By Riley Kaminer
In South Florida and beyond, key to communities’ climate change resilience will be protecting shorelines from upland erosion and surge flooding. The problem is that traditional seawalls are expensive to build – plus, they often have negative environmental consequences.
That is, until now. Miami startup Kind Designs has devised a solution to 3D print 95% of seawalls, making them less expensive to produce. They call them “Living Seawalls” because their design mimics coral reefs and mangroves, which promote biodiversity and improve the water quality. Additionally, the seawalls will have embedded sensors to monitor data such as pH levels and water temperature in real-time.
Today, Kind Designs announced that they have raised a $5 million seed round co-led by GOVO Venture Partners, M4 Investing, and the Florida Opportunity Fund.
Anya Freeman, Kind Design’s founder and CEO, told Refresh Miami that there have been two chapters in the company’s fundraising journey: pre-eMerge Americas and post-eMerge Americas. “Most of our investors were in the audience at eMerge, when we presented during the finals of the startup pitch competition. That was a really, really important event for us.”
“Until May [during eMerge], we had no luck – it took us almost a year to raise $1 million in SAFEs,” she continued. “But in two months after that, we raised three more million.”
Freeman also noted the protagonistic role Florida played in the fundraise. “We started by talking to founders all throughout the US, but our breakthrough happened when we started talking to investors in Florida. Investors here really understand the problem – it’s part of their day-to-day life. A lot of them have seen and they know the enormous costs and therefore economic opportunity associated with seawalls.”
Equally, many of Freeman’s Florida-based investors have been able to provide the local connections critical to bringing Kind Design’s offering to market. “The roots in the community – those local connections, especially in construction – are so vital.” One of these connections oriented Kind Designs towards their first deployment, which will take place at a commercial property on Miami River.
According to Freeman, Kind Designs will deploy these funds to speed up the production of their seawalls. “Before production, we had $4 million in purchase orders,” she asserted, emphasizing the need to start printing. Currently, Kind Designs has six full-time team members.
“In response to sea level rise, government agencies throughout the world will seek to adopt policy and guidance for ecologically responsible sea walls,” Rob Panepinto, managing general partner of Winter Park-based GOVO, added. “By applying its proprietary and innovative technology, Kind Designs is setting the standard and solving a global problem. We look forward to collaborating with our co-investors and the Kind Designs team as they work to become the market leader in the space.”
The problem Kind Designs aims to tackle is big, and growing. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that it will cost Miami-Dade County $200 billion over the next 20 years to deal with climate change-induced rising sea levels. Out of the challenge has emerged an opportunity, however, with South Florida increasingly becoming a hotbed for climate innovation.
Freeman, a native of Ukraine who grew up in Israel and the US, first landed in Miami for law school. Seeking to have a bigger impact, Freeman started to explore her passion for technology through futurist Peter Diamandis’ program, Abundance360. It was there that Freeman learned about the power of large-scale 3D printing technology, and how to harness it to mitigate the effects of climate change.
This investigation led Freeman to the issue of rising sea levels. “I was just amazed at how expensive sea walls were and how big the market was, and the fact that Miami is by far the number one city when it comes to sea wall production globally.”
The seed funding now brings the dream of producing these 3D printed walls to fruition – from Miami to the world.
“I want you to go down Miami River or the canal or the beach and see living seawalls to the left and to the right. And when you look down, you see clear water that looks like an aquarium that is full of life. We’re more confident than ever that this is something we can accomplish.”
READ MORE IN REFRESH MIAMI:
- Meet the entrepreneurs developing Living Seawalls to help combat rising sea levels, shaping the climate-tech space
- South Florida is a hotbed for climate tech innovation. Here are 5 reasons why
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