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Woodoo raises $31 million to resurrect dead wood into glass, leather, and steel replacements

a worm's eye view of trees in a circle
Image Credit: Casey Horner // Unsplash

One French startup is bringing dead wood back to life and turning it into decarbonized replacements for materials like glass, leather, steel, concrete, and aluminum. But the magic word for its resurrection isn’t abracadabra, alakazam, or voodoo, it’s Woodoo.

Based out of Paris, Woodoo is a startup working on wood alternatives for various industries, and with its latest $31 million round, the company’s founder and CEO, Timothée Boitouzet, is hoping to replace carbon-intensive building materials with a lower carbon, abundant, and affordable alternative: wood.

The only problem with wood is that it burns and rots, and according to Boitouzet via TechCrunch, “you can’t build very high buildings because it’s not very rigid.” Five years of research and development later, Woodoo has addressed these problems, filed 50 patents, and created three different materials: SLIM, a translucent wood to replace glass, FLOW, an animal-free leather alternative, and SOLID, a replacement for steel and aluminum.

Each of these materials is made from wood, which in some cases is damaged, low-grade, rotten, or even diseased. According to Boitouzet via AgFunder News, the amount of diseased wood is rising due to drought and global warming, and in spite of the disease, Woodoo can seamlessly upgrade it.

A key ingredient in Woodoo’s magic potion is lignin, a binding compound naturally found in wood. Woodoo extracts both lignin and air from wood, and replaces them with a biofiller that changes the properties. Woodoo can alter the amount replaced to create any one of its three materials.

SLIM, FLOW, and SOLID each target decarbonization in different industries.

Woodoo Slim is both translucent and touch-sensitive, making it perfect for car dashboards and tactile buttons. According to Woodoo, it’s three times lighter than glass, costs less, and is 100% emissions-free and recyclable. Already, the startup has signed deals with carmakers Volkswagen and Mercedes to bring Slim into vehicles.

It’s next product, Woodoo Flow, is wood you can wear. Intended for luxury fashion, the Flow material uses less water, has a 30 times lower carbon footprint, and uses absolutely zero animals to replace leather. Woodoo has signed a deal with luxury brand LVMH, aka Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, after participating in the brand’s accelerator program.

Finally, Woodoo Solid aims to decarbonize the construction industry, the industry Boitouzet, who got his start in architecture, initially set out to make cleaner.

It’s “impossible to build the future with these old materials,” he told the Financial Times publication, Sifted. So Woodoo is bringing construction into the 21st century with Solid, a material that the company says enables high-rise mass timber buildings with ultra-high mechanical strength and a carbon footprint that the startup says is 229 times lower than construction-grade aluminum.

Like its ambitions in the automotive and fashion industries, Woodoo is hitting the ground running with construction. According to TechCrunch, the company recently inked its first construction deal with European plywood supplier, Garnica.

Two-thirds of the new funding was an equity funding round led by Lowercarbon Capital with One Creation, Purple, also participating. The other third was a mixture of debts and grants.

While the construction material is still in its early stages, both the glass and leather alternatives are ready to go. With the new flow of cash, Woodoo plans to double down on its existing products and industries by increasing the manufacturing capacity of the company’s two factories and growing the marketing and commercial teams.

Construction, fashion, and carmaking are all high-emitting industries, with the building and construction sector, Woodoo’s prime target, accounting for over a third of global energy use and 40% of annual emissions.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the sector is far off track for decarbonization by 2050, and raw resource use is predicted to double by 2060 – with steel, concrete, and cement already major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

If major materials in the industry can be replaced with wood, a natural carbon sink, possibilities could not only open up for lower-carbon intensity but potentially net-zero emissions.

Aside from cleaning up high-emitting industries, Woodoo also sees opportunities in forestry. As forests disappear due to climate change and human interference, forestry jobs disappear too.

According to the startup, the world’s forests employ 33 million people or 1% of the world’s population. When 6.5 million forestry jobs disappeared in the past decade, revitalizing the industry could incentivize the protection of forests while sustainably using dieback wood, creating a brand new stream of revenue.

Woodoo’s wood would otherwise be wasted, and the startup says that all products are created circularly, so even at the end of the wood’s second life, it doesn’t end up in a landfill, and like magic, it can appear and reappear over and over again.

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