Oxford’s reputation for creating dynamic spin-outs from its world-famous university means ambitious young companies have a platform to attract well-known serial entrepreneurs.
Oxwash is a good example. It is an environmentally friendly laundry service launched in 2018 which announced in May 2020 it had closed a round of Angel funding worth £1.4m. Among several investors was Twitter co-founder, Biz Stone. After chatting to the founder and giving advice on next steps, he decided to become an investor. Paul Forster, co-founder of job marketplace, Indeed, also took part in the round of Angel funding.
Dirty kit, clean energy
The premise started with the company’s founder discovering what many Oxford University students have lamented over the years. Washing machines at the colleges’ laundry rooms are not always both available and in working order. If they are, it is rare a student has the right change or the time to watch a load spin around.
He hit on the idea of borrowing a Deliveroo bag from a friend and then cycling around the city’s colleges picking up students’ laundry. His first big customer was the Wadham College rugby team he played in. To this day, it remains the company’s oldest client.
The idea moved on from taking the friction out of laundry to providing an environmentally friendly service. Customers fill up bags which are collected by a cyclist in pre-booked half hour slots. They are then washed with non-toxic detergents in solar powered washing machines running at just 20 degrees centigrade. Ozone is used to ensure the clothes are hygienically cleaned (the NHS is a big customer) and filters ensure micro fibres are prevented from being released into the water system.
Expansion via cycle lanes
The company currently employs 16 people but is hoping to ramp up to at least 75 over the next couple of years as the model expands. Oxwash is already available in Cambridge and has also launched in Battersea, London towards the end of the 2020. It is hoping to open up new cities to environmentally friendly laundry both in the UK and abroad.
Growth Executive, Carla Lin, confirms Oxford will remain where it is headquartered, though, because that is where the founders studied together and where early staff come from.
“We love Oxford because it’s where most of us studied or come from, so I think it’s really unlikely we’d ever look elsewhere,” she says.
“It’s a wonderful young vibrant city that provides access to so much bright talent. The only downsides are the cost of living is high for our young work force. We’d also like to see more cycle lanes. It would be great, not just for our pick-ups, but we hire young environmentally-minded people who want to cycle to work so they minimise their carbon footprint.”
The company stands out as a very rare example of a start-up positively affected by 2020’s global pandemic, in terms of revenue. It was initially hit hard but managed to pick up extra NHS contracts for laundering uniforms and from the city’s research team who are working tirelessly to develop a vaccine.
You can find out more about Oxwash’s services and follow their journey thought the following social media channels: https://www.instagram.com/oxwash/ https://www.facebook.com/oxwash/ and on twitter @oxwash
About this case study - Powering up for the Green Recovery: Oxfordshire's role in building a cleaner future
Advanced Oxford would like to thank all of the companies that participated in this project for their time and for providing us with images which illustrate their technology and work. This case study was written by Sean Hargrave, working with Advanced Oxford.