Oversubscribed funding round gives OLIO impetus to take an even bigger bite out of food waste

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

OLIO has created a community of over five million people around the world who give away unwanted but still nutritious food to neighbours for free rather than binning it. Pic: GettyImages/RyanJLane
OLIO has created a community of over five million people around the world who give away unwanted but still nutritious food to neighbours for free rather than binning it. Pic: GettyImages/RyanJLane

Related tags: OLIO, Food waste, VNV Global, Lugard Road Capital, Series B funding round, Tesco, app

OLIO – the community sustainability app used to give away unwanted food to neighbours for free – has announced a $43m Series B round, led by Swedish investment firm VNV Global and New York-based hedge fund Lugard Road Capital, among others.

Founded in 2015, OLIO today boasts a community of over five million conscious consumers in over 50 countries – half of whom are based in the UK – who have joined to fight to stem the $1.3 trillion thrown away in food waste each year. The mission also centres around helping people to consume more locally, thus reducing their environmental footprint.

OLIO is the brainchild of Tessa Clarke, who struggled to find anyone to take the unwanted food from her fridge when she was moving home. Since its launch with cofounder Saasha Celestial-One, the app has enabled OLIOers to share over 25 million portions of food – an environmental impact equivalent of taking 75 million car miles off the road, a saving of 3.8 billion litres of water and preventing 22k tonnes of CO2 ​equivalent emissions.

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Reflecting the global mind change

The latest fundraiser saw existing stakeholders VNV Global and Lugard Road Capital become major investors, supported by further funds from Accel, Octopus Ventures and Rubio, along with personal input from tech entrepreneur and chair of Grimsby Town football club Jason Stockwood and politician Lord Waheed Alli.

US-based Alumni Ventures, Flight Ventures and DX Ventures also join as strategic investors to accelerate OLIO’s international plans. After a year of rapid growth in the UK, OLIO plans to extend its presence across the world, focusing on 10 key markets in Latin America, Northern Europe and Asia, targeting one billion OLIO users by 2030.

“OLIO has grown five times over the last year, reflecting a step change that’s taken place as businesses and citizens look to be more sustainable and connect with their local communities,”​ said Clarke.

According to OLIO, its Goals – like Tinder for sustainable living – has seen its users complete almost one million goals to help save the planet.

“We’re beyond thrilled to have raised this capital from a brilliant set of investors who are backing our vision of reinventing consumption for more than one billion OLIOers by 2030.

“We have this enormous ambition because humanity cannot continue to puzzle over how to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees and feed a population of 10 billion - whilst continuing to throw away one third of the food we produce, and consuming as if we have 1.75 planets. In solving these twin problems we aim to build one of the most transformational companies of our generation.”

Added Per Brillioth, CEO of VNV Global, “The growth of OLIO over the last year has been nothing short of phenomenal and it’s clear that consumers are becoming increasingly focused on the small actions they can take to improve the sustainability of their households.

“OLIO, a next generation community marketplace with the potential for truly global reach, is perfectly positioned to service this movement and in doing so create a truly transformational company.”

Food waste heroes

The funds – and in particular, the partnership with DX Ventures, the VC arm of food delivery firm Delivery Hero – will also help to accelerate the roll out of OLIO’s Food Waste Heroes Programme in the UK and around the world.

OLIO currently has over 30,000 Food Waste Heroes, who collect and redistribute unsold or unserved food from businesses such as Pret A Manger, Compass Catering, Costa Coffee and Elior. Last year, Tesco became the latest retailer to join the scheme, with 2,700 UK stores now redistributing surplus food nearing its sell-by date via OLIO’s network.

“Demand from both UK and international businesses to help reduce their waste is at an all-time high as they strive to meet their ESG commitments,”​ added Clarke.

“Incoming enquiries from major retailers, grocery delivery services and fast-food brands are coming in thick and fast. OLIO is one of the simplest, most cost-effective ways an organisation can achieve zero food waste.”

Duncan McIntyre, managing partner of DX Ventures, added, “We are strongly aligned with the sustainability mission of the company. Having built a solid and fast growing community of users, OLIO is tackling the global food waste problem in a scalable and sustainable way. OLIO has an incredibly well-loved product, and with this partnership, we look forward to helping OLIO grow and expand its global footprint.”

Call for new talent

As well as making the donation of unwanted-but-still-nourishing food, OLIO also connects communities through MADE, which promotes locally homemade foods and crafts and gives people a second income stream based on selling sustainable goods, and GOALS, which showcases over 100 simple swaps to live more sustainably. Plans are underway to launch BORROW and WANTED in the next six months.

The company is planning to scale up its team from 40 to over 175 over the next two year to support product development and global expansion, including a new chief technology officer, directors to lead the People, Food Waste Heroes, Marketing and Growth functions, plus various roles across product, design and business development.

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