First EV mass transit bus by Swedish-Kenyan startup Opibus begins operation amidst plans for regional launch by 2023

The first electric bus by Swedish-Kenyan EV startup, Opibus, has hit Kenya’s roads marking the beginning of the company’s venture into the mass transit industry. Opibus first announced plans to roll out electric public transport buses last year when it raised $7.5 million in a pre-Series A round.

The startup is now running a pilot in readiness for the commercial launch of EV buses in Kenya later this year, and across Africa by the end of 2023.

Opibus has over the last five years been in the business of future-proofing existing gasoline and diesel vehicles by converting them to electric. EVs come with a range of benefits including a reduced cost of transport and no carbon emissions. The startup, which was founded in 2017 by Gardler, Filip Lövström and Mikael Gånge, has so far converted over 170 vehicles for different clients including mining companies and tour firms.

The company is now slowly pivoting to the building of EVs and supportive infrastructure like public charging stations. Brand new Opibus electric buses will cost $100,000 and $60,000 for conversions (which the startup is using in the pilot program).

“This first year, we will be testing 10 buses commercially in Nairobi to ensure that the product fits and is optimized for the usage patterns. Once we get this valuable feedback, we will make the required changes and get all our production partners lined up to scale the roll out as rapidly as possible,” Opibus chief strategy and marketing officer, Albin Wilson, told TechCrunch.

Opibus specializes in making electric buses and motorcycles.  Image Credits: Opibus

Opibus says its vehicles are designed and built locally, giving them a competitive advantage in terms of a lower price by the time they reach the market. Additionally, local production means that the output can be tailored for local market needs.

“Our strategy is to design and develop a bus that is viable in price, durable and accessible for this region…We are building a product that allows for a rapid scale up, that can leverage global and local manufacturers. Meaning our design is easily implemented across the African continent, as it is a product tailored for the use case, and very cost effective,” said Wilson.

The startup is now eyeing the rest of Africa through partnerships that will drive the adoption of EVs across the continent..

Uber’s partnership with Opibus, which was announced last month, for example, will see the deployment of up to 3,000 electric motorcycles, manufactured by the startup, across Africa by 2022. Motorcycles under Uber are used as taxis and for deliveries in its different markets.

The EV sector in Kenya is budding and has over the recent years attracted new players including BasiGo, which made its debut in Kenya in November last year. BasiGO, which recently imported two EV mass transport buses for its pilot, plans to sell locally-assembled electric buses using parts from China’s EV maker BYD Automotive. The BasiGo buses come in 25 and 36-seater capacities, with a range of about 250 kilometers while those by Opibus come in 51-seater capacity with a range of 120 kilometers.

Toyota Ventures backs seed extension into Agtonomy, turning tractors into autonomous vehicles

Agtonomy co-founder and CEO Tim Bucher was born and raised on a farm and was deep into his own farming business when he took a computer course while at UC Davis and got hooked.

It was that parallel agriculture/technology career that led him to start Agtonomy, a hybrid autonomy and tele-assist service startup that turns tractors and other equipment into autonomous machines to provide a low-cost, technology-enabled labor force for local farms to manage such equipment.

It came out of stealth mode last September with $4 million in seed funding from a group of backers that included Grit Ventures, GV and Village Global.

Grit and GV came back again to invest in the South San Francisco-based company and were part of a $5 million seed extension that includes backers like Toyota Ventures, Flybridge, Hampton VC, E²JDJ and Momenta Ventures. The latest funding gives Agtonomy $9 million in total funding to date.

Having just raised funding, Bucher wasn’t expecting to raise again so soon, but when he saw the outlook for 2022 that agtech was going to be the No. 1 “hot area” for the year and beyond, he decided to take the additional funding.

“Five years ago, it was hard to get any VC attention related to agtech, but there has just been overwhelming interest from investors, and though we are just starting out, local agriculture needs help now,” he added. “The funding will accelerate our trials and additional partners and essentially turbo-charge our activities and ability to double down at the speed in which we are moving, which includes expanding the team.”

Bucher anticipates having 50 trials going and to double the company’s 20-person headcount in the next few months.

