Technology

Robert Downey Jr. backing Seattle bamboo toilet paper maker Cloud Paper as part of new VC effort

(Cloud Paper Photo)

Iron Man is a softy for sustainable toilet paper.

Actor Robert Downey Jr. launched two venture funds on Wednesday focused on sustainable technology, and one of the companies he’s backing is Seattle-based startup Cloud Paper, makers of tree-free toilet paper.

Downey’s latest twist from Footprint Coalition Ventures was announced during the actor’s participation in a virtual panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The venture will be led by veteran tech investors and entrepreneurs Jonathan Schulhof and Steve Levin, and initial funds will focus on early-stage and late-stage companies. Investment areas of focus will be sustainability focused consumer products and services; food and agriculture technology; materials and industrial tech; energy and transportation; education and media; and advanced environmental solutions.

Downey first unveiled Footprint Coalition at Amazon’s re:MARS conference in Las Vegas in June 2019. Cloud Paper, started in 2019 by University of Washington grads Ryan Fritsch and Austin Watkins, is one of five companies being backed at this time.

“We are thrilled to partner with Robert Downey Jr. and the Footprint Coalition team on our mission to save a billion trees,” Fritsch said in a statement. “The entire team at Footprint Coalition is passionate about what we are building and they have been tremendous partners. Being able to leverage Robert’s creative team and their expertise in community building, storytelling, and media distribution is crucial to sharing our mission with the world.”

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Downey said investment in sustainable technology “is a critical pathway toward the discovery and scaling of better solutions for our planet.” The fund will leverage his creative team to help portfolio companies reach a broad, engaged audience through the actor’s significant social and traditional media visibility.

Downey follows other high-profile celebrities who have backed Cloud Paper, including actress Gwyneth Paltrow — Pepper Potts to Downey’s Iron Man in the Marvel film franchise. Paltrow plugged Cloud Paper in a “subscriptions we love” post on her Goop website.

Paltrow was joined by Ashton Kutcher and Mark Cuban as investors in Cloud Paper’s $3 million seed round last fall that was led by Greycroft.

According to Cloud Paper, 40,000 trees per day are cut down just for toilet paper and paper towels, equaling 20% of global deforestation. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, can be harvested in as little as three years, and provides an ultra-sustainable alternative to tree-based paper.

Forbes reported that Downey earned an estimated $66 million in 2019 from his movie work and other sources, and that the actor provided most of the $10 million used to get Footprint up and running. Downey told Forbes he will be putting his own money into the funds. “I’m willing to demonstrate just how in the game my skin is,” he said.

Other companies being backed by Footprint include Arcadia Earth, RWDC Industries, Ÿnsect, and Aspiration​.

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