Local sustainability start-up Zence Object has secured a US$2.5 million capital injection from the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund (AEF) for the Greater Bay Area – a substantial sum of money that founder Calvin Sio told Macao News would be “absolutely meaningful” for his company.
Zence Object uses patented technology to turn organic waste, primarily tea leaves, into plastic and paper alternatives. These materials are used to make everyday items including household utensils and home decor.
“This amount of money will really let us explore new opportunities and diversify our development,” Sio said. He noted that getting funding in Macao was often difficult as a start-up, because “most people don’t have any concept of [us].”
Beijing-based Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund (AEF) is managed by venture capitalist firm Gobi Partners.
According to its website, AEF is a not-for-profit initiative of Alibaba Group that provides entrepreneurs and young people with investment capital and strategic guidance.
Zence Object is the first Macao-based enterprise to receive AEF backing.
Sio said the grant offered more than money, in that mentoring from the tech giant would help his company “reach another level and move forward to the international market.”
While Zence Object is currently headquartered in Macao (with a branch in Shenzhen), Sio said it would soon be moving to Hengqin. The funding will go towards establishing a research and development centre and exhibition facility there.
Sio said he aims to move away from using chemicals in Zence Object’s production methods in favour of biosynthesis – an environmentally friendly process that would use living organisms to produce the company’s materials.
Relocating to Hengqin would make it easier to focus on expansion into the mainland, said Sio.
The US$2.5 million will also be used to set up an additional manufacturing line and processing hub within the Greater Bay Area.
Sio described his company as a green pioneer in Macao, which has come with advantages. “It means we’ve been doing this without many competitors, unlike what’s found in other cities in China,” he said.
Zence Object’s current customers include BMW, Nayuki bakery, and the gaming operator SJM, as well as several government departments and the China National Tea Museum.