Agtonomy is as simple as calling an Uber driver, he said. Using a mobile phone app, a farmer can assign a job to one of the tractors, like mowing the field. He believes self-driving technology like this, and what other companies like John Deere are doing, will help to alleviate the decades of labor shortages in farms around the world.

The company has a small fleet of what he called “proof of concept” electric vehicles that have been operating for a year at Bucher’s Trattore Farms. He says the farm work on his farm is almost entirely done with these vehicles.

Bucher expects a commercial launch to happen in 2023, and the company will initially start with a few hundred tractors. In comparison, some 300,000 tractors are sold each year, he added. The tractors can be anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million, with companies like John Deere typically going after big farms.

In contrast, Agronomy’s autonomous vehicles will cost around $50,000, which Bucher believes will encourage larger farms to purchase a swarm of smaller machines that can run 24 hours a day, be more environmentally friendly and not tear up the land.

Jim Adler, the founding managing director of Toyota Ventures, said in a written statement, “We see huge potential in agtech and are making investments accordingly. Fully autonomous vehicles will become a reality on farms where they are desperately needed.”

Similarly, Bucher believes that many of the autonomous vehicles today cater to more “convenience technologies,” while companies in the agtech space are building similar vehicles in what he calls “necessity technology.”

“It is kind of a perfect storm with consumer demand, climate change, electrification and labor shortage in farming,” he added. “We can solve these much sooner in agtech than having the other kinds of autonomous technology in our lives. With ours, it allows all of us to eat good food.”

Editor’s note, Jan. 18 at 9:05 a.m. reflects a change that Toyota Ventures did not lead the round.

Tado, the German smart home energy startup, plans to go public via a SPAC at a €450M valuation

Tado, the German smart home startup that specializes in thermostats and more recently moved into flexible “time of use” energy tariffs based on loadshifting technology, is today announcing the next step in its life as a business. It’s going public by way of a SPAC deal.

GFJ ESG Acquisition, a German SPAC entity focused specifically on sustainable technologies, said it will combine with tado and list the new company on the Frankfurt exchange. GFJ and tado are now working on the PIPE transaction, which when completed is expected to value tado at €450 million ($514 million at today’s rates). The new business will continue to trade as tado.

A spokesperson for tado said it is not disclosing how much it plans to raise in the listing, nor when the listing is expected to happen, except that it will likely be in the first half of 2022.

The move comes swiftly on the heels of two big developments for tado. Last week, tado acquired aWATTar (yes that is how the company styles its name…) to expand from energy consumption hardware inside the home, to software to better manage energy consumption and costs based both on how the customer uses energy, and how pricing varies depending on the fluctuations of that energy source (which can include renewable sources like solar and wind, as well as more traditional channels).

Also, in May, tado raised $46 million. At the time, the company said this would be its last round before a listing, and that’s what is playing out now. Altogether the company had raised just shy of $159 million, with an impressive list of investors, including Amazon, Siemens and Telefonica. Its valuation in those private rounds was considerably lower than the €450 million it expects to achieve with its market cap at listing: it was around $255 million according to PitchBook data.

The deal is notable because it will be one of the first big green tech startups in Europe to go public. Tado’s bigger goal is to build services to help manage energy use in and end-to-end system, starting at the power grid and terminating with consumers, in their homes. That business has taken two different turns so far. It first started as a maker of smart thermostats, and business that has now sold some 2 million devices. Then, tado diversified into energy tariff and managing use is catapulting the company into a wider business based on big data, predictive analytics and harnessing the wider and very fragmented markets of renewable energy and energy hardware systems.

The company today says that it has sold more than 2 million smart thermostats, and its energy-management technology connects some 400,000 buildings and households in 20 countries, with more than 7 gigawatts of energy capacity under management. Its works with some 18,000 systems from 900 OEMs, and claims that customers using its load-balancing technology save an average of 22% on heating costs annually.

As concerns about climate change continue to become ever-more urgent, and services for consumers to make choices to reduce greenhouse emissions become more readily available and affordable, a new window of opportunity has opened up for green tech and clean tech companies. This listing underscores how one of them feels now confident enough in that traction to make the leap into being publicly traded to grow further.

