Reddit co-founder and Atomico VC invest in $11.5M funding round of this female-led climate tech startup

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Vaayu, a real-time carbon footprint tracker for retailers, has closed an $11.5 million seed funding round led by Atomico. The round also saw a follow on from the female-led VC, CapitalT and participation from Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s firm Seven Seven Six, along with a select group of angel investors including Cristina Stenbeck, Chairperson of the Zalando Supervisory Board and non-Executive Director of Spotify and Bryant Chou, co-founder and CTO of Webflow. As part of this round of investment, Atomico Partner Terese Hougaard will join Vaayu’s board, making it 75% female. 

The company plans to use the investment to double down its expansion and product development ahead. Vaayu is on a mission to help the retail sector reduce its carbon footprint, which is currently responsible for 20% of all global emissions – more than international flights and the maritime industry combined. The Berlin-based climate tech will continue to serve a range of emerging retail use cases and is developing models to address the changing commerce landscape, including recommerce and deadstock.

“At Atomico, we like to partner with today’s boldest founders to solve the future’s biggest challenges. Nam and Luca’s vision for Vaayu, to build a platform that enables retailers to view and reduce their carbon emissions in real-time, combined with their deep retail sector expertise, was a perfect fit for us and we are looking forward to supporting them on their next stage of growth,” said Atomico Partner, Terese Hougaard. 

“Retailers’ ability to quickly and confidently respond to the climate crisis has to-date been hampered by low-quality data that takes a long time to compile, and even longer to action, but with Vaayu the retail industry as a whole is now able to make considerable reductions to its carbon footprint.”

This is the second investment the female-founded startup has attracted in eight months, taking the total seed amount raised to $13 million. 

The Vaayu story

Vaayu was born in Covid, out of co-founder Namrata Sandhu’s experience in fashion and sustainability. Starting as a sustainability consultant, she spent many years working in the Arcadia Group before becoming head of sustainability at Zalando. She started Vaayu in December 2020 and rapidly progressed to more than 50 customers, including brands like Wunderman Thompson Commerce, where Vaayu powers its newly established Sustainable Commerce Practice, as well as Berlin-based unicorn SellerX, Astrid & Miyu and Missoma.

Previously, calculating a retailer’s carbon footprint was a laborious and expensive process. Although many other retailers resorted to hiring external consultants for an annual process, Sandhu had been responsible for these. The consequence was that businesses would have a carbon accounting statement already out of date when it was produced.

Vaayu changes the calculation, using live data to provide immediate feedback. By integrating with point-of-sale systems, like Shopify or WooCommerce, it can understand the current business volumes and, using available information on logistics and operations — right down to the packaging required — give a current indication of the retailer’s carbon footprint. Live information has significant benefits; retailers can immediately see the consequences of their actions and see what impact purchasing trends have and, if necessary, work to minimise their environmental impact.

Reducing carbon emissions by 50%

The UN has set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, less than nine years away. Retailers are the third-largest contributor to global emissions, and Vaayu plans to play a big role in helping them reduce that. Their goal is to help retailers reduce their emissions by one gigaton — more than the combined annual emissions of France and Germany — meaning that for Vaayu success not just a growing business, but a better world for everyone.

Namrata Sandhu, CEO and co-founder, Vaayu, said: “We have just nine years to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and as one of the industries with the largest global carbon footprint, the retail sector is facing mounting pressure from all sides. If the sector continues to grow at its current rate, modest predictions suggest that emissions will surge by more than 50% by 2030. This simply cannot become a reality. 

“There is no shortage of funding for climate tech startups so it was particularly important to us to find an investor whose values, approach, understanding of the sector and vision aligned with Vaayu’s. Atomico fits the bill in every way and we look forward to working together to cement Vaayu’s position as the go-to carbon reduction platform for the retail sector.”

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