hong Kong plant packaging startup Ecoinno

May 8, 2020

Ecoinno – a producer of packaging made from plant fibers – has raised $6 million in ‘Series A1’ funding from Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund and Alibaba Taiwan Entrepreneurs Fund II.

The Hong Kong-based startup will use the funds to expand production of its proprietary biocomposite – green composite material (GCM) – to industrial scale.

It will also ramp up its research and development activities around consumer packaging products – currently the main application for GCM – and will seek to increase “consumer green awareness.”

Ecoinno’s GCM – which it claims to have patented –  is produced from plant fibers, which it says are “the most abundant, renewable, and naturally occurring polymer on Earth.”

The startup says that GCM is tolerant of temperature extremes, meaning it is suitable as a container for frozen foods and hot coffee, or even for reheating food in an oven. It also claims that GCM is water-resistant and oil-resistant with oxygen impermeability “on a par with even metal,” while passing US Food & Drug Administration standards as being free of toxins – further underlining its suitability as an F&B packaging material.

As for its ‘green’ credentials, GCM completely biodegrades in the natural environment within 75 days. Ecoinno also claims the material has three times the tensile strength of standard plastics and bioplastics, which GCM is in competition with.

Founded in 2015 by Hong Konger George Chen Dah Ren and Taiwanese Vivian Chang – now CEO and chief operating officer, respectively – Ecoinno wants to offer consumers and businesses a ‘third way’ between traditional plastics derived from petroleum, and bioplastics – many of which are produced from “non-naturally occurring polymers” and therefore may require intensive industrial processes to be produced.

“This new funding puts us solidly on the first step towards realising our vision of creating a sustainable, circular economy by delivering [our] products to our environmentally focused clients,” Chen said in a statement.

Edward Liu, partner at WI Harper Group – which manages Alibaba Taiwan Entrepreneurs Fund II on behalf of the Chinese tech giant – said the investor was “won over by the vision and passion of George, Vivian, and their team to tackle single-use plastics pollution – one of the most pressing environmental challenges globally today.”

“We believe that the functional and commercial attributes of [their] products represents a paradigm shift” he added.

Ecoinno previously received grant funding from Hong Kong’s Innovation & Technology Commission and was incubated by Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks.

The startup was one of the five winners of Alibaba’s Jumpstarter Global Pitch Competition earlier this year.

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