“The entire team at tado is extremely proud to partner up with GFJ,” said Toon Bouten, CEO of tado, in a statement. “We share the same convictions and the same passion for environmental technologies. And we are determined to jointly help our customers save money and reduce their ecological footprint. Together, we are in a great position to create a more sustainable energy future.”

When the deal is closed, Bouten will step down as the head of the company, with Oliver Kaltner (who lists his current role as President of office solutions provider Room) will be taking on a role as CEO, with Christian Deilmann as CPO and Johannes Schwarz as CTO. Emanuel Eibach will remain CFO. Gisbert Rühl shall become chairman of the supervisory board. Josef Brunner, Petr Míkovec, Toon Bouten and Maximilian Mayer shall also join the supervisory board.

“Both GFJ and tado are determined to turn up the heat on fighting against climate change in a smart way. tado already is a market leader in the very spirit of a new wave of green tech companies,” added Gisbert Rühl, CEO of GFJ. “We are excited to bring in capital and expertise to help them grow even stronger and foster their technology development. Around 21% of energy consumption in the EU is used for heating and cooling private housing alone. If the EU and Germany want to fulfil their commitment to becoming the world’s first climate-neutral economy by 2050, there is no alternative to decarbonising the housing sector.”

tado, as a public business, will gain a new level of transparency to the market, which will be good for the wider green tech industry as a whole. For now, the company is projecting that it will be making more than €500 million in annual revenues in three years, by 2025.

MycoWorks, making leather from fungi, closes $125M to scale production

MycoWorks, a company making a fungal-based biomaterial that can replace leather, brought in a fresh round of funding — $125 million in Series C financing — to fund a production plant for scaling the manufacture of its flagship product Reishi.

CEO Matt Scullin says what his company is doing in terms of fabrics is different from its competitors, touting the company’s Fine Mycelium process as “a biotechnology platform that engineers mycelium to grow the only made-to-order, made-to-specification luxury material.”

“A lot is happening in this space,” he added. “Mycelium is a tunable material, and a lot of folks are entering the space because they see opportunity for it. However, their main approach is taking fibers and embedding them in plastic, which results in a low-quality material like ‘pleather.’”

Indeed, the California-based company, founded in 2013 by Philip Ross and Sophia Wang, is among a hot trend of companies working with fungus and other plant-based materials to make fabrics for fashion. When we previously profiled MycoWorks in 2020 for its $45 million raise, we pointed to companies like Bolt Threads (mushrooms), Ananas Anam (pineapple fibers) and Desserto (cactus leather) doing similar things.

In addition to using plant-based materials for fashion, other companies are finding success with fungi-based technology. Nature’s Fynd, which raised $350 million in a Series C round in 2021, created Fy, a vegan protein that can be used as a solid, liquid or powder to make sustainable foods, like meat and cheese. Atlast Food is doing something similar, making meat alternatives from gourmet mushroom mycelium. Meanwhile, MycoTechnology, which is using a fermenting process to make — among other things — a mushroom extract that blocks the undesirable flavors of other foods, closed on a Series D round of over $120 million in 2020.

Meanwhile, the Series C was led by Prime Movers Lab, with participation from new investors, notably SK Capital Partners, Mirabaud Lifestyle Impact and Innovation Fund, which joined a group of other new and existing investors. To date, the company raised $187 million in total.

MycoWorks launched its first partnership with Hermès in early 2021 and now has contracts in place with a range of major global luxury brands. Scullin told me that if it is a luxury brand you have heard of, the company is probably partnering with them.

Despite its initial workings in the luxury space, MycoWorks also aims to move toward mass scale production that would enable products at a range of price points. The funding will enable the company to do this, Scullin said.

MycoWorks

Blue rack trays of MycoWorks’ fungi. Image Credits: Lindsey Filowitz

The company’s new production plant will be built in Union, S.C. and comes on the heels of a successful pilot plant in Emeryville, California. That’s where MycoWorks was able to validate its tray-based process and demonstrate scalability of the Fine Mycelium process when it met a production milestone of 10,000 trays processed. Scullin expects the plant to be operational in the next 12 months and will initially be able to produce volumes of several million square feet of Fine Mycelium per year.

