Excess inventory, including returned items, from e-commerce, logistics and retail companies is often thrown away. Based in Manila, Humble Sustainability is a circular economy startup that aims to keep the company out of the landfills of the Philippines. Since its launch, it has processed more than 150,000 items such as clothing, consumer electronics and home appliances that are either resold through Thrift, the Shopee store, or passed on to B2B recyclers and resellers.
The company announced today that it has raised $750,000 in an oversubscribed seed round led by Seedstars International Ventures, with participation from iSeed Ventures and angel investors including Ula co-founder Alan Wong, Sagar Achanta (who held product leadership positions at Amazon), Booking.com. com and Disney+, and investors Paco Sandejas and Richard Eldridge.
Humble will use the funding to expand its network of partners and buyers and grow its team, including hiring department heads. The company also plans to fully in-house its technical development and work on long-term initiatives such as a carbon footprint tracker.
Humble was founded in 2021 by CEO Josef Werker and COO Niña Opida. Werker told TBEN that the two met five years ago, after holding leadership positions at several startups, and wanted to see how technological innovation could be applied to the planet. The first version of Humble was a circular commerce solution for children’s clothing before expanding to other items.
“Neither of us are environmental scientists or sustainability experts,” Werker said. “We just had a love for the Earth and saw an opportunity to apply our little business building experience to it.”
Humble has worked with 20 companies to date. The process of acquiring items starts with receiving inventory for review so Humble can see what condition they are in and determine their value (as the business grows, it will automate parts of the quality control process). It then decides whether to post items on Thrift or sell them in bulk to its B2B network. Once their plans are approved, they sign an agreement with customers, who can track the status of their items and receive money from their sales. Humble plans to launch a live dashboard on its B2B platform, allowing customers to track sales, inventory and environmental impact in real time.
Werker says that without Humble, unwanted inventory would either go to a traditional liquidator (for higher value items) or end up in a landfill. There are other solutions such as internal employee sales, but they only represent a small percentage.
“With Humble, it’s fully consolidated,” he said. “We take everything with us and make sure nothing ends up in the landfill. The good quality items are on Thrift and high value is taken out of it, everything else is brought back to circularity through our B2B network in the right way and we are extracting value from it that can be returned to the customer.”
All investors in Humble’s starting round are actively involved in the company. Seedstars, for example, introduced Humble to people with its international network that the company has made deals with, Werker said. Humble also participates in Seedstars’ three-month growth program. Wong and Achanta have worked together at several companies, including Amazon, Booking.com and Ula, guiding Humble with technical development advice and long-term roadmap.
In a statement, Seedstars partner Patricia Sosrodjojo said: “We are excited to support Humble in the journey to reduce waste and promote circular living. Humble fits in well with Seedstars’ premise to support start-ups that can create meaningful impact with an attractive business model.”