Dispersa, the start-up founded by award -winning entrepreneur Nivatha Balendra, has secured financing of $3M ($1.5M in grants and $1.5M in venture capital), to fund its growth and scale-up of waste-derived bio surfactants that are palm/petroleum-free, non-toxic, and biodegradable. Surfactants are surface active agents that reduce surface tension and dilute fats by dispersing them. They are found in many everyday consumer goods like detergents, surface cleaners, shampoos, and cosmetics.
Led by Invest Nova Scotia, the financing round includes the participation of the Fonds Économie Circulaire (Circular Economy Fund), Fondaction, Dragonfly Ventures, and Good & Well. As a founding partner of the FEC, RECYC-Quebec is contributing to the funding of the clean technology company along with Natural Products Canada (NPC), Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGEN), IRAP, GreenShoots, Coralus, and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).
Protecting the environment and public health through safer everyday products
The Laval-based company created the world’s first bio surfactants derived from waste feedstock, a circular approach that reduces the use of raw materials and repurposes food waste. Called PuraSurf, this innovation has the potential to reduce consumer dependence on conventional surfactants derived from fossil fuels or palm oil which are found in the formulation of most products consumers use daily.
Dispersa has positioned its technology as an alternative to standard surfactant production methods, which have a significant negative environmental and social impact: petroleum-derived surfactants contribute to the depletion of limited natural resources, while the proliferation of palm plantations supporting palm-derived surfactant production comes at the expense of tropical forests, destroying natural habitats and their biodiversity. They are also known to pollute water streams and cause aqua-toxicity as they degrade post-consumption.
Certain conventional surfactants have components like sulfates and 1,4-dioxanes which at increased concentrations can negatively impact human health – particularly those with chronic illnesses most at risk. These negative impacts are what led Nivatha Balendra, a cancer survivor, to become involved in scientific research and then entrepreneurship: “We are thrilled to have the support of an incredible group of investors who are deeply committed to creating positive environmental and social impact. With this pre-seed round of investment, Dispersa is poised to address the growing market demand for natural biosurfactants in consumer products. Our goal is to ensure that sustainability is not compromised by affordability. This investment will allow us to do exactly that as we scale towards commercialization”.
From Jennifer Fuccillo, Investment Associate at Invest Nova Scotia, “Invest Nova Scotia is proud to lead Dispersa’s first equity raise alongside a national group of mission-driven investors. We look forward to working with this trailblazing company in scaling their technology and establishing themselves as a competitive leader in the global biosurfactant space.”
From Claire Bisson, Deputy Chief of Investment, Impact and Sustainable Investments at Fondaction, “Dispersa is an innovative company whose technology meets fundamental needs for consumers and many industries while correcting the harmful effects on health and the environment of most existing products. The investment that Fondaction is making with the Circular Economy Fund, along with other partners, supports Dispersa’s model based on the two levers of circularity, i.e., the reduction of virgin materials and the recovery of waste.”
From Annabelle White, Founder and Co-CEO and Wendy Cooper, Co-CEO of Dragonfly Ventures, “Dragonfly Ventures is thrilled to join a group of values-aligned investors to support Nivatha and her team transform their vision into a business that reduces toxic substances in our land, water, air and bodies. As a women-led company, we are excited to invest not just dollars but a deep belief in and commitment to supporting diverse women’s leadership and feminine values in entrepreneurship.”
From Alexandra Baillie, President of Good & Well, “We are thrilled to be partnering with a bold Canadian company that is creating a sustainable and affordable alternative to one of the most versatile ingredients in the chemical industry, and with an entrepreneur who is inspiring younger generations to drive change with courage and determination”.
From, Felicity Meyers who led the investment with Dispersa for BoxOne, “At BoxOne, we believe the future is as bizarre as it is amazing. That’s why we’re looking for visionary founders who share our passion for pushing the boundaries of convention to better serve the greater good. We are proud to partner with Dispersa in their pursuit to reduce waste and revolutionize everyday products through the power of green chemistry.”
About Nivatha Balendra, Founder and CEO of Dispersa
Nivatha Balendra was 17 years old when the tragic accident in Lac-Mégantic claimed the lives of 47 people and spilled millions of liters of oil. This led her to start her path as a researcher and ultimately an entrepreneur. A scientist at heart, she wondered how to develop an environmentally friendly solution to oil contamination. Nivatha collected soil samples across Montreal and joined the Institut national de la recherche scientifique to conduct her research, where she found microbes capable of producing biosurfactants. Her work has garnered several international scientific awards and she is now recognized as a leader in sustainability for her work. She has also shared her work and passion for science as a speaker on many stages, such as TEDx.
Nivatha is driven by the goal to develop a scalable solution that benefits society. It is with this in mind that she founded Dispersa, which launched in 2019. She was a finalist in the Canadian Women in CleanTech Challenge, received the “30 under 30” award in sustainability from Corporate Knights, was crowned Quebec’s Young Entrepreneur at the ARISTA 2020 gala, and received the World Economic Forum’s Future Scientist Award.
About Invest Nova Scotia
Invest Nova Scotia offers programs, services, advice, and other resources that Nova Scotia companies need to grow. Start-ups are a key focus area for the organization, supporting them through venture capital, incubation facilities, expert advice, and other acceleration initiatives. Invest Nova Scotia’s venture capital fund targets early stage high-growth deep technology start-ups. To learn more, visit investnovascotia.ca.
About the Fonds économie circulaire (Circular Economy Fund)
The Fonds économie circulaire finances and supports early-stage companies throughout Quebec. It aims to accelerate the ecological transition by reducing the production of residual materials and supporting their recovery, in addition to reducing GHG emissions. Through innovation, optimization and collaboration within and between companies, the Fund seeks to encourage the exchange of new circularity solutions between innovative early-stage companies and large businesses. The Fund’s founding partners are Fondaction, RECYC-QUÉBEC and the City of Montreal.
A pioneer for over 25 years, Fondaction is the investment fund for those who are committed to the positive transformation of the Quebec economy. Fondaction seeks to make our economy more efficient, more equitable, more inclusive and greener. As a labour-sponsored fund, Fondaction represents tens of thousands of investors and hundreds of companies committed to advancing Quebec. It manages over $3.25 billion in net assets invested in hundreds of companies and financial markets, with a focus on investments that generate positive economic, social and environmental impacts in addition to financial returns. Fondaction helps maintain and create jobs, reduce inequalities and fight climate change. To learn more, visit www.fondaction.com or our LinkedIn page.
About Dragonfly Ventures
Dragonfly Ventures is a family office based in Toronto, Ontario that invests in the unique gifts and capacities of people and communities committed to the health of humanity and our planet. Dragonfly Ventures uses financial and non-financial tools including private investments, charitable giving, public equity screening, shareholder engagement, and thoughtful collaboration to achieve its vision. Its work is informed by a deep commitment to address racial and gender inequity together with reducing the impact of toxics on the health of our planet and bodies, lifting up local, sustainable food systems, and other related efforts that contribute to climate resilience, land and soil health, and freshwater conservation. To learn more, visit https://www.dragonflyventures.ca/
About Good & Well
Good & Well is a boutique impact investment firm based in Toronto, Canada that invests in and supports inspiring entrepreneurs driving social change. Our objective is to help catalyse a vibrant, more equitable and sustainable market by harnessing the power of entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit https://goodandwell.ca/
About BoxOne Ventures
BoxOne Ventures is a venture capital fund focused on early-stage financing based in Montreal. BoxOne is committed to investing in transformative ideas that have the potential to create positive change and shape a better future for all. To learn more, visit https://www.boxone.xyz/