To meet the demand for sustainable goods driven by consumers, Scullin also plans to invest the financing into expanding the team, R&D and technology development. The company received thousands of inbound requests from brands to be selected to be the first to use Fine Mycelium.

He estimates that $150 billion of leather products are sold each year, which means the opportunity is big, especially as that consumer tailwind continues to be “one of the powerful forces in the economy right now,” he added.

When choosing Prime Movers Lab and others to invest in the round, Scullin said that all of them had a common expertise in biotechnology and manufacturing scale-up, which was needed by the company right now.

“What MycoWorks has achieved with its Fine Mycelium platform is not just a breakthrough, it is a revolution for industries that are ripe for change,” said David Siminoff, general partner at Prime Movers Lab, in a written statement. “This opportunity is massive and we believe that unrivaled product quality combined with a proprietary scalable manufacturing process has MycoWorks poised to serve as the backbone of the new materials revolution.”

Twig takes $35M to turn stuff you own into a way to pay

Twig, a London-based fintech targeting Gen Z and younger Millennial consumers with an e-money account that gives them instant cash-outs on fashion and electronics they want to sell, has closed a $35 million Series A round of funding.

The investment is led by UK-based fintech specialist, Fasanara Capital, with additional backing from a number of undisclosed strategic investors which Twig says include current and former executives from LVMH, Valentino and Goldman Sachs, among others.

The startup was only founded in mid 2020 — launching its service in the UK last July — but it touts rapid domestic growth (100,000+ monthly downloads of its apps; reaching sixth position in the iOS App Store’s top finance apps); and is already gearing up for international expansion.

The Series A is pegged for launching in the US (slated for Q1 this year) and the EU (Q2; where it’s eyeing Italy, France and Germany for starters), as well as expanding the product’s capabilities and feature-set with a focus on the buzz around Web3 and digital collectables.

For now, Twig accounts are only available in the UK. Founder and CEO Geri Cupi tells TechCrunch it has around 250,000 users at this stage.

He adds that the typical user is a 22-year-old, recently graduated professional female — perhaps with a bunch of stuff in her wardrobe that she’s outgrown and would be happy to resell.

Growth via user referrals looks likely to have helped fuel its early rise, given Twig charges users a £1 transfer fee for users to send money to a third party account but there’s no fee if you transfer from one Twig account to another.

It’s also worth noting that despite having a marketing slogan which paints itself as “your bank of things”, Twig is not actually a bank; rather a Twig account is an “e-money account” — so there are key regulatory differences (such as Twig accounts not being covered by the UK’s deposit guarantee scheme).

Not being a full fat bank means the startup can scale faster into new markets, with lighter regulatory requirements on the service than if it needed to obtain a banking licence. For now it’s not in a hurry to turn into an actual bank, per Cupi.

In earlier decades, long before the Internet- and open banking-fuelled fintech boom, legacy banks would pitch to get a new crop of school leavers signed up by offering freebies — like bags, stationery, music or other offers. Now fintech startups compete to offer the most appealing feature mix to net a target youth demographic.

But it’s fair to say that getting money into accounts remains a key aim.

That said, Twig is applying for B Corp certification which emphasizes social purpose and environmental performance, as well as transparency and accountability — Cupi says it’s in the final stage of the application; it has pending status currently and he anticipates getting full status in Q1 — while its PR pushes claims of sustainability and circularity, given that it’s plugging users into selling (rather than binning) their branded goods.

Its website also talks up its use of carbon offsetting and other initiatives to shrink environmental impact.

Thing is, in order for humanity to avert climate catastrophe, major reductions in global CO2 emissions are required — so, essentially, less consumption overall. Which does call into question the credibility of claims of ‘sustainability’ being made to stretch around a concept of resale that risks fuelling increased consumption via instant valuations and cash outs, as Twig offers.

