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Contxto – The end of the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition for the “Launch” category took place yesterday (21).
Eight participants from around the world presented their pre-recorded pitches. Afterwards, they answered judges’ questions about their projects. The winner could earn US$100,000 to help their startup go to market. Naturally, the event was celebrated at a distance and was broadcast online.
Among the finalists was Peruvian Le Qara, who showcased its business plan to market its eco-friendly and vegan leather. Although it didn’t take home the grand prize, it was fantastic to see a Latam startup reach the high ranks of such a competitive event.
Le Qara was the winner of the Latam 100K competition in November of last year where it won US$55,000.
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Leather’s polluting problem
In her pitch, Le Qara’s co-Founder and CEO, Jacqueline Cruz spoke of how the natural surroundings and river in the city of Arequipa have been devastated by the tanning industry in the region. But this problem rears its ugly face not only in her native Peru, but worldwide.
“The leather industry is the fourth most polluting industry,” said the executive in her pitch. “It kills nearly four billion animals. It uses 400 billion liters of water [per year]. For example, to make a pair of leather shoes you need approximately 8,000 liters of water.”
Cruz also pointed out the exposure to cancer tannery workers are faced with.
Le Qara pitch for vegan bioleather
In light of these challenges, Le Qara created a vegan, eco-friendly bioleather. This slick and unique material is made of microorganisms that are fed plant and fruit residues. Meanwhile, Le Qara assures its product can be bio-engineered to alter its texture, thickness, and flexibility.
At the moment, the startup is in the process of producing pilot products. Paperwork for patenting the process of making this bioleather has been filed. But to create an additional layer of legal protection, the startup also intends to file a patent for the composition of the product itself.
According to its pitch, Le Qara expects to hit the industrial scale of production by July of 2022 where it will fully commercialize its bioleather.
Ultimately, for this Peruvian biotech, its product holds all the luxury of using leather without the guilt of killing cows or polluting rivers.
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