Our Investment in Recycleye

TL;DR Recycleye is building the leading European waste management platform. The world has a major waste problem; we have the computer vision and robotics technology needed to fix it; Victor and Peter are building the team to turn the world’s trash into treasure.

Recycleye’s Vision and Robotics system in operation

Backing Recycleye from pre-seed to seed

We led Recycleye’s £1.2m pre-seed round with MMC Ventures in 2020 and I’ve been working closely with Victor and Peter on the board alongside Dele Akinyemi since.

Peter Hedley (CTO) and Victor Dewulf (CEO)

Today, I’m very excited that the team has gone on to raise a £3.5m seed round, led by US and European deep tech fund Promus Ventures. At Playfair Capital, we couldn’t be happier to be backing Recycleye again at seed and I’m excited to continue working with Victor and Peter for many years to come.

How it all started — A masterclass in cold investor outreach

At Playfair, we receive literally thousands of cold inbound messages every year, but <5% personalise more than your name. Victor had researched our portfolio, found a comparable company using computer vision technology, and leveraged that to get me bought into the rest of the email.

These three lines would get any investor excited: a deeply technical solution to a human inefficiency on a global scale, with strong traction to boot.

Their round fitted bang into Playfair’s pre-seed sweet spot. Despite being on holiday when I received this cold email, I couldn’t help getting excited. I booked in to meet Victor and Peter the next week.

18 months later— from zero to one

The Recycleye team in September 2021

We made the decision to invest in Recycleye 18 months ago in April 2020. We then put our heads down until a public announcement in December. Led by Victor and Peter, Recycleye has matured from two brilliant founders with big plans into a company that’s already proving it can execute on them. Looking back on the last 18 months has only reinforced the power this team has to make things happen.

  • Grown the team from 2 founders to 24 people
  • Expanded from 1 lab unit to 10 systems deployed in industry
  • Improved the computer vision model’s accuracy from 65% to 95%
  • Reduced the time to make new models from 2 months to 2 hours
  • Scanned 270 million items of waste

Computer Vision / AI -> Waste Management

The waste management industry is in a rubbish state 😉 . It suffers from three key problems:

  1. Dependency on manual labour
  2. Low-tech machines
  3. No transparency

The image below is typical of how current waste facilities are sorting waste.

Which century are we in? Credit: JCL Plastic Enterprises

These problems exist on a massive scale. The 8 billion people on our planet throw away over 2 billion tonnes of waste a year. In Europe and the US we still only recycle 30% of that waste. Landfills are filling up across the world. Even worse, in the UK, more waste is burned rather than recycled.

But this isn’t just a problem just for governments and social enterprises. There is a huge commercial opportunity here. The global waste management industry is worth $2tn globally and is only getting bigger.

The waste industry’s use of technology has remained focussed on heavy machinery and humans to plug the gaps. Meanwhile, computer vision technology now surpasses human-level accuracies and the price of robotics has fallen 90% since 1980. The pieces of the puzzle are there, they just need to be put together.

Building the European end-to-end waste management platform

Recycleye aren’t just a computer vision product providing analytics to waste facilities. They aren’t just a robotics company sorting waste. They combine the two, powered by Recycleye Core into a truly end-to-end platform.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Recycleye Vision is remotely installed above a conveyor belt in a waste facility. This provides the front-end connection to the waste being inputted at the top of the funnel
  2. Recycleye Core is connected to Vision, turning the camera into a superhuman eye that can detect and analyse the waste stream in real time.
  3. Recycleye Robotics is installed at the end of the waste stream and can sort waste into correct categories to be recycled.

The end result: waste facilities know exactly what’s in their waste stream (they only sample ~0.05% of it today, manually); they reduce costs 8x vs human pickers; they increase profits 5x from the increased value in sorted materials.

What’s next for Recycleye?

Recycleye are already relied upon by waste management leaders Biffa and ReGen in the UK, and three of the five largest waste management companies in Europe.

Now is the time to scale and enhance the accuracy, scope, and capabilities of their world-leading machine learning and robotics technology.

They’re growing the team, expanding further into and across Europe, and expanding their product line beyond vision systems.

Personally and as a team at Playfair, we love investing in visionary founders who, if successful, can have a truly global impact on the world around us.

I’m lucky to be working with Victor and Peter on their mission to turn the world’s trash into treasure.

If their mission speaks to you too, they’re hiring so come join us on the journey 🚀♻️.

If you’re an early stage founder on another mission and are looking for an investor to join you on that journey, we’d love to meet you. Send me a message like Victor’s and I guarantee I’ll reply!

You can follow all of us on the Playfair team on LinkedIn, Twitter, Forbes, Vimeo and here on Medium.

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This publication features the articles written by the Playfair Capital team and friends.

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Henrik Wetter Sanchez

Henrik Wetter Sanchez

Principal @PlayfairCapital | prev @Cambridge_Uni @BankofAmerica founder @RendezVu_App

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