Selling a currently owned thing to free up cash might encourage the consumer to splash out and buy more new things than they otherwise would if they had held onto the original item for longer. Or, to put it another way, circularity needs to work hand in hand with longevity if it’s to shrink consumption and actually reduce CO2 emissions. And it’s not clear that reducing friction involved in reselling will lead to consumers buying less overall. On the contrary; it may do the opposite.

So that’s one potential wrinkle in Twig’s sustainability pitch.

However when we put this conundrum to Cupi he neatly irons it out — deploying a (somewhat circular) argument which states that Twig’s goal of increasing “liquidity” of secondhand things can work for sustainability and support reduced consumption by making more secondhand stuff available to buy — thereby reducing demand for new stuff to be made as more items (re)circulate through this (more vibrant) secondary economy.

“Essentially our core business is we enable consumers to get paid for their old items and in the process we give a new life to their items — and this increases supply in the secondary market at least,” he says. “The demand in the secondary market has been growing and growing. The reason we can afford just to be on the supply side of the market is there is such a bigger need for extra supply right now in the market. And when consumers get hat extra cash it doesn’t mean they’re going to use it to buy more things.

“This is from what we’ve seen from our users. Typically from the funds that are being transferred to Twig we see that roughly 42% of them get used for new experiences — that might be travelling, it might be… experience-led — so it doesn’t mean that if you increase liquidity you necessarily increase consumerization of things that have a negative impact on the environment. And that’s what we’ve been seeing so far.”

Cupi condenses Twig’s business to a very simple pitch: “We tokenize assets.”

“The way Twig works is you can upload — let’s say a Gucci Marmont handbag — on the platform. And what Twig does is it tokenizes that asset and offers you a price for it,” he explains.

“Our goal is to make this available externally as well. In that scenario blockchain becomes useful… We want to increase the liquidity of this asset and make it very easy for consumers to trade the physical goods for virtual goods and use the virtual goods to buy physical goods or experiences.

“So we just want to make it much easier for them to trade, essentially.”

Cupi has a background in blockchain and the circular economy — which has included, back in 2018, selling a denim upcycling business to Levi’s Albania.

Physical items that resell well include fashion from brands like Nike, Gucci, Chanel, Hermes and other luxury makers, according to a Twig white paper — which talks about “redefining the future of ownership” and “empowering Gen Z to live a circular lifestyle”.

Apple electronics also hold their value well on the secondhand market, per Cupi — who notes that after Twig added electronics to the secondhand items it’ll buy, expanding out from buying fashion cast offs, its demographic shifted from over 90% female to around 70:30 female to male.

Twig takes care of the resale of pre-owned items for its users — providing them with an instant valuation and (potentially) instant cash to spend on whatever they like if it’s happy to buy the stuff they’re selling. (It has a pretty specific list of what it will and won’t buy.)

Shipping the goods to Twig is free for the user — so by using its service they essentially skip the hassle and risk associated with manually selling their stuff on a second hand marketplace like Vinted or Depop. (Albeit, they may get less than if they sold the items themselves.)

If an item fails a quality check once it arrives at Twig’s warehouse the user is charged a fee to return it to them (and presumably any instant payment they got for it is also reversed). While if Twig ends up being unable to sell an item it says it donates the goods to charity rather than binning them to avoid sending stuff to landfill because that’s bad for the environment.

Cupi says it’s in a growth-focused phase at present so is not seeking to make chunky margin on resales.

The value it’ll offer for an item varies, depending on various dynamic factors — its white paper notes that it uses a “market-based pricing algorithm” to analyze 100M+ products on the secondary market to provide “representative resale values for brands, item categories and market segments”.

Core to its premise is that factoring in resale value changes the concept of total cost of ownership for the consumer — which may have the power to shift buying patterns (it could, for example, encourage consumers to opt for high end fashion to get value longevity over environmentally ruinous and low resale value fast fashion, say).

Combining bank-like functionality — Twig accounts come with a Twig Visa debit card and include capabilities like the ability to make domestic and international money transfers — with a baked in secondhand goods resale service is a pitch tailor-made for the target Gen Z and younger Millennial demographic which has shown a keen and growing interest in both the thrift and sustainability of secondhand marketplaces.

