Spiber, the Japanese biotech company, announced it raised an enormous amount of $312 million in a funding round led by private equity firm Carlyle, as well as fund managers Baillie Gifford and Fidelity.
Spiber’s plans for the funding are to build a US based mass production facility, located in Iowa.
The biotech company forms plant-based polymers through fermentation to create its products, which are also biodegradable and do not depend on crude oil. These polymers can then be used to make vegan versions of fabrics such as spider silk, wool, cashmere, leather, fur, and even tortoiseshell.
Spiber has already participated in some interesting collaborations. At the end of 2020, Spiber and Goldwin, the Japanese sports brand, teamed up to manufacture a line of sweaters that featured its “Brewed Protein”. The Japanese companies had already collaborated in the past to produce parkas using the vegan spider silk. Additionally, Spiber has also partnered with car manufacturer Lexus to make ergonomic seats that are reinforced using Spiber’s vegan silk.
The biotech company is one of a very small number of “unicorns” (startups valued at over $1 billion) in Japan. According to lead investor Carlyle, it would be allocating a significant proportion of its buyout fund to help finance these startups.The company also told Reuters it was planning an IPO, although this will likely not happen for a few years yet.
The company’s press release said this is “Carlyle’s first-ever non-buyout growth investment in Japan. Spiber will be able to fully leverage Carlyle’s global industry experience, sustainability expertise, and network with luxury brands as well as the textile and material industries to accelerate its further growth. Carlyle’s previous investments include sustainability-oriented companies such as Jeanologia and Beautycounter, as well as world-leading apparel brands like Moncler and Golden Goose.”
“We believe we can help them grow their businesses, through M&As and overseas expansions, to an extent they are large enough to debut on the Tokyo bourse’s main board or overseas,” it told Reuters.