Amasia's Investment in Topanga
We led Topanga’s seed round earlier this year.
We led Topanga’s seed round earlier this year. You can read more about the round here in TechCrunch. For investments we lead or co-lead, under our climate/sustainability investment thesis, we’ve been saying a bit more about what led us to invest. And so here is a bit more about why we love this team and this product.
Amasia’s thesis centers on the idea that human behavior (and the resulting carbon footprint) is the key driver of climate change. It is behavioral change at scale that got us here, and it is behavioral change at scale that will help us fight the climate crisis. We’ve identified four areas where investments can drive changes in behavior, which we call our “4 Rs.”
In the fall of 2022, we did a deep dive into R2, where our guiding question is: “How can we turbocharge the shift in consumption behavior towards reuse and recycling?”
Our current “take-make-waste” system of consumption depletes energy and natural resources, emit greenhouse gases, and generates over 2 billion tonnes of waste annually. Across its life cycle, the average product results in carbon emissions of 6.3 times its own weight. And once a material lands in a landfill, only an extremely small portion of the energy used to make the material can be recovered through landfill gas capture.
Our deep dive looked at a variety of solutions and alternatives to our energy- and resource-intensive system of consumption. Many (but not all) of the companies we came across fell into the so-called “circular economy.” One of our key learnings from this effort was that most of the proposed solutions to our consumption problem involve full-system replacement. We believe there is certainly a place for such models, but they are not the right fit for every situation.
Enter Topanga. Topanga is a platform that helps brands develop and manage successful reusable packaging programs. The founders have a deep understanding of the challenges of running a reusable packaging program—they previously operated a closed-loop market in Los Angeles and found themselves in need of tools to manage the reusable packaging in the store.
While the Topanga solution is broadly applicable — contorted calculations of TAM are not required! — the company is especially focused on campus settings, both corporate and education.
In universities, for instance, there is a high demand from students and other stakeholders for closed-loop dining programs. However, most universities already have their own reusable assets and cleaning facilities, and full-systems replacement services currently on the market are not flexible enough to accommodate the unique needs of these existing dining environments.
Topanga meets dining providers and users where they are, making behavior change achievable. Topanga’s software is easy to integrate into existing dining programs and offers numerous features to ensure that packaging loops are successful. Universities can track reusable packaging assets and design and implement systems of rewards and penalties to ensure their return. Integrations with existing systems like GrubHub make it easy for dining program participants to check out packages, receive reminders about due dates, and return packages.
Topanga’s dashboard also aggregates data to provide broader insights into the program’s success, enabling more robust and detailed ESG reporting and allowing for target adjustments to ensure effectiveness. Topanga-powered programs have reached return rates of 99%, saving tens of thousands of pounds of waste from entering landfills and providing a meaningful economic return compared to disposable containers.
Topanga currently supports programs at some of the largest universities in the country, including Ohio State University, Boston University, and Colorado State University. The company continues expanding its partnerships and product features, having recently finalized deals with the three largest food distributors in the United States—Aramark, Sodexo, and Compass. Topanga’s team estimates that, at scale, the company could save customers $120 billion per year and eliminate 222 million tons of CO2 emissions.
We are excited to support Topanga on its journey to make reducing the consumption of wasteful materials easier and more enjoyable.
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