Twig’s target demographic also explains its marketing being heavy on talk of environmental friendliness via circularity. (“Twig makes it easier and empowers you to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle,” is one claim on its retro-graphic-heavy website.)

Gen Z especially has been dubbed the sustainability generation — with these young consumers prioritizing “usage of goods over ownership”, as Twig’s white paper puts it.

So reimagining the function of a bank as an arbiter and exchange of resale value — enabling consumers to turn all sorts of stuff into, essentially, quasi-currency to pay for other things they want to have or do (a sort of high tech reinvention of barter if you like) — rather than as a literal store of financial value starts to look pretty interesting.

There’s another sustainability wrinkle to tackle, though — given how thoroughly blockchain is baked into what Twig’s doing.

While its tech has been built on blockchain from the start you’d be hard pressed to notice from the user-facing descriptions on its website. But its plan for the Series A risks throwing its Gen Z-friendly eco-sounding marketing right out of whack — as its PR seeks to tap into the raging Web3 hype, with the launch of what it describes as “a first-of-its-kind Web 3.0 green payment infrastructure”.

This forthcoming functionality will enable users to “tokenize” real world assets and “make them tradeable in seconds”, its release goes on, adding that: Twig will enable digital and physical items to be monetized and traded in new ways. Such an approach will allow users to trade-in goods at the checkout page and buy crypto currencies as well as NFTs by trading-in their clothes or electronics.”

Quite how encouraging the trading of crypto and NFTs can be spun as “green” is an interesting question to ponder.

After all the energy costs of crypto can look like an extinction level event, in and of themselves.

For example, a study last year by Cambridge University suggested that just one cryptocurrency — Bitcoin — consumed more energy annually than the entire country of Argentina.

Another piece of research, from March last year, suggested Bitcoin consumed as much energy as Norway — with predictions that its carbon footprint would soon be akin to the emissions generated by the entire metropolitan area of London.

In short, the infamous inefficiency of blockchain-based cryptocurrencies — certainly those that require proof of work to validate transactions — looks anything but sustainable.

There’s even more wasteful energy usage being attached to blockchains too: Aka the rise of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) which involve — and further encourage — the use of energy-intensive transactions by layering the trading of digital collectables atop blockchains.

The current hype around NFTs (as fashion/status symbols) combined with the retail trading of these digital assets — and the suggestion that hyper quick money can be made by burning energy to shift collectable pixels — pours yet more fuel on this energy bonfire.

Last year an analysis by a digital artist suggested that an average NFT could have a carbon footprint equivalent to a month’s worth of electricity usage for a person living in the EU. So, again, it’s hard to conceive of a way to spin features that encourage users to get busy tokenizing and trading their stuff — and/or digital collectables — as, in any shape or form, “green”.

Once again, Cupi is not phased by this counter argument, though.

Firstly he says that the blockchain infrastructure Twig has been built on is more energy efficient than some other blockchains.

“Blockchain itself is not bad for the environment as a technology — there’s different applications of it,” he argues. “In our case the blockchain that we built on top of — it’s Hyperledger Sawtooth — the energy usage is very, very small compared to the other solutions out there.

“So we try to minimize the usage of energy intensive solutions.”

He also specifies that Twig is calculating its internal energy usage to try to quantify its environmental impact and — at a minimum — it’s doing carbon offsetting to counteract this.

He says it is also supporting projects that are seeking to sequester/remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

Although how viable/credible the specific projects are is a whole other matter.

While Twig may be seeking to minimize/offset its own energy usage/carbon footprint, the bigger potential environmental impact is likely to be from secondary (for want of a better word) usage — aka, any consumption, energy use and CO2 emissions that Twig’s users and suppliers generate as a result of what its platform enables them to do.

Calculating those linked but indirect impacts — sometimes called ‘Scope 3′ emissions, in sustainability reporting terms — is much harder than doing an internal audit of a business’ direct energy usage. Yet Scope 3 emissions also tend to comprise the biggest chunk of an organization’s carbon footprint. So you can’t just wish all those connected transactions, emissions and effects away.

