Fast-growing ‘circular economy’ startup Rheaply raises $8M

AJ Gonzalez | February 21, 2021

BizJournals, By Katherine Davis – Associate Editor, February 16, 2021, 10:22am CST

Rheaply, a Chicago startup that specializes in recycling and sourcing unused items, has raised a new round of funding as it works to strengthen the circular economy, a term used to describe an economic system that works to maximize the use of resources and eliminate waste.

The startup announced Tuesday that it raised $8 million in a Series A round led by High Alpha, an Indianapolis-based venture capital fund. 100 Black Angels & Allies Fund, Concrete Rose Capital, Hyde Park Angels, M25, MCJ Collective, Morgan Stanley Multicultural Innovation Lab and Salesforce Ventures also participated. Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund was also listed as an investor on the deal. The fund invested $1 million into Rheaply after the startup won first place in its pitch competition in December.

To date, Rheaply has raised more than $10 million. Last year, the startup raised a $2.5 million seed round.

Founded in 2015 by CEO Garry Cooper, Rheaply is a resource-sharing network that helps organizations recycle and source items in a number of industries, including higher education, health care, technology, government and retail. The idea is to expand the circular economy and create a more sustainable future that can help offset the effects of climate change.

This latest funding raised by Rheaply is one of the largest rounds raised by a Black founder in Chicago. An analysis by Chicago Inno last year showed that very few local, Black startup founders have raised more than $1 million. Cooper was among them.

Cooper started the foundation for Rheaply while completing a PhD in neuroscience at Northwestern University by developing a system for university labs to swap and sell unused lab equipment to each other.

Now the startup, which is a Techstars Chicago 2018 alum, offers its service in a subscription model to businesses and organizations across industries. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, demand for a service like Rheaply’s has accelerated.

Last year, Rheaply teamed up with the City of Chicago, World Business Chicago and Northwestern University to source personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies.

The startup also landed a contract with the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency to help government entities, like the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force, streamline the redeployment of military property.

Since launching, Rheaply says it has helped organizations divert over 14.5 metric tons of waste and save $1.6 million across 5,000 transactions. Other clients include Rutgers University Medical Campus and Allina Health.

The new funding will be used to expand and improve Rheaply’s tech platform.

“Today stands as a momentous day in Rheaply’s history, as this funding demonstrates a commitment from the venture community to fighting climate change and actively supporting Black-led and -founded companies,” Cooper said in a statement.

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