Twig is clearly trying to tackle some of this — by doing carbon offsetting to cover the shipping of goods, for example. And its ambition to gain B Corp status looks laudable.

But it’s a lot harder to predict what sort of energy costs its platform may ultimately end up generating — based on the consumer demands and trends it might feed and/or drain.

By encouraging users to buy crypto and get into trading NFTs it’s clear there will be associated energy costs. And there is a risk that such intensive energy costs could end up erasing potential environmental gains (if Twig is able to turn increased liquidity of secondhand goods into a net reduction in manufacturing of new items via reduced demand from consumers to buy new).

But it’s also possible that such a radical reimagining of what can be used to make a payment — all sorts of items/things/stuff; in theory a consumer may not need to ever spend actual money in a world of tokenized value — could lead to substantial shifts in consumption that can actually move the needle on circularity. And move our societies away from the vicious circle of throwaway consumption that’s characterized so many decades of capitalism.

Put another way, if the things we have can be relied upon to more predictably sustain their value for resale — thanks to the help of blockchain-based tokenization (which can support authentication to combat fakes) and more stable valuations (based on knowing the full ownership history via a distributed ledger infrastructure) — consumers may be nudged to take better care of the stuff they have in order to preserve its longevity for better resale, meaning the world’s industries won’t need to make half so many things in the first place — lifting crippling systemic pressure on planetary resources.

It’s certainly a thought.

De-emphasizing money by making it much easier to make payments by exchanging all sorts of things might be exactly the kicker we need to rework how we think about value, ownership and wealth. And, indeed, planetary resources.

Here’s Cupi again: “Instead of using your own cash to buy NFTs you can use things that you have at home and don’t use anymore — for instance you might have an old iPhone that you don’t use anymore and you can trade that for an NFT or you can trade that for some cryptocurrency or you can use that to buy an experience — you can use that to buy a trip to New York or you can use that to pay for your next vocational course… So the whole purpose of Twig is to increase liquidity in the market and — essentially — to make it very easy for people to use assets that they don’t use anymore and give them a second life.

“That way our ethos is you can both do good to your wallet and to the Earth.”

The vision for Twig is therefore to turn itself into a payments platform — but one that translates physical goods into payments on behalf of its users/customers.

“At the moment Twig is just a b2c platform — but it’s going to become a b2b2c platform. So it will be connected as a payment gateway of different providers,” he says, noting that it has inked agreements with “a couple of big merchants” to be plugged into its infrastructure (he’s not disclosing which retailers as yet).

“What we’re trying to do — essentially — is to reinvent the definition of wealth,” Cupi adds, discussing how he sees the notion of money evolving. “So if everything that you own can be treated as money your perception of wealth also changes.

“The old definition of wealth is the value of your largest asset — the value of your house, the value of your car… But you don’t see as part of your wealth — typically — the value of your wardrobe, for instance. This is what we’re trying to change. And in that way if everything has instant liquidity you can treat your things as cash. It doesn’t make a difference whether it’s cash — or a Gucci Marmont handbag. If you want to buy something in pounds it’s then the same.”

So if Twig gets its way the future of payments might get a whole lot more visual and physical — maybe you’ll be buying a secondhand iPhone by dragging and dropping an NFT you minted into the ecommerce payment window.

Or posting off a pair of limited edition Nikes to score that sweet Spring city break you’ve been looking forward to.

Or, er, buying a chunk of prime real estate with some prize pieces of diamond-encrusted jewellery…

While younger consumers may already be comfortable with a world of fairly commoditized value tradable stuff, what about older consumers? Does Cupi reckon Boomers or Gen X can be convinced to start making payments by parting with things they’ve ploughed their cash into?

Are first edition signed books and prize vinyl pressings going to end up folded into the future payment mix?

“To be honest I don’t know the answer to that,” he says. “At the moment we’re seeing our product, Gen Z reacts very well to it. And also young Millennials — so twentysomethings… that’s what we’re seeing — and in the UK. It might be a different picture once we go to other